When CTV’s ‘Corner Gas‘ was picked up by WGN in the United States at some point last year, it was a bit of a surprise: not only is Corner Gas outrageously Canadian, it’s also not that funny…although I guess that that makes it fit right in at an American superstation, no? It didn’t seem like it had anything to make it stand out for an American audience outside of being a quirky attempt to play off of Canada’s reputation south of the border. However, things are different for CBC’s ‘Little Mosque on the Prairie’: it has a buzzworthy cultural commentary at its centre, and is apparently actually quite humorous. And, it appears that Ben Silverman (New Head of Programming for NBC Universal) is interested in the series for the American market.
For clips from the first season (Almost the entire shows, actually) and for some fascinating discussion on the various intricacies and cultural issues raised within the series, head to Little Experiences…, here on WordPress.
First off, I would expect to see the series picked up by USA Network (Irony is fun) as opposed to NBC proper, considering that NBC lacks a comedy slot and the production values aren’t quite ready for primetime network television (Just sayin’). Also, The CW is launching ‘Aliens in America’ on its Monday comedy block that covers a young pakistani who ends up smack dab in the middle of a suburban nightmare; two shows with such similar themes would be a bit overkill. However, even if only on USA Network, this would still be a huge coup for the show, and for CBC. The idea of having one of their own series picked up by an American network shows that their development cycle is putting out shows good enough to expand their market range, right? Right?
Actually, CBC might well be very, very nervous right now. Because Little Mosque on the Prairie is thus far the only successful, new, original, CANADIAN series they’ve launched in quite some time. And if that show is co-opted and taken into an American audience, what it proves is that CBC isn’t making content uniquely for Canadians when it can so easily be taken south of the border. This, anyways, will be the argument from the CBC critics out there. And I don’t know how I feel about it.
On the one hand, I look at shows like Degrassi: The Next Generation that have become hits south of the border and…I feel like it is far less distinctly Canadian now. Kevin Smith’s guest appearance was perhaps the last time I can remember the show (Through commercials, of course) looking like it was truly set in Canada as opposed to the United States, and even then it was only because the movie within the show alluded to it. That show has lost all of the Canadian identity it ever had by being brought into that new market.Little Mosque isn’t quite as distinctly Canadian as perhaps some other shows, as it has its roots in western prairie living and cultural differences that result. However, I worry that American audiences would expect a different type of dynamic, something more confrontational as opposed to the mere disagreements and more petty conflicts felt within the show as it exists now. While I have seen only bits and pieces of it, the show feels Canadian even while dealing with universal themes…and I kind of don’t want to lose out on that.
On the other hand, I think that it’s time for Canada to start exporting more of our own talent, our own productions. For far too long our only heralds have been Degrassi and Trailer Park Boys, which is fine…but diversity is always good. And I think that Little Mosque on the Prairie could be a real step in that direction. Whether it’s the right one or not, well, we’ll have to wait and find out.
For now, Silverman’s all talk: his comment was just an offhand remark at the Banff World Television Festival, but the producers are confirming interest. And well, perhaps we’ll be seeing an American version of Little Mosque on the Prairie as opposed to a distribution deal, ala The Office. Either way, this raises a lot of serious questions about the state of Canadian television…well, as serious as the state of Canadian television can be when you consider that it contains Degrassi. Sigh.