Tame reality of ‘All-American Muslim’ leads to cancellation

March 7, 2012

The first season of TLC’s “All-American Muslim” was also its last.

The Silver Spring-based network confirmed that when it unveils its upcoming programming plans to advertisers in April, the controversially tame reality series will not be on the “Renewed” list.

Back in July, the network of “Freaky Eaters,” “Hoarding: Buried Alive,” “Extreme Couponing” and “19 Kids and Counting” announced that it would do a reality series that, TLC promised, would be a compassionate look at what it’s like to be Muslim in America.

The show followed five Arab American Muslim families in Dearborn, Mich., a mid-size industrial city that is home to the largest mosque in the United States. Cast members reported to the Detroit Free Press they’d been notified that the show would not move forward for a second season.

“Through these families and their diverse experiences, we will explore how they blend their values and traditions with everyday life in America, providing insight into their culture with care and compassion,” TLC General Manager Amy Winter said when the show was announced.


Suehaila (left) and Tereza on TLC's “All-American Muslim.” (TLC)

Which was just the problem. Although it was promisingly produced by Shed Media — the indie production house known for the reality series “Freaky Eaters” and “Real Housewives of New York City” — the cast of “All-American Muslim” showed a shocking propensity to not scream at recalcitrant children, brawl in bars, consume gallons of tartar sauce, steal best friends’ boyfriends or any of the other behavioral earmarks of a hit reality docu-soap.

A glimmer of hope flickered briefly when the conservative Florida Family Association condemned the show’s tameness as clever “propaganda that riskily hides the Islamic agenda’s clear and present danger to American liberties and traditional values.” That caused giant home-improvement retail chain Lowe’s to yank its ads from the series.

Overnight, the show became the darling of the media and celebrities: Jon Stewart pasted Lowe’s on “The Daily Show,” Mia Farrow and Kal Penn tweeted their support of the series, and Russell Simmons offered to buy up remaining ad time in an upcoming episode.

Things looked even better when online travel company Kayak.com scrubbed plans to buy any more ads in the show, charging TLC with not having been upfront about “the preexisting controversy surrounding race, religion and specifically the divide between the Muslim and Christian communities in Dearborn, Mich.,” when it sold time to Kayak.

Usually, this sort of kerfuffle is TV-ratings lighter fluid. But fewer than 1 million people bothered to check out the episode of “A-A M” that was telecast in the eye of that storm. The first-season finale attracted only about 700,000 viewers. This on a network used to clocking about 2 million viewers with such reality series as the kiddie-beauty-pageant horror show “Toddlers & Tiaras” and the polygamist reality series “Sister Wives.”

But “All-American Muslim” did not air in vain. Bravo has learned from TLC’s mistakes and will, this Sunday, debut the reality series “Shahs of Sunset,” from the Kardashian family’s favorite exec producer, Ryan Seacrest.

“Shahs of Sunset” will follow the exploits of (as described by Bravo):

●A “Persian Princess” with a “fiery temper and very little filter.”

●A self-appointed “Persian Real Estate Mafia” high-roller and lady charmer.

●A “ladies’ man” who builds multimillion-dollar homes “for the Persian community.”

●A “modern Persian gypsy.”

●A “known party girl” real estate agent who struggles to balance her nighttime “networking” with early mornings at the office.

●A “prominent player in the Los Angeles real estate world” who is “one of [the] few openly gay Persians in the community.”

Russell in political pilot

Keri Russell has been cast in FX’s drama pilot “The Americans” as a KGB agent posing as a travel agent living in Washington during the Reagan administration.

As we reported back in December, FX is shooting a pilot for this drama series created by Joe Weisberg, who worked at the CIA for about 31 / 2 years, after which he wrote the novel “An Ordinary Spy.” These days, Weisberg writes for TV; his credits include TNT’s “Falling Skies” and FX’s “Damages.”

In the pilot episode, Russell will play Elizabeth Jennings, whose marriage to Phillip Jennings was arranged by the KGB. The couple now have two children who are unaware of their parents’ true identities. So as far as the kids know, Mom and Dad run a travel agency in Falls Church. In the pilot, Reagan has just been elected, and Phillip, who has not yet been cast, is grappling with his growing affinity for the American way of life.

Russell, who started as a child actress, became a big TV star when she took the lead role in J.J. Abrams’s WB soapy drama “Felicity” in the late ’90s, which did really well until Russell cut her hair — after which WB put no-haircut clauses into its contracts.

Her hair grew back and so did her career. Russell has starred in such flicks as “Waitress” and “Mission: Impossible III” and in Fox’s short-lived, Mitch Hurwitz-created (I know, redundant) series “Running Wilde.”

A fuller ‘Voice’

In the wake of big ratings for the second season of “The Voice,” NBC will expand the singing-competition show to two nights a week.

The shift begins April 3, with a two-hour live performance show on Mondays followed by a one-hour results show on Tuesdays.

Last year, the show expanded to two nights a week for just the last two weeks of the season. This season, the show will pull double duty on NBC’s schedule for six weeks until the May 8 finale, The Post’s Emily Yahr notes.

Makes sense, given that the singing competition is by far NBC’s most popular prime-time show. According to the most recent Nielsen stats, “The Voice” was the sixth-most-watched series on broadcast prime-time TV last week, with about 15 million viewers.

The next-most-watched NBC show? Lisa Kudrow’s ancestry reality series, “Who Do You Think You Are?,” with 7.4 million viewers — which ranked No. 39.

Meanwhile, NBC has decided to debut “America’s Got Talent” judge Howard Stern right in the middle of May sweeps (which are about two weeks earlier than last year). After “The Voice” wraps up May 8, “Talent” will have a two-night premiere May 14 and 15.

And, in one of those incredible coincidences that are always happening in the TV biz, May 14 is the same day that NBC will unveil, and officially start selling, its new prime-time schedule to advertisers in New York — the city to which “Talent” has been moved for Stern’s sake.

To juggle this new lineup, the network’s fat-farm competition, “The Biggest Loser,” will be trimmed to an hour on Tuesdays, starting April 3. “Biggest Loser” has taken a ratings nose-dive this season with its most recent episode, grabbing only about 6 million viewers, compared with the 10 million-ish of its heyday.

To read previous columns by Lisa de Moraes, go to washingtonpost.com/ tvblog.

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