“Because it did so well, we quite ignorantly went, ‘Oh, let’s just do a whole season’ … for me it was like, nobody’s going to hire me as a writer and director without a body of work, so this was just creating a body of work. But what it turned into was something so much more.”
It did. Finding a different empty store to shoot in – the one that had served as the location for the pilot hadn’t much liked the depiction of the retail industry therein – and putting out an appeal on Facebook for broken TVs, Rostered On’s happy band of guerrillas made a whole series, and the web went wild. Five years after the idea first began germinating in Chamley’s mind, the little web series that could is on Netflix, and Season 2 of Rostered On is set to premiere on 7Mate: a good old-fashioned (well, fairly old-fashioned) TV channel. Even better: everyone’s getting paid.
If it’s true that Aussies love underdog stories, they should take to Rostered On like ducks to water. It’s a classic tale of a man with a dream who made it happen with his own sheer determination. You can almost see the movie adaptation of the Chamley story right now: Chamley’s ragtag bunch squeezing in the first season – filmed in a breakneck six days – between their day jobs; the creator editing footage late at night after putting his kids to bed. It speaks powerfully to the value of making your own TV show as a way to get good material for another script.
Some might question whether the show’s graduation to free-to-air respectability is such a triumph in itself. In 2019, when the landscape is fragmented, the hottest new shows are streaming, and there are YouTube stars with bigger followings than Gold Logie nominees could dream of, becoming an online sensation – as Rostered On already was – could seem like a bigger deal than signing up to a legacy media giant.
Chamley is in no doubt, though, about the significance of arriving on 7Mate.
“We’re very DIY and we like being the underdog, and we had a few people tell me that we couldn’t do season one – a good percentage of season one is just to spite people who said I couldn’t,” he says. “I thought we’d always be on the outer, and it’s been quite surreal to have the industry to embrace and get behind us. When I heard that Seven was a goer, I shed a tear. I didn’t know how much it meant to me until it happened. The funnest part was having a fake meeting with the cast, getting them together and then saying, ‘Oh, we’re actually here to celebrate because 7Mate has commissioned season two. You’re all on network television now.”
The romance of the making-of can easily make one forget about the show itself. The success of Rostered On is undoubtedly down to Chamley’s ability to tap into the frustrations of working life that most Australians are familiar with. Irritating customers, even more irritating co-workers, idiotic complaints: the disheartening banality of wage slavery that has always been fertile ground for comedy.
In season two, the Rostered-verse has expanded: no longer restricted to the single store set, the Electroworld crew ventures outside the workplace – which is why we found ourselves in that Reservoir cafe back at the start, where Chamley sits among the chaos, calmly orchestrating proceedings and radiating the good vibes of a man who’s seen his vision come to life and can’t stop counting his blessings. Not that long ago, he was in the same spot that the show’s characters are: their existence is evidence that there’s hope for them despite everything.
“We all got together because we wanted to make something, and we made it, and we could’ve quite happily stopped and been satisfied, but now that it’s gone millions of miles past anything anyone thought it could’ve done, it’s such fun.”
And what else should a TV comedy be?
Rostered On is on Netflix and 7Mate, Wednesday, 9pm.