Join 3,494 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


"A new comedy series that's halal-arious"
January 6, 2007 3:17 PM   Subscribe

Little Mosque on the Prairie is a new Canadian sitcom that premiers January 9th at 8:30 PM EST on the CBC. To promote the series, 135 kilograms of shawarma was served up (embedded Flash video) Thursday on a downtown Toronto street, with a flock of camels on hand to spread the halal-arity. Considerable buzz is being generated, with American talking heads discussing the effect this show may have, and why it would never have been created in the US. Says series creator Zarqa Nawaz: "North America should be the first place where a comedy like this would come about, where Muslims can be comfortable in their own skin."
posted by good in a vacuum (69 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Larger issues aside (assuming there are any), the show looks terrible from what I've seen (promo after promo after promo). Much like a lot of original entertainment content from the CBC (and Canadian TV in general). Yet another show about life in a small town with a cast of kooky characters - now with muslims!
posted by loquax at 3:24 PM on January 6, 2007


The first link has a few short clips from the show. I had a hard time finding links that weren't rearranged press releases or predictable blog reactions. This was the closest thing I could find to a non-North American response to the idea of the show (I imagine there will be more once it has actually aired). If you can point me to more responses I would love to read them.
posted by good in a vacuum at 3:28 PM on January 6, 2007


(Sorry, I should have said non-North American Muslim response.)
posted by good in a vacuum at 3:29 PM on January 6, 2007


CBC original series are shite.
posted by The God Complex at 3:33 PM on January 6, 2007


There's nothing funny about Islam.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 3:34 PM on January 6, 2007


Qur'an Gas
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 3:43 PM on January 6, 2007 [3 favorites]


There's nothing funny about Islam.

Yeah. I'll be interested to see how Muslims react.
posted by Laugh_track at 3:46 PM on January 6, 2007


There's nothing funny about Islam.
posted by mr_crash_davis


There's nothing funny about generalizing either. This site purports to be funny, and succeeds in some measure (though one might need to be a Muslim to understand most if it(
posted by Burhanistan at 3:48 PM on January 6, 2007


mmmm shawarma
posted by Eekacat at 3:51 PM on January 6, 2007


Two young sexy characters who found faith? wtf? You just can't make that funny. Religiously themed comedy must be mercilessly irreverent. Start over once you examine the religious themes in Monty Python.

To rephrase, your target demographic is young muslims who are naturally *less* muslim than their parents claim to be. So your jokes must mock their elders beliefs & hypocrisies.

Buddy Christ, for example, mocks older christian's attempts to repackage christianity as cool. Know what? A sexy young character who found faith *is* exactly what Buddy Christ ridicules! Such a character is best used as the butt of jokes by other wiser but honestly cool characters.

Pro-religious comedy sucks. Christian metal sucks. etc.
posted by jeffburdges at 3:54 PM on January 6, 2007


CBC original series are shite.

Ahem.

But thanks to having the CBC on my cable system, I've seen some of the promos, and man, is it Canadian-preachy. Lots of bad jokes, lots of "messages."

If I want a Canadian to preach at me, I'll call David Suzuki.
posted by dw at 4:00 PM on January 6, 2007


Other potential shows:

The Sheikh Estate
Hockey Night in Kandahar
This Hour has 22 Mujahideen
posted by furtive at 4:01 PM on January 6, 2007


The Littlest Falafel
posted by furtive at 4:03 PM on January 6, 2007


Ahem.

We'll have to agree to disagree! Even though I'm Canadian, I've always found our particular version of small-town humour to be not very funny.

But I also don't like to argue about what's "funny", so I usually leave it at that. Besides, if I keep at it, I always end up with people pissed off at me because I don't like Kids in the Hall ;)
posted by The God Complex at 4:06 PM on January 6, 2007


"There's nothing funny about generalizing either."

I wasn't generalizing. I was making sure no suicide bombers show up at my door for mocking their [NOT FUNNY] religion.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 4:12 PM on January 6, 2007


Like US television it has its brilliant moments and it has its clunkers. They can't all be winners, on either side of the border.
posted by loiseau at 4:14 PM on January 6, 2007


Ahem.

Red Green only started being broadcast on the MotherCorp in its seventh season, when it was already starting to go downhill (The show, not the CBC, whose toboggan ride to irrelevancy has continued unabated ever since they canceled Don Messer.).
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 4:20 PM on January 6, 2007


CBC original series are shite.

That's a matter of opinion. North of 60 was quite good, and the People's History series are excellent. Snakes and Ladders - I wish they'd bring that back. Like any other media organization, some of its stuff is good, some of it not so much.
posted by Zinger at 4:20 PM on January 6, 2007


Sorry, I should have been more clear: their fictional (dramatic/sitcom) series are shite. Or mostly shite.

You're right about North of 60 though. Not a huge fan, but it was well done.

The stuff like People's History, or the documentaries on Newsworld are usually top-notch. I've always thought that's the sort of thing they should stick to (that and Hockey Night in Canada, of course).
posted by The God Complex at 4:33 PM on January 6, 2007


This is Wonderland was a great CBC series.
posted by Ohdemah at 4:49 PM on January 6, 2007


Screw You Taxpayer
posted by crowman at 4:50 PM on January 6, 2007


Yeah, I mostly agree with you, God Complex. As one blog comment put it (that I can't find a link to at the moment), if it were funny it would be on another network. Despite my low expectations, I thought the fact that it is being produced at all to be interesting enough to post about, and as a Canadian myself (though not a Muslim), I felt a peculiar sort of national pride when I discovered its existence. Sure, it might end up being another lame, low-budget, unfunny CBC production, but hopefully it gets some discussion going.
posted by good in a vacuum at 4:53 PM on January 6, 2007


I recently mentioned this series on my blog and a friend observed that the CBC is great for radio but terrible with TV. In response, I started listing all the TV shows I enjoyed then realised that it's exactly what The God Complex says - CBC's fictional shows (drama/comedy) are crap while their other types of programming (non-sitcom comedy, documentaries, news, sports) are usually excellent.
posted by Jaybo at 4:54 PM on January 6, 2007


Ah, crap - self-link jinx. I put the wrong link in that last comment. This is the right one.
posted by Jaybo at 4:57 PM on January 6, 2007


CBC original series are Shiite.
posted by brundlefly at 5:04 PM on January 6, 2007 [3 favorites]


While I think there is potential for the show to become not completely terrible, I do get the feeling that Little Mosque will end up being the sort of preachy-teachy hyper-PC drone that the CBC is well known for.

The first successful Canadian sitcom in a long time (perhaps ever) is CTV's Corner Gas, and one of the strengths of the show is that it doesn't talk down to its audience. The police chief is a Native Canadian, and I don't think the subject has come up once on the show. You'd better believe that if Corner Gas was on the Ceeb there would be all sorts of hijinx based on how Dog River's top cop is an Indian, perhaps including a guest spot from the ubiquitous Mary Walsh (groan!) playing a stereotypical redneck westerner who can't get over the fact that some injun dared to giver her a parking ticket or some such nonsense.

The first job for the cast and crew of Little Mosque and other sitcoms is to bring the laughs. If TV viewers want to be preached at, they can go to churches. Or mosques.
posted by spoobnooble at 5:05 PM on January 6, 2007


CBC original series are shite.

The Newsroom and Made in Canada were quality, as good as anything else on the broadcast TV. There have been others.

But this thing is already looking embarrassing, as the desperate for attention CBC suits try to trade off a title that sounds increasingly dopey each time you hear it past the second time.

The impact of immigrants, the changing face of the country, is probably one of the most interesting areas for creative exploration by something like the CBC, but it's not a fish out of water story. Overall, immigrants adapt quickly here.

Here's the show I want to see on the CBC: Something like Coronation Street set in a place like Brampton, where there are a mix of striving new communities. Put a multi-generational Chinese family next to the newly arrived Polish family next to the been here since the 70s East Indian family next to a born in Canada white English guy married to a Quebecois next to a long acclimated Italian family. Hire people from those communities as producers and writers for the family of their ethnic background. Have the characters speak in their native languages where it's appropriate, with subtitles. Now explore the culture clash. Call it Trudeau Crescent or something like that.

If, CBC executive, you need something to fill the air after people curling in hijabs no longer strikes you as funny, feel free to use my idea. Just send me one of those swell desks I saw your Director of Creative Programming sitting behind when you were using the national news to promote a lame sitcom.
posted by TimTypeZed at 5:12 PM on January 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


CBC original series are Shiite.

Argh! Beat me to it.

*Goes back to watching editted Kill Bill on TBS*
posted by CKmtl at 5:14 PM on January 6, 2007


Comedy isn't reverent.

Comedy isn't respectful.

Comedy is aggression. Comedy is an attack. There's a reason we bare out teeth when we smile and laugh. For every joke, there is a butt. Even the simplest child's riddle, the archetypical "Why did the chicken cross the road?", has a target: the listener. The audience wasn't as smart/clever/wise as the teller. The audience missed something fundamental. Ha ha, audience: you suck.

Comedy is at its most sublime when turned on the self. It may be the pinnacle of human expression; the ultimate proof of sentience. You can learn a lot about a person or group from the jokes they tell. Satire can tell us what you think of others: what you hate, who you despise, what faults annoy. Self-satire, however, tells us what you think of you. Comedy is an attack, and the best attacks are against weakness. Who better knows the foibles and shortcomings of "I" and "We" than... "I" and "We."

Done properly, self-mocking can be the apex of comedy. It has to be brutal and savage and leave no stone unturned and no idiosyncrasy unravaged. It has to be done by someone with complete security in their position. You have to tell the world how much you suck and still love yourself. And if you do it just right, we can all laugh and understand and maybe come to love you, too.

All of which is to say that, er, this won't be funny. It's mere existence will be deemed "provocative" enough, and it'll inevitably try to walk too fine a line so as not to offend. Cautious humor always becomes grating anti-comedy.
posted by Freon at 5:18 PM on January 6, 2007 [3 favorites]


TimTypeZed, I like the cut of your jib, and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter.... or however that Fark.com cliché goes.

But don't forget: it ain't a real Canuck neighbourhood wihtout a couple of Newfoundlanders. And maybe a token Scot or two.
posted by spoobnooble at 5:27 PM on January 6, 2007


Comedy is aggression. Comedy is an attack. There's a reason we bare out teeth when we smile and laugh. For every joke, there is a butt.

Nonsense.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:32 PM on January 6, 2007


Something like Coronation Street set in a place like Brampton

They tried that.

It sucked, though it was fun to watch and play "Hey! There's the guy from the Honey Nut Cheerios commercial!" and "That cop is the toothbrush sidekick in the Listerine ads!".

God, I watched too much CanCon growing up.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 5:39 PM on January 6, 2007


islmao.
posted by Krrrlson at 5:41 PM on January 6, 2007


Nonsense.

Um, okay, stavros. The "bare our teeth..." bit? I'll readily cop to taking a fuckton of poetic license on that one. But I've always held the rest as a sort of pet theory.

I've lurked around here for years and have always enjoyed your posts. And you're one of the funniest people I've come across on MeFi, so I'd love to hear your ideas.

Of course, in restrospect, I can't help but think my original post was sort of "dissecting the frog," in a Mark Twain-ish kind of way.
posted by Freon at 5:46 PM on January 6, 2007


Freon: you're writing. Writing "Um, okay" makes you an insufferable jerk. Your pet theory is terrible as well.
posted by boo_radley at 6:04 PM on January 6, 2007


Right, that was overly dismissive.

It just seems to me that much comedy does fit your model -- too damn much, and most of the comedy that I really loathe (Andrew Dice Clay, Sam Kinnison, hate-filled shitstains like them (yes, I know some people just loooove them and others of their kind, so sue me for calling them names) -- but I'll admit that even much good, non-LCD comedy rides in on the clenched fist and snarl. It's the tenor of the times, of course, and the conditioned idiot glee of the Viewer in the face of the humiliations of reality television, in bellowing hatred-comedy, in disaster-porn, in packaged, logoed and themesonged media coverage of war, in pictures of the hanging of old devil Hussein, in Brittney Spears' shaven cooch: it's all one.

But I digress. I said 'nonsense' because I reckon even a cursory think about it reveals that there's a lot of comedy that isn't all about aggression and attack. There's a lot of humour that comes as much from other impulses. There's goofy, silly comedy, there's some observational comedy that loves the people it observes, just as there's some that hates.

Writing "Um, okay" makes you an insufferable jerk.


Not at all. This is 'weblog as conversation' after all.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:06 PM on January 6, 2007


TimTypeZed, What a fun idea. I'd love to see that show! As for Little Mosque, I thought the clips were funny, especially the "You look like a Protestant!" one. Reminds me a bit of Bend It Like Beckam.
posted by nickyskye at 6:14 PM on January 6, 2007


I reckon even a cursory think about it reveals that there's a lot of comedy that isn't all about aggression and attack.

Indeed there is: Horatian satire vs. Juvenalian satire.
posted by Slithy_Tove at 6:33 PM on January 6, 2007


couldn't we fight about this once we've actually seen the show?

Hell, the post was worth it just to see the title....
posted by HuronBob at 6:40 PM on January 6, 2007


Thanks for that, stavros. In an effort to actually educate myself instead of just spewing crap, I came across this link. There's a reference to "a critical shift [...] to the comedy of aggression" in Hollywood films during the Depression, and they specifically reference the Marx Brothers and W.C. Fields as early examples. It's probably no surprise that I find Duck Soup and The Bank Dick to be the height of hilarity.

Another quote I grabbed from that page that I found highly applicable:
Comedy loses its ideal universality: wit succeeds to humour; we laugh from self-complacency and triumph instead of pleasure; malignity, sarcasm and contempt, succeed to sympathetic merriment; we hardly laugh, but we smile.
I think huronbob's link more clearly illustrates what I was trying to say, though. It defines Juvenalian satire as "Formal satire in which the speaker attacks vice and error with contempt and indignation." I think that sums up far better than I did what I was trying to say in my post about satirizing our foibles as being, to me, some of the best comedy. My poorly phrased "aggression" was construed as "personal attack" and I meant in a much less literal sense.
posted by Freon at 7:04 PM on January 6, 2007


Freon, you're not the first one to suggest that humour is aggression or to make note of the baring the teeth thing. It's part of evolutionary explanation for humour (there's also biological, configurational, instinctual etc etc.)

However while some types of humour are definitely aggressive, not all of them are. Personally I like Stephen Leacock's definition of humour, which was: "Humour may be defined as the kindly contemplation of the incongruities of life and the artistic expression thereof."
posted by Zinger at 7:19 PM on January 6, 2007


"I wasn't generalizing. I was making sure no suicide bombers show up at my door for mocking their [NOT FUNNY] religion."

Oh, crap. They're on to me.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 7:28 PM on January 6, 2007


Freon's definition actually made a good deal of sense to me- not that all comedy is aggressive in the Andrew Dice Clay sense- but that it's aggressive in that it's aggressive against the status quo, which accepts things as being normal, ie not funny. It also points out people's foibles- without human flaws there would be no comedy. No one would behave in a silly way and everyone would already know the answers to all the jokes. Surreal or absurdist humor is aggressive against our established patterns of perceiving reality and language.

So yeah this show will not be funny because they will be in constant paralytic fear of offending, and will thus fail to point out the flaws and foibles that would potentially make Islam or muslims funny.

Also, art never works when the creators care more about the "good cause" behind it than the art itself. cf Christian Rock, most "positive" rap, lecture-y movies like "traffic."
posted by drjimmy11 at 11:36 PM on January 6, 2007


Hire people from those communities as producers and writers for the family of their ethnic background.

This is exactly the kind of thing I was talking about at the end there as far as how unfunny comedy gets made.

You want to make a bank commerical? Hire people in a wonderful rainbow of ethnicities.

You want comedy? Hire experienced and funny comedy writers.
posted by drjimmy11 at 11:44 PM on January 6, 2007


As a Saskatchewan resident, I have to say Corner Gas makes me cringe and it sounds like this new show is going to be reinforcing the same dumb, outdated quaint, pastoral stereotypes.

You want the real story? In areas with no oil, small-town Saskatchewan is full of rural ghettos - the money they used to generate through grain farming dried up a generation ago. These are not happy-go-lucky places.

Most of the towns like Dog River have one store/gas bar on a main street which probably has several boarded up shops, churches, and maybe a (closed) school. The town hotel/bar is sustained by Video Lottery Terminals and packed at 11:00AM midweek in spite of the fact it doesn't serve lunch. Break-ins and property crime are common, because the nearest Mountie is probably 45 minutes away and every lowlife knows it. Stand outside during a dry 30 degree summer day, and you will be able to taste the dust and dirt that sticks to your teeth. The one thing that gives you any joy is a football team which plays in a seven team league and hasn't won a championship in 17 years; its a shit of affairs and if these programs or the wanker who traded a paperclip for a house attract a bunch of gawkers to rural Saskatchewan they are in for a rude shock.
posted by Deep Dish at 12:04 AM on January 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


Deep Dish: Now you made me homesick!!
posted by smcniven at 3:09 AM on January 7, 2007


All comments about the show aside, that title is an awful... well, it's not really a pun... I guess it's just awful.
posted by Target Practice at 3:28 AM on January 7, 2007


It wasn't exclusively Muslim-themed humour, but the Beeb's Goodness, Gracious Me managed some pretty good laughs.
posted by Abiezer at 3:28 AM on January 7, 2007


Trailer Park Boys is the Coronation Street of Canada.
posted by picea at 8:04 AM on January 7, 2007


"North America should be the first place where a comedy like this would come about, where Muslims can be comfortable in their own skin."

I can see how you might think that if you've never seen Goodness Gracious Me, or The Kumars at Number 42
posted by PeterMcDermott at 8:23 AM on January 7, 2007


The worst thing "Little Mosque on the Prairie" has going for it is all the hype now riding on it. It can't just be a pleasant little show, it now has to succeed huge, or it will be buried in derision. Pity.
posted by Artful Codger at 9:01 AM on January 7, 2007


This looks, based on the trailers, as bad as Corner Gas. I fear the statements about North America being the first place where this would occur is about the funniest and most absurd thing about the entire show.
posted by juiceCake at 9:16 AM on January 7, 2007


Goodness Gracious Me, or The Kumars at Number 42

Er but those weren't about Muslims, any religious references were about Hindus. As the actors themselves.
posted by pleeker at 10:47 AM on January 7, 2007


Corner Gaza?
posted by greatgefilte at 11:09 AM on January 7, 2007


This is probably as good of place as any to mention that I'm organizing a MeFi meetup for next Friday, January 12 at 7pm at Bushwakkers in Regina, SK. I sent e-mails to the four people shown as living in Regina via the "Users Near You" feature but some people (ie. Deep Dish) don't have their geo-coordinates and/or e-mail addresses on their member pages. If you're interested in joining us, please e-mail me at: jason@hammond.net as I plan to make a reservation. Also, feel free to invite non-MF friends as I'm sure we aren't going to have a huge crowd like the meetups in New York and LA get!
posted by Jaybo at 11:16 AM on January 7, 2007


By "CBC original series," do you mean anything airing for the first time in Canada on CBC or only things produced by CBC?

And anyway, in recent memory, what about Da Vinci, Intelligence, even H2O?

I did, however, despise Shit Is Wonderland. Canadians do manic whimsy poorly.
posted by joeclark at 1:17 PM on January 7, 2007


Thanks pleeker.
Someone had to say it.

The clips were poor quality (cheap sets, bad direction), but I liked the protestant joke.
posted by seanyboy at 4:09 PM on January 7, 2007


> Here's the show I want to see on the CBC: Something like Coronation Street set in a place like Brampton, where there are a mix of striving new communities...

Three or four years ago, my girlfriend was hired by the CBC to work, as part of a team of writers, on the pilot of a show (named "Brother Hood", if memory serves) that never came to fruition. Aside from being set in downtown Toronto, it was quite similar to the hypothetical show you describe. And, in large part because most of the drama/comedy was predicated on cheap jokes/observations re. differences between various cultures, it was preachy, cliched and boring. Or, it would have been, had it ever aired.
posted by The Card Cheat at 9:03 AM on January 8, 2007


Some of the best comedy does come out of the CBC, and it's not rote. Anyone remember Made in Canada or The Newsroom? Both were brilliant, if the CBC itself is not always so (take the fact I had to use links to Wikipedia, not the CBC).

Canadian comedy can be subversively seductive and chilling when it's done properly.
posted by pezdacanuck at 1:23 PM on January 8, 2007


Here's the entirety of the series premiere on Google Video.
posted by good in a vacuum at 6:16 PM on January 11, 2007


'Brouhaha' has no dashes in it.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:57 AM on January 12, 2007


Thanks for the grammar and MeTa tips stavros. I don't know what I would do without you.
posted by Totally Zanzibarin' Ya at 6:41 AM on January 12, 2007


*doffs his cap*
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:44 AM on January 12, 2007


In retrospect, I guess it was a stupid MeTa post. As in a "who the fuck cares?" style. Ban me please.
posted by Totally Zanzibarin' Ya at 8:04 AM on January 12, 2007


CKmtl writes "*Goes back to watching editted Kill Bill on TBS*"

So basically the opening and closing credits then?

Fired up the PVR last night and watched the show. It's not bad and not much like corner gas. There is a lot of potential.
posted by Mitheral at 8:05 AM on January 12, 2007


It was OK. "Potential" is pretty faint praise, but that's about how I'd put it too. If there is strong writing, it could be a good show. If it's all about jokes about hicks who don't understand Muslims, it's going to get tedious pretty quickly.
posted by GuyZero at 8:16 AM on January 12, 2007


the banning of your account will not delete your contributions, no matter how stupid a MeTa post it is. i guess matt likes to hold evidence for the courts.
posted by localhuman at 8:19 AM on January 12, 2007


I agree with Mitheral. The show fills its function. Any brouhaha was just misplaced offense, as the show paints Muslims in a quirky, human light. It's not a tad bit offensive, and is will likely have a humanizing, clarifying effect on the stereotypes of Muslim communities.

It's a cute show, with average actors playing fairly stock roles to help show that Stereotypes Are Silly.
posted by Milkman Dan at 8:20 AM on January 12, 2007


pleeker: "Goodness Gracious Me, or The Kumars at Number 42

Er but those weren't about Muslims, any religious references were about Hindus. As the actors themselves.
"

Yes, something I realized as soon as I watched the clip I linked to.

But they look like Muslims, don't they? :-)
posted by PeterMcDermott at 7:01 AM on January 13, 2007


« Older The Re-Animation of Ryan Larkin. Ryan Larkin, the ...  |  The LA Times tagged the Gates ... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments