Sometimes the set of a comedy takes on a character of its own.
We all moved into Archie and Edith Bunker’s living room on 704 Hauser St. in Queens as we watched Norman Lear’s “All in the Family” each week. For 11 seasons we would all unwind with a beer at “Cheers” whether we lived in Boston or not. And, you hardly left 328 Chauncey St. when you visited the Kramdens in their Bensonhurst apartment in Brooklyn each Saturday night.
You didn’t have to know where, exactly, these comedies took place. For most of us, they were familiar settings. They all looked similar to places we’ve frequented, and the characters who resided there grew close enough to be family.
The connection to Mike Feurstein’s latest comedy series “QuranTeam” draws from a recent happy-hour shared across Zoom. The video conferencing platform has exploded into popularity as Americans reach out to family and coworkers while sequestered at home, many of whom have been separated since March.
The Schenectady filmmaker is known best for his work with “How to UnMake a Bully,” which has been shown to 100 million homes nationwide. He’s worked with Tyler Perry, Brent Spiner and Bradley Cooper on other projects. Earned another award for a STEM educational video he once co-produced for President Barack Obama. Locally, he’s directed cinematics for Activision’s “Guitar Hero” and video promotional material on “Skylanders.” For “QuaranTeam” he’s teamed up with a handful of local talents, including Bobby Chase and Greg Aidala.
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The series is a product of the times in more ways than one. Aside from the show’s inspiration, the show’s creators faced idle time while staying-in-place.
“It’s been something really cool,” Aidala said. “Creating content, and staying busy and active. Working that creative muscle while we’re all stuck in this holding pattern.”
Aidala was on Long Island to film a show for MTV during that first weekend in March. By then, the weight of the pandemic was only starting to present itself. When filming wrapped on Sunday, Aidala got into his car only to step out here in the Capital District. The news coverage around New York City, “was like a tsunami,” he said.
Small businesses have buckled under the weight of the shutdowns, but so too has the entertainment industry. Hollywood producers have pushed back release dates indefinitely as no one knows when theatres will open. Filming has halted. Social distancing makes it impossible, leading industry insiders speculating that animation and low-budget productions may bridge the gap until life returns back to normal. That idea has come to fruition in recent weeks. Food Network’s “The Pioneer Woman” and “The Kitchen” produced shows recorded off iPhones, GoPro cameras and computers. Brad Pitt closed his opening monologue on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” from a remote location with “live, kinda, from all across America, it’s Saturday night.”
“QuaranTeam” is set within a Zoom-like virtual conference room involving a fictional advertising firm. And, as anyone who has grown dependent upon internet bandwidth while working from home, there’s comedy to be had.
“So, other than abject boredom from the apocalypse,” Feurstein said the inspiration behind the show was sparked by the internet. “I had done a Zoom happy hour with teachers who I work with out West,” he said. “And, watching people as they fumble with cameras or deal with lag, or talking over each other, I thought it was funny. So, I figured, maybe there’s something here.”
The pilot episode introduces the Bork & Hitchens team as CEO Dick Bork, played by James DiSalvatore, tries to acclimate his staff to the new video conference environment while they all work from home under quarantine.
Each episode runs from 90 seconds to more than three minutes, it is shorter in time than any one conference call you may have fallen victim to, but the short length and familiar characters make the series bingworthy.
Much of the cast includes players from Aidala’s and Chase’s award-winning Amazon Prime comedy series, ‘Welcome Home.” It marries the typical office dynamic; the CEO who fumbles to connect with his staff, the ever-loyal human resources exec, the frustrated team leader, and an eclectic collection of employees and clients that promises to take the show in any direction.
“We have to be… the best ad agency out there during this time,” said Aidala, about his fictitious crew of agents. “The upcoming episodes are great because you can start to see how things go sideways.”
“The Man From Chassamusetts,” the show’s fourth episode, features a funny “zoom bomb” from Charlie Wolfjaw played by actor Jermaine Wells. Wolfjaw receives an errant invite to join the team’s conference call. The sub-four minute episode gives a new definition of side hustle once some of the team members learn Wolfjaw peddles marijuana.
This quarantine will come to an end, and Feurstein recognizes that. A final episode to bookend the series is formulated in his head. When that will air is anyone’s guess. But, in the meantime, Aidala said, “we wanted to do this to just try to bring hope and levity, and a smile — an inspiration to people.”
“QuaranTeam” can be viewed universally on YouTube.