TV Viewpoint: Call My Agent! and This Is Us

Bidding an affectionate Au Revoir to Call My Agent!

IF this were the before-time, you might be frequently spotting me out and about, dressed in enormous jumpers, skinny jeans and sky-high ankle boots, hair tussled just so, with just a soup-con of makeup dabbed onto my visage, all the better to complement a haughty, hurried expression.

I’ve been ‘influenced’, you see, by the women of ASK, the fictional casting agency of Call My Agent! The French television show revolves around a team of agents and their assistants, with a famous French face popping up each episode, playing an extreme and exaggerated version of themselves.

The last season arrived on Netflix last week, and I devoured all 6 episodes over a few nights, lapping up the Gallic charm, laughing at the screwball antics, suppressing a little tear when it all came to an end.

It is – was – an extremely entertaining show, sending up the stereotypical, intimidating chic Parisian nonchalance so admired by the wider world and fondly poking fun at the nation’s screen icons. The length of the seasons prove that brevity is, indeed, the soul of wit, each one masterfully containing enough material to leave your head spinning, while at the same time keeping the main narrative steadily on course.

Call My Agent!

Still, six episodes sounds like so few, in the context of binge watching. Depending on the episode length, how engaging it is and your concentration level, you could easily knock them out over a weekend, with time to spare.

But remember when series’ of this length were events, to be doled out sparingly, week by week? That’s a month and a half’s worth of anticipation; delayed gratification for the masses.

Unlike your soaps, or your serial dramas like Grey’s Anatomy or Breaking Bad, which could number up to 23 episodes in a season, these little series’ had a clear beginning, middle and end, usually with a brilliant cliff-hanger on the penultimate episode to set up the waiting game for the finale.

It’s often a fact that things are ultimately more enjoyable when you take your time over them. Who wants a rushed 10-minute pounding to iron out some kinks in your back when you can have a long, luxurious massage with scented oils and whale music on in the background?

What do you prefer, a lunch grabbed on the go, wolfed down on your break, or a designated hour or two to savour your meal? How about a quick chat with a friend you’ve bumped into on the off-chance, or an assigned evening of wine and gossip?

Instant gratification can seem like it pays off at the time, but often the build-up to the occasion, be it your spa day or long lunch or gossip, or the next instalment of a programme you’re enjoying, can make the wait worth it, intensifying the experience.

These days, it’s harder than ever to have structure, and with the advent of binge watching and whole shows being dropped in their entirety in order to gobble up instantly, the instant gratification is wearing thin.

In my household, we’ve decided to designate certain evenings to certain themes; Wednesday has been assigned Culture Night, when we put on a foreign film and hurl our phones across the room in order to avoid distraction.

If you don’t have a Soap habit to tether you to a routine and have a few box-sets gathering dust on a shelf in the sitting room, I’d recommend following suit. The sense of control in these strange, disconnected times, is worth it alone.

On Friday night I had the triggering experience of happening upon a bona fide Corona drama. If you’ve never seen or heard of This is Us, it’s a family drama that spans multiple decades, a well-written tear-jerker that is also skilful in lightening the mood when called for. It’s currently streaming on Amazon Prime.

This is Us: Photo by: Maarten de Boer/NBCUniversal/NBCU Photo Bank)

This season takes place at the start of the pandemic, following the characters as they adjust to social distancing and mask-wearing, just like the rest of us. It’s quite weird to see it play out on screen, and not necessarily something I want to be watching.

Saying that, TV of this ilk tends to hold a mirror up to the world, so maybe there’s no harm in facing this shared global issue, seeing how other people (fictional or otherwise) are handling it. And if it all gets too much, the remote control can always safely zap you to something more palatable.

  • First published in The Tuam Herald on 03 02 21

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