Wherever Nev goes, be it home or abroad strange things seem to happen. There are requests for selfies, people pressing hands to their ears in strange phone like gesture and hairy builders shouting “Get Out” at him from across the street. There is one reason for this phenomena (well at least as far as we know) and that’s a TV show called The Call Centre.
What was the Call Centre?
The Call Centre was an observational award winning documentary filmed in Nev’s Swansea call centre. There were 2 series and a Christmas special that aired on BBC3 and then BBC1 from 2013-2014. The show then went on to air in countries across the globe including Canada, USA, Norway and Australia. As we write this the show is a gaining a whole new army of fans in the UK as Watch broadcast the whole thing again.
What was it all about?
The Call Centre introduced us to Nev Wilshire, a colourful businessman from Swansea and the extraordinary set of people who worked for him at the third largest call centre in Swansea.
At first many people thought it was scripted and Nev was an actor, this was fuelled by a very clever hoax on IMDB. We don’t know why people were quick to believe it, but it could have had something to do with Nev’s enthusiastic matchmaking of staff, the compulsory singing or the throwing of things at new recruits. Despite these madcap antics it gradually dawned on the viewers at home that Nev was indeed real and that his unusual methods of management and motivation actually seemed to work. Not only was the business successful and growing fast but the company was listed as the second best place to work in the UK by The Sunday Times.
The show covered many aspects of Nev’s business including; recruitment, the induction of new staff, training, the ups and down of the call centre job, right through to the departure of much loved staff from the business. We also had an insight into the lively social life that Nev encourages in his Call Centre including a party in a brewery and speed dating night as well as Nev’s array of unusual catchphrases. One of the more popular catchphrases was SWSWSWN (Some Will, Some Won’t, So What, NEXT!) which even started trending on Twitter.
Through the 12 episodes we also got to know some of Nev’s staff both in and outside of work. Amongst the people taken to viewers hearts were; Hayley the madcap tea lady, unlucky in love Admin Assistant Kayleigh, larger than life Johnny Allen, office romeo Chickenhead and the highly driven South African floor manager Dwayne.
Did people actually watch it?
They certainly did! The initial hope from the BBC was for 700,000 viewers, but over 2 million watched the first episode alone with every subsequent episode sailing past the million viewer mark. The Twitterverse responded in kind with 25,5000 tweets during the first episode, peaking at 709 tweets per minute as the show drew to a close. The tweeters included a certain Ricky Gervais who felt sure he must have written the show! With the show a huge success repeats on BBC1 were rapidly scheduled and a Christmas special commissioned.
The second series again performed well above expectations and repeats soon followed. As the credits rolled on the 12th and final episode the calls from fans and the broadcaster for a third series began, and still continue today. Everyone involved loved the show and were grateful for the opportunity, but it was the feeling of Nev and all involved that the show had reached a natural conclusion. Or as the old showbiz saying goes “always leave them wanting more”!
What did the press think?
Much to the surprise of everyone involved the press response was largely positive with journalists appreciating the quirky nature of the show. In all over 50 articles appeared in print during the 1st series. There were plenty of comparisons drawn with David Brent and The Office but also more reflective articles which asked if Nev’s approach to management could be what is needed in the politically correct work environment under which most of us spend our days.
There were many headlines that jumped out including: “Is this boss the real-life David Brent?” “I axed two staff for not singing”, “Get out, out, get out of my office” and “Nev set to storm the festive charts”. Desperate for a date George even found his love life the subject of a national media campaign.
The Call Centre was also successful on the award circuits and picked up gongs at The Welsh BAFTA’s and National Reality TV Awards as well as nominations at The National TV Awards and the Royal TV Society Awards.
Where else have we seen Nev?
The success of The Call Centre series led to a slew of invitations for Nev to appear on other TV shows, and although not all could be fitted in with work commitments, Nev was delighted to appear when he could. These included two appearances on BBC Breakfast and a memorable encounter with Angela Rippon on The One Show. Not to be deterred Nev made a second appearance on The One Show and this time found himself mountain biking! Nev also tried his hand at panel shows with an appearance on Sweat the Small Stuff and a chat show in the form of Backchat.
Radio is something that Nev’s enjoys and has clocked up appearances with Scott Mills, Nick Grimshaw, Richard Bacon and Jeremy Vine amongst many others. Other opportunities presented themselves and Nev found himself writing his first book and releasing a charity Christmas single!
Although Nev’s main focus remains on his business he has been incredibly grateful to have received a number of high quality ideas for new TV shows since series 2 of The Call Centre aired in 2014. The timing was never quite right until, in the summer of 2015, Nev accepted an offer from UKTV to film his attempts to open a new call centre in India. You can read more about Nev’s Indian Call Centre here.