Ten Percent: A British Remake That's Bad Because It's British

Ten Percent is possibly the one show out there where being British is what makes it bad [Ed Note: "the one show"? lolololol]. It's a remake of the French comedy Call My Agent!, which became a runaway hit on Netflix years ago. The premise is simple and apparently universal, about talent agents and their complex relationships with their A-list actor clients in the glamourous world of show business. So how could the British remake be so terrible? It's lazy, repetitive, and mediocre in a way that's uniquely British.

Ten Percent is a British Remake that is Bad Because it is British
"Ten Percent" image: AMC+

Ironically, "Ten Percent" is a more accurate and direct translation of the French title of the original show "Dix Pour Cent", which is the one thing the remake gets right. A remake should be a no-brainer: the storylines are about agents who struggle to keep their A-list actor clients happy. This means getting them major roles in film and theatre, assuaging their fears and insecurities, and resolving their dilemmas by the episode's end. The A-List actors who guest star on the show are real A-list actors playing benign and sympathetic versions of themselves. The show basically sells a fluffy, lighthearted white lie: that everyone in show business is generally nice.

The French version was sexy, glamourous, and even complex with its politics and emotional nuances, Ten Percent is utterly cartoonish in the way that everyone is incredibly passive-aggressive and terrified of embarrassment in that British middle-class way, to the point of stretching out plotlines for several episodes when the French just get a big revelation out of the way in two episodes to get more interesting storylines out of it. Ten Percent just has everyone dithering all the time and speaking in exactly the same way, the same speech patterns. One character utters a half-finished sentence, then the other character repeats words from the question and the first character does it again, and it feels like it goes on forever. This happens in practically every scene in every episode. It's lazy, repetitive writing that makes every single character on the show a variation on the same one character: a bumbling, well-meaning person that the British middle-class likes to imagine themselves as being.

Showrunner John Morton seems uncomfortable with creating a proper take on Ten Percent. Instead of insight, he falls back on lazy British comedy tropes. Every character is a cliché and stereotype of the bumbling ditherer rather than a specific person. The British disease infecting a TV remake. Jack Davenport is utterly typecast as the "gormless arsehole who's terrified people will think he's a bad guy and ends up looking like the bad guy" that he has played brilliantly since he starred in Steven Moffat's sitcom Coupling, but the writing brings nothing new to the character. Morton even repeats the "repressed female underling in love with her boss" subplot from his previous comedy W1A, which was about bureaucratic frustration in the management of the BBC.

The one storyline that works is the one involving Simon Gould (Tim McInnerny), an aging, alcoholic actor whose loss of nerve makes him the picture of every actor's fear of being redundant and no longer useless. Kept as a client out of friend and pity, he's in danger of being let go by the agency after its American takeover, only for the Stella (Maggie Steed), the only old school partner left in the agency, to keep him on but she fears her days are literally numbered as well. It conveyed the poignance of aging and the fear of being discarded and carried more resonance than anything else in the show.

Ten Percent currently has remakes in South Korea and India. Presumably, the format is adapted to be culturally specific in those countries, and Korea and India thrive on over-the-top storytelling. Bollywood has more than enough outrageous, over-the-top stranger-than-fiction situations in real life, so it should be interesting to see what their version looks like. One thing's for sure, those countries' remakes won't be based on characters being passive-aggressive and dithering.

Ten Percent is currently streaming on AMC+.

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Adi TantimedhAbout Adi Tantimedh

Adi Tantimedh is a filmmaker, screenwriter and novelist. He wrote radio plays for the BBC Radio, “JLA: Age of Wonder” for DC Comics, “Blackshirt” for Moonstone Books, and “La Muse” for Big Head Press. Most recently, he wrote “Her Nightly Embrace”, “Her Beautiful Monster” and “Her Fugitive Heart”, a trilogy of novels featuring a British-Indian private eye published by Atria Books, a division Simon & Schuster.
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