The year is 2007. Somewhere in the bowels of the CBC a monstrously unfunny belch of a television program lay dormant, awaiting its chance to inflict grave wounds on the concept of comedy. A whiff of nepotism breathes life into the unspeakable horror, and soon the rotting eructation that is Little Mosque on the Prairie is launched into the unsuspecting television screens of over eighty countries. Little Mosque sees its viewer base decline by 80% in four seasons, probably because every episode is disgustingly hokey, cheerful, tee-hee tripe. Five years later, the show is cancelled and returned to the depths. As I re-write this it is the ten-year anniversary of Little Mosque’s greasy hand-stain on humor. Why not slag the shit out of it?
Little Mosque on the Prairie takes place in a fictional town called Mercy, Saskatchewan. Ever notice that so many Canadian shows take place in make-believe communities? Schitt’s Creek, Dog River, Possum Lake – what’s with that? Anyways, Mercy looks and feels like most of the CBC’s make-believe rural communities in that the place was apparently written by someone who had never seen a Canadian city with fewer than 100,000 inhabitants except while driving. Here come some shucks-golly Muslims renting an Anglican church as a place of worship and GASP! Tensions! Comedic, wacky, hokey tensions that can be set aside after 20-some minutes of painfully saccharine dialog until they blow up again in the next episode! And be sure to laugh at the ridiculous swimsuit the Muslim wears since the pool has co-ed swimming classes! The show’s message appears to be “did you know that Muslims are people too?”. Sadly, it lacks the comedic punch, visual appeal, and talent of shows that express similarly complex messages, like Sesame Street.
We have nepotism to thank for this show’s existence and continuation despite losing over one million viewers just within the first season. Generic “nice guy” and feel-good liberal strawman Amaar Rashid is played on the show by a fellow named Zaib Shaikh, who now works as a who-knows-what bureaucrat for the City of Toronto saying stupid shit about Toronto being the most diverse city on Earth, which seems unlikely in a world where New York City exists. Now, I’ve got nothing in particular against Zaib, but I do take issue with the fact that he’s married to Kirstine Stewart, who at the time of the show’s running was the executive director of programming at the CBC, and that at no point was there a conversation I can find regarding the potential for a conflict-of-interest. I mean, the show was given a sixth (and mercifully final) season despite losing 80% of its audience just three months before the wedding. The person who okays your show probably should at least make some show of recusal when they’re also benefiting from you getting paid. But hey – this is the CBC, a place where nepotism and double-dipping are commonplace, so fuck it!
As for the show itself, my biggest complaint with it remains the same as my general complaints about the CBC’s interpretation of small towns – namely, that these fictional towns are presented as generally-functional places. In Little Mosque the Mayor, Ann Popowicz is presented as a doofus while somehow a suburban town of 14,000 continues to self-maintain without apparent issue, the right-wing radio host equating Muslims to terrorists is revealed to be playing up his vitriol for rating, the conservative imam is convinced that anti-Semitism isn’t acceptable because reasons, and social difficulties melt in 22 minutes of cheese. The show represents the Sesame-Streetification of a complex series of problems that newcomers have to small-town Canada. It is noxious revisionism, like the Vinyl Cafe, and I think it a grave shame that anyone might watch this and think that Canada’s Prairies (which are of course hotbeds of racism) actually look anything like this dreck.