Did protests or bad ratings kill TLC's All American Muslim?
Hours after news broke that cable channel TLC had canceled its unscripted show on several Muslim families in Michigan, All American Muslim, Tampa-based Florida Family Association already had a press release taking some credit.
The FFA, which had complained that the show was "propaganda" designed to make a dangerous religion look acceptable to Americans, claimed that 101 companies contacted by the group stopped advertising on the show after their email protest campaign kicked in.
"Your emails made a difference," read the message from the association, which also thanks Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer, co-founders of the group Stop Islamization of America, an organization designated as an anti-Muslim hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The FFA's protest convinced home repair retailer Lowe's to drop its support, sparking a national controversy.
Discovery Channel, which aired the series, would not comment on the record about sponsors. But if All American Muslim was a propaganda tool, it wasn't reaching many converts.
According to the Washington Post, the show's finale drew about 700,000 viewers and even episodes which aired when controversy over the FFA protests were at its height drew less than 1-million people. Critics complained that the show, while avoiding many of the typical stereotypes and fake drama of most unscripted shows, also wasn't that compelling. (I found the show wrapped a revolutionary idea in reality TV clothing.)
And some conservative Muslims also criticized the show, centered on five Arab-American Muslim families in Dearborn, Mich., for featuring some less traditional people, including a woman who wore short skirts and wanted to own her own nightclub.
In the end, All-American Muslim's biggest problem may be that it tried to tell a complex, human story on a "reality TV" style show where viewers expect soap opera-style melodrama and oversize characters.
Bravo has a new series about Persians in Beverly Hills, Shahs of Sunset, which looks poised to rectify those mistakes.
Centered on wealthy Persian families in Los Angeles, the show features an openly gay man who talks about his sexual prowess and a woman who dotes on her dogs, wears tight-fitting dresses and has no plans to get married.
In the first episode, there's a catty fight between two women at a party -- think the Real Persian Housewives of Beverly Hills, without the housewives.
(I wonder if the show will even bother explaining that Persians, often from Iran or Afghanistan, are ethnically different than Arabs, who come from Arabic countries such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia? It does note they may or may not be Muslim.)
So TV will trade a sensitive series which avoided stereotypes about Lebanese-American Muslims for a show focused on Persians who party, work out, have sex and chase money just as ferociously as any character on Jersey Shore.
While you ponder that depressing circumstance, check out Persian comic Maz Jobrani's sidesplitting routine on the difference between Persians and Arabs: