by Lee Hazell
The name is a bit of a giveaway, but BBC3’s docusoap focusses on a Call Centre in Swansea. Watching this is a guilty pleasure, it truly is. Colourful characters (many of whom are colourful also in the literal sense as their love for fake tan makes even an Oompa Loompa envious) are followed in this fly-on-the-wall documentary.
The central character is boss Nev Wilshire, who runs his business in quite the unorthodox way. He is loud, obnoxious and promises to promote staff who can beat him in arm wrestling. In between that, he parades potential new hire in front of his current team to ask if they deserve a job.
Those who do, he trains by making them sing the Killers ‘Mr Brightside’ and he has admitted to firing people if they don’t join in. Nev fancies himself as the Godfather of the Call Centre, making it his business to know his staff and to meddle in their lives.
Take Kayleigh, she was dumped by her boyfriend so ‘Uncle’ Nev decides to ask single male staff if they want to go out with her. It’s cringe and his Human Resources team must despair. The Call Centre strongly reminds you of that other BBC show – the Office. From a production point of view, the Call Centre follows the same format. The face to camera interviews, the way the camera cuts to random office supplies.
Also, the comparison between Nev Wilshire and David Brent has to be drawn. Wilshire peppers his pep-talks with one-liners so cheesy, it makes Brent’s: “I’ve created an atmosphere where I’m a friend first, boss second, probably entertainer third”, pale in comparison. The wisdom Nev spews is: “Only happy people sell”, “Some will, some won’t, so what. Next!” Or, my personal favourite, “you know what you’re doing; it’s just held in a façade of that you don’t know what you’re doing.”
Like David Brent, Nev is disturbingly annoying to the extend it is embarrassing to watch. But where David Brent failed, Nev seems to thrive. Business is booming and according to the Sunday Times, the Call Centre is the second best place to work in Britain. And of course is not all about arm wrestling and matchmaking. Many of the employees are troubled figures, and Nev has taken a chance by giving them jobs. And despite his antics, they seem to like him.
In any case, while Nev is ‘Brent-ing’ away, the Call Centre does not require great effort to follow but it does make for an entertaining viewing. Not everyone will like it, but as Nev says: “Some will, some won’t, so what. Next!”