From Herculean efforts to keep children from interjecting in conference calls to fitness classes derailed by daytime drinking, a new sitcom in Spain – billed as the first of its kind on primetime TV – is set to tackle the quirks of life in lockdown.
The show aims to offer a humorous take on the sweeping changes unleashed by the pandemic, said Álvaro Longoria, the creator and producer of Quarantine Diaries. “We are in no way trying to make fun of the people that are suffering. The focus is on those trying to make normal life out of an extraordinary situation.”
It is a delicate balance in Spain, where the virus has killed more than 14,500 people and plunged its 47 million residents into one of the most restrictive lockdowns in Europe. For more than three weeks, social gatherings, leisurely walks and outdoor jogs have been banned in Spain, with residents ordered to remain in their homes except for essential trips.
“We’re trying help people confront this situation with humour,” said Longoria, who produced the 2018 film Everybody Knows starring Javier Bardem and Penélope Cruz. “I think it’s healthy to try and normalise it in some way.”
As a nod to the dark reality of the crisis, the producer’s fee from the project was donated to purchase protective gear for healthcare workers. The first episode of the series aired on Tuesday on Spanish broadcaster RTVE.
Featuring 15 well-known Spanish actors, including Carlos Bardem, the brother of Javier, the series launched the cast and crew on to a steep learning curve as they sought to make primetime television from the confines of the lockdown. “The beginning was a bit rough,” said Longoria. “We have 10 different houses where actors are shooting themselves and being directed via Skype.”
The footage is then passed along a chain of editors, sound technicians and other post-production specialists. “Nobody has left their house. It’s quite amazing but it works.”
In recent days, Longoria has received messages from production companies around the world, many of them interested in adapting the idea to their local reality. As for Spain, where the lockdown is due to be extended to 26 April, those behind the series have little idea of whether the show will continue beyond its first run of eight episodes.
“The best-case scenario would be that the series is very short,” said Longoria. “So this immediately becomes a part of history.”