Call My Agent (France) / Ten Percent (UK)
In this week’s ‘Who the F*** Are You?’ interview with Jack Davenport, who stars in ‘Ten Percent’, the British version of the French hit comedy show ‘Call My Agent’, the actor explains how they made the UK series shine in its own inimitable way. And Jack’s very first foray onto the big screen was in the 1997 film ‘Fierce Creatures’, a “sort of” sequel to the wildly-popular ‘A Fish Called Wanda’, so he’s well-versed in the pressures of pleasing an established fanbase.
Originally released on the French television station France 2 in October 2015, ‘Call My Agent’ centered around the fraught antics and high stakes of running a prominent talent agency called A.S.K. in Paris. With cameo roles played by famous French acting icons including Jean Reno, Monica Belluci, and a conversationally capable French-speaking Sigourney Weaver, the show captured, entertained, and delighted the fans across generations and nations, mostly as a much-needed escape from the confines of lockdown.
Its British counterpart ’Ten Percent’ at first respectfully follows the same set-up, idea, and plotlines, and then begins to add its own spin, injected with whip-sharp dialogue, a great cast, and typical British humor and timing. We watch and laugh as their motley office crew of overly-educated staff desperately try to show their peers in Hollywood that they are up to the task in the shallow and superficial world of showbiz. This one’s a winner.
Ten Percent is streaming on Amazon Prime
Queer as Folk (UK / US)
In 1999, sections of the British public were given a bit of a shock as the brilliantly scripted, casted, and directed ‘Queer and Folk’, gloriously provoked and pushed buttons across the land. The show chronicled the intimate lives of three gay men (including a young Charlie Hunnam) living in Manchester’s gay village around Canal Street. The title of the show, which originally was floated as ‘Queer as F***’ and then toned down, comes from the Northern dialect expression “there’s nowt so queer as folk”, meaning there’s nothing as strange as people. Written by wonderful Welsh screenwriter Russell T Davies, and broadcast on the once-rebel startup Channel 4, the show only ran for just eight episodes, plus a two-part follow up, but made a huge impact on the media landscape and the lives of the fans who watched it.
Then the Americans took the baton and ran with it not once, but twice. In 2000, produced for Showtime and set in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the first reboot, developed from Davies’ original idea by Ron Cowen and Daniel Lipman, ran from December 2000 to August 2005, amassing an impressive five seasons and 83 episodes. And here we are in 2022, and we see ‘Queer as Folk’ come out for the third time… a bonafide TV hat trick! This time set in New Orleans, and launched on Peacock this month, it stars another of this week’s Mr Feelgood guests, the eloquent and thoughtful Johnny Sibilly, alongside an impressive cast of much-loved actors, including Kim Cattrall, Ed Begley Jr, and Juliette Lewis. It’s already won the hearts of fans and critics, and has been awarded a 92% approval rating by Rotten Tomatoes, where the website’s critics consensus reads, “Sprawling to a fault but packed with lovable characters and cultural resonance, Queer as Folk successfully updates a watershed in LGBTQ representation for a new era.”
Queer as Folk is streaming on Peacock
Euphoria (Israel / US)
‘Euphoria’ has been one of HBO’s biggest hits and has helped its star Zendaya cement her place as one of her generation’s most talented screen stars.
But many don’t realize the show was originally broadcast in Israel in 2012, created by Ron Leshem, Daphna Levin, and Tamira Yardeni, under the same name. The original show was loosely based on a true story, and like the international remake, holds a mirror to the anxieties and insecurities of trying to navigate the transition from kid to grown up. ‘Euphoria’ succeeds in spanning the gamut of contemporary issues of identity and drug use faced by kids today.
The US version stars Zendaya as Rue, a high school student attempting a half-hearted run at normalcy following a stint in rehab. The show is intense, gripping, and distinguishes itself from others in its field with its realistic punch, high-production values, pristine cinematography, and beautiful soundtrack by British songwriter and producer Labrinth. Each episode of the US version cost around $11million, and the show has garnered a bevy of prestigious international awards, proven a spring board for emerging talent, and is the second most-watched show in HBO’s history, following ‘Game of Thrones’.
Euphoria is streaming on HBO
House of Cards (UK / US)
Originally made for the BBC in 1990, a serial consisting of only four episodes, ‘House of Cards’ was originally a British political thriller, starring the legendary stage and film actor Sir Ian Richardson, portraying Francis Urquhart, a fictional Chief Whip of the Conservative party. The narrative is set following the Margaret Thatcher era and follows Urquhart’s ruthless, amoral, and manipulative scheme to become leader of the governing party and Prime Minister, thus securing his legacy and place in history. Originally based on the 1989 novel by Michael Dobbs, and adapted for television by Dobbs and acclaimed screenwriter Andrew Davies, the original was distinctive in its high writing pedigree, deliciously nuanced character acting, and the UK’s consistent fascination with, and indeed suspicion of, the ruling political classes.
Its American counterpart, streamed by Netflix between February 2013 and November 2018, proved its own worth, running six seasons, consisting of 73 episodes. Starring the cunning and ruthless duo of Robin Wright and since-shamed Kevin Spacey, who portrayed ambitious political husband and wife team Claire and Francis Underwood, it centered around the heady, often shadowy halls of Washington DC. With ongoing themes of revenge, score settling, manipulation, and a desperate drive for autocratic supremacy (all under the guise of democracy) House of Cards enthralled TV audiences globally second time around.
Bron/Broen (Sweden/Denmark) / The Bridge (US)
Passionate debates have erupted around all these programs listed over which country made the best show. This discussion is rarely conclusive, although the general consensus in the case of the Scandinavian hit Bron/Broen is that the original holds the torch.
Running from 2011 to 2018, Bron/Broen is a crime mystery which follows the lives of Danish Inspector Martin Rohde and his Swedish counterpart Saga Noren, two opposing personalities, as they are forced to share jurisdiction and work together when a dead body is found in the middle of the Oresund Bridge, which connects Copenhagen in Denmark with Malmo in Sweden. With brilliant writing and performances, and what would seem a universally alluring dark subject matter, Bron/Broen is considered a key player in the ’Nordic noir’ genre, contributing internationally the growing appeal of Scandinavian crime thrillers, and thus inspiring an American remake.
Its American cousin, ‘The Bridge’ was broadcast on FX in 2013, and follows a similar set up and plot. When an American judge known for anti-immigration views is found dead on the Bridge of Americas, which connects El Paso, Texas to Juarez, Mexico, detectives from both countries are tasked with hunting down a serial killer active in both regions. Starring Diane Kruger and Demian Bichir in the leading roles ‘The Bridge’ ran for two seasons. Highlighting the ongoing problems of illegal immigration, drug trafficking, violence, organized cartels, and prostitution, with the season proving to be a critical success.