The stakes are always high in television. It is expensive to make, and, as the recent news about Netflix has shown, people can cancel subscriptions in a heartbeat. But when it comes to remaking a beloved programme in another country, they are raised that little bit higher. For better or worse, when a show does phenomenally well in its own territory, TV executives start getting itchy fingers and surveying a map of the world. The rights to the show could be sold to networks abroad – like Frasier being endlessly repeated on the UK’s Channel 4, to choose an old-school example – but what if they could do one step better? What if another country were so enamoured with a show that they wanted to buy the concept and remake it themselves?
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One of the most popular French shows in recent years has been France Télévisions’ Dix Pour Cent, a comedy about the frenetic world of Parisian showbusiness agents. Exploring a world brimming with gossip, power plays and romance, the show became a hit in France. Its episodes, which could veer between farcical miscommunication and affecting drama, also featured episode-long cameos from famous actors as the agency’s various clients. Jean Reno, Jean Dujardin and even Sigourney Weaver are some of the many stars who signed up to play themselves.
Seeing how popular it was, Netflix bought it in 2015, renamed it Call My Agent!, and raised the profiles of its core cast – Camille Cottin, Grégory Montel, Thibault de Montalembert and Fanny Sidney in particular – which, in turn, raised the show’s profile abroad. Audiences in the UK and US fell for its stylish, perhaps stereotypically French rhythms, as did other countries: around half a dozen remakes are in the offing. These include a British remake, confusingly called Ten Per Cent rather than Call My Agent!, which premieres on Amazon this week. Set in London, it will not just be judged on its own merits, but will be compared with the show from which it is translated. Will the comedy translate? Will it be too French? Too English? Not English enough? Not French enough?