If It weren’t for Drake, I’m not sure most Americans would know that there are not-white (and Jewish!) Canadians, let alone Muslims. Judging from Canadian television alone, however, the prairies are crawling with semites, which explains the Jewish family on Less Than Kind and the small, rural Muslim community on the hit CBC sitcom Little Mosque On The Prairie (2007-2012).
In so many ways, the show was an extremely conventional sitcom, especially towards the end of its run, when the plots and jokes were about as fresh as something from the TGIF lineup in its ‘90s prime. Still the setup of a small town where Muslims are just among us had never been done before, especially with a sense of humor. The Muslim characters represent a real spectrum of observancy, from Baber, the bumbling conservative who clashes with Amaar, the young Imam (leader of the mosque), to Rayaan, the town doctor who sees no contradiction in being a progressive feminist and wearing hijab (a headscarf). To further stir the pot, there’s the host of the local talk radio station, Fred, who’s like the Rush Limbaugh of Mayberry.
Again, on the last couple of seasons of the show, any edge was completely dulled, but for the first few years, Little Mosque on the Prairie was both funny and fresh. The characters were multidimensional, and even though so much about the show was tried-and-true sitcom genre, more of it was totally fresh, since characters and scenarios like these had never been attempted before in this context. The show could only become stale because those first seasons were so effective at breaking so much ground.
The show is available on Hulu (as just Little Mosque) and is perfect for bed binge watching, i.e., for when you’re stuck in bed and want to be amused but not have to think too hard. It’s a fun show, and a nice reminder that Canada doesn’t just have diversity, but a government-run television station that takes chances our privately-run stations wouldn’t dare.