There is an intersection where Route 27 and Montauk Highway become an asphalt welcome mat to the Hamptons. While Waze has given us shortcuts, eventually you’ll find yourself at the windmill in East Hampton, the Napeague Stretch, or Main Street in Southampton. No matter how you get there, different worlds come together in The Hamptons.
Very. Different. Worlds.
The juxtaposition of those worlds compelled Robert “Bobby” Friedman, a showbiz veteran who has been at the tip of the spear for decades, and veteran journalist, author, content creator, and producer Teresa Sorkin, to put together the Discovery + series Serving the Hamptons. The premise is simple: tell the story of a group of young people who live together in an outrageous house and work at 75 Main, one of the most popular restaurants in the Hamptons.
Speaking to both Friedman and Sorkin, the pitch is the same.
“It’s Summer House meets Vanderpump Rules with a land-locked touch of Below Deck,” said Friedman, founder of Bungalow Media. “A share house on steroids, without the yuck factor…and the network bought the show over a glass of rose on the back porch of 75 Main.”
Friedman’s Zoom background is like an establishing shot in a film. He speaks with infectious enthusiasm, smiling broadly. His shelves and walls tell his story in the perfectly-framed image with photos and trinkets. Some of the industry’s most famous trophies are clearly visible, including the MTV Spaceman that has served as the network’s Oscar since the first ceremony in 1984. However, Friedman’s moon man is unique: It is one of the prototypes acquired when he was a young executive at MTV, right out of Columbia Business School, having been there when The Buggles’ “Video Killed the Radio Star” sent the message to the world that entertainment had officially changed.
Sorkin is the child of Italian immigrants. Her father, Rocco Launi, was a master tailor who came to the US, worked for Calvin Klein, and began his own successful business. Her mother, Tina, was a strict Italian mom who could be sharp and biting but with the simple goal of pushing her daughter to be the best. They lived in Manhattan’s trendy SoHo neighborhood.
“My dad was the sweet one; my mom was the tough one,” said Sorkin.
After graduating from New York University, Sorkin lived in Milan, attending business school. While there, she modeled, which led to her becoming an entertainment reporter on Italy’s RAI network. After living in Rome, she returned to the US and began her career in the American entertainment industry, developing television shows for networks including MTV and A&E.
Friedman is also a native New Yorker and a 30-year entertainment business veteran. He was recently president of Radical Media & Entertainment. Prior to that, he was President of AOL, Interactive Marketing, TV, & Ad Sales; Co-Chairman of New Line Cinema in charge of Worldwide Theatrical Marketing and Licensing, and President of New Line Television, which he launched for the company. He became CEO of Bungalow Media + Entertainment, which he founded over six years ago. Bungalow’s recently produced credits include It Couldn’t Happen Here for SundanceTV and AMC+, the four-part mini-series Surviving Jeffrey Epstein for Lifetime, the five-part mini-series The Preppy Murder: Death in Central Park for AMC/Sundance, The Panama Papers for EPIX, and Roswell: The First Witness for History, among others.
Friedman and Sorkin met years ago through the industry. They are both lifelong lovers of the Hamptons and have the same eye for a good story.
“You never stop looking for a good story,” said Friedman about executive producing Serving the Hamptons.
Sorkin had been trying to find a good hook for a Hamptons-based television show. “I wanted a show that could go behind the curtain of the rich and famous Hamptons and tell the stories of the other people who play a part in that life,” said Sorkin.
She settled on Zach Erdem’s 75 Main as the perfect place. Friedman agreed.
“Zach has one of the greatest stories you will ever hear,” said Friedman. “He is unforgettable, and so are his employees.”
“He lived in a cave in Turkey, made his way here with nothing, and has become one of the most popular people in a place where everyone wants to be important,” said Sorkin. “His employees reflect him, and it just made it perfect.”
Erdem’s staff live in a Hamptons home that provides the perfect stage for a Bacchanalian but pedestrian world. One minute they are serving Leo DiCaprio, and the next, they’re in a hot tub and trying to live up to Erdem’s rule of no employee hook-ups.
For a group of young, sexy people living in a mansion with wine flowing, that seems like a pretty tall order. But, it all plays out in the series, and it is all authentic.
“We all know many reality shows are at the very least partially scripted,” said Friedman. Serving the Hamptons is authentic, and it makes for great television.”
Sorkin agreed. “I only want to produce something that I would watch, that feels authentic, so it was important for us to give the viewers something they could really believe.”
When COVID shut down the Hamptons, Sorkin continued to try to put the show together but found a new focus in the wake of tragedy. Her beloved mother Tina succumbed to the virus, just 15 days after Teresa’s aunt lost her COVID fight.
“The loss, the pain, is too deep to understand,” said Sorkin, whose father Rocco died several years ago. Over the last couple of years, it is just so much heaviness, so much upheaval. So I channeled my loss into something fun and inspirational, making Serving the Hamptons a reality.”
Sorkin said Friedman was the man to make it happen. “When he believes in a project, Bobby makes deals fast. He knows the business, and understands what people want to see. So it made sense to work with Bobby and Bungalow.”
“This industry is not easy, and all you have is trust in those who will work with you,” said Friedman. “I trust Teresa’s instincts and the team at Discovery, which was not only in touch with this audience but used their global reach for a show like this.”
Friedman and Sorkin hope Serving the Hamptons will be back for another season, and as the intersection at Route 27 and Montauk Highway gets busier every weekend, it promises to be one of the biggest and most successful summers the East End has ever seen.
“This show is what makes life interesting,” said Friedman. “What it takes to live in this glamorous world, 24 hours a day, is what makes this show so fun and unexpected.”
“You need to watch and see that real stories and characters are all around you,” said Sorkin. “They get you just to put it out there, and follow your instinct, just like every member of our cast does every day when they go to work. Real people going after their dreams will always be a great story to watch unfold.”
Todd Shapiro is an award-winning publicist and associate publisher of Dan’s Papers.