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‘Aliens in America’ and ‘Little Mosque on the Prairie’

by Brad A. Greenberg

October 2, 2007 | 8:43 am

Slate today reviews two badly panned sitcoms about being a Muslim in North America. Neither, beginning with Aliens in America on The CW (a program which the Muslim Public Affairs Council consulted on), fare well:

Because the show is sidling up to its premise very gently, it looks more like a sweet-natured high-school comedy than the risky riff on tolerance it teases us with. True, the pilot features an acute scene in which a teacher initiates a classroom discussion on “cultural differences” that lampoons American parochialism at its finest: “Raja, you are so different from us. How does that feel?” But next week’s episode finds Raja looking like a generic Other, as they might say on campus. Aliens prefers jokes about life on the lower rungs of the adolescent social ladder to ethnic-profiling gags or bits about religion—unless you count the moment when Justin’s dad, in a Homer Simpson swoon of porcophilia, is psyched to discover that he doesn’t have to share his bacon at breakfast.

For a friskier take on Muslim life in the middle of this continent, check out the Canadian sitcom Little Mosque on the Prairie. (Its second season begins this Wednesday on CBC, which apparently isn’t too particular about YouTubers picking up its shows.) Mind you, I said friskier, not edgier: Though set in a fictional Saskatchewan town called Mercy—where a classically bumbling Lebanese-born contractor and his classically ditzy Anglo wife are the leading members of the Muslim community—Little Mosque is so cozy and hokey that it feels as if its action unfolds on the Saskatchewan equivalent of Sesame Street.

The local right-wing radio host, supposedly a demagogic hate-monger, is no more threatening than Oscar the Grouch.

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