I’m Finally Watching Call My Agent!
And I wish the writers of Emily in Paris would do the same
If there are any spoiler alerts, please know that they only go as far as Season Two. That’s because I haven’t made it to the star-studded third and fourth season of the hit Netflix series, Call My Agent! - yet. But the fact that I cannot wait should already tell you something.
I’m not a television snob, I promise. I’ve watched far too many British people baking for that to be true. I just get restless, that’s all. When I can see early on that a show is not going to hold my attention, I happily move on, sometimes mid-episode. Oftentimes, I know before I even give something a chance that it’s just not going to work out. Which is why - don’t yell at me here - I’ve never watched a single episode of Game of Thrones. I don’t need to cringe my way through the pilot to know that it’s not for me.
I thought this would be true for Call My Agent! - the English title for the show in France known as Dix Pour Cent. I’ve had people telling me to give it a try for ages now, and figured the only reason they were suggesting it to me was because it was literally the only French television show they had ever heard of and I am literally the only French speaker they know. Without knowing my viewing preferences, I was told that I absolutely had to watch the show simply because it was set in Paris, where I lived for a decade.
But I wasn’t falling for that old trick again.
The last time I had received that advice, it was for another Netflix hit, the now-infamous Emily in Paris. I had friends and colleagues sending me text messages to check out the show that made them think of me, i.e. a Midwestern American girl making a new life for herself in Paris. I understand what a nice bit of escapism it was for the many fans of the show. But allow me to be resentful of any comparison between my life and Emily’s - the only way my Parisian experience would be anywhere close to the show’s would be if they added 100+ hours of footage from the metro and dressed her head-to-toe in H+M instead of Chanel.
Emily in Paris was a show that I would have normally given up on after one episode. The French clichés, the tired jokes, and the two-dimensional characters just didn’t do it for me, but I stuck it out because I knew I wanted to write about it. I knew I wanted to write about the way Paris has been marketed to young women like Emily (including twenty-year-old-me) for decades now, how the city is depicted as the ultimate destination for romance, glamour, and the good life. I wanted to write about how that photoshopped version of Paris overlooked what was actually great about the city.
But we were talking about Call My Agent!
Why compare the two shows at all, who share nearly nothing in common plot-wise? Well, for me, I finally understood what it felt like to have a bit of that escapism, to travel to Paris from my home in the midst of an ongoing pandemic. But I experienced this with the far-more-realistic CMA than with Emily. The brilliance of Call My Agent! is that it truly captures what life in Paris is like.
Yes, I realize that there is a major French celebrity in every single episode (my jaw dropped when I discovered the number of ultra-famous actors they were able to have cameo on the show - imagine an American series where Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep play themselves). I realize that the agents work in a swanky office on Rue de Rivoli, eat in swanky Paris cafes, and name-drop everyone from government officials to major directors to supermodels to fashion houses and everything in between. The fact that they do all of these things without really acknowledging how spectacular it all is, but instead focus much more on how stressed out work makes them and how much they need a drink or a puff from their e-cigarette, shortly before lashing out in a fight with a loved one or colleague - it doesn’t get much more Parisian than that.
The grind, not the glamor, of daily life in the city takes center stage. No one is particularly well-dressed - basic jeans, tops, and dresses are paired with Converse sneakers most of the time. Everyone takes the metro (with the exception of Gabriel’s motorcycle) to work. And no one’s apartment, besides Mathias’ home that he shares with his rich wife, is that outstanding. The setting matters very little; but the overall mood of stress and fatigue peppered with enviable moments like a star-studded cocktail party or premiere… that’s key.
I devour each episode, feeling more and more homesick for Paris with each minute. If Emily in Paris reminded me of the white-washed dream I was sold as a young college student, Call My Agent! is the bizarre-but-true reality of Paris I discovered on the other side.
If you’re looking for a little escapism, look no further.