The TV Column: ‘All-American Muslim’ fracas


The cast dinner at the Aoude residence on "All-American Muslim" (Adam Rose/TLC)
December 14, 2011

Another company has pulled its ads from TLC’s controversial docu-series “All-American Muslim,” saying it did so because TLC “was not upfront with us about the nature of this show” and was deliberately “trying to pick a fight” over the series. The online travel company Kayak.com also says that its chief marketing officer watched a couple of episodes and thought they were lousy.

Kayak.com got swept up in the story about the decision by the giant home-improvement retail chain Lowe’s to yank its ads from the series, which is about five Muslim families in Dearborn, Mich. Lowe’s had become the target of a campaign by the conservative Florida Family Association, which said the show is “propaganda that riskily hides the Islamic agenda’s clear and present danger to American liberties and traditional values.”

But on Wednesday, Kayak’s chief marketing officer, Robert Birge, sought to distinguish his company’s decision from Lowe’s: He savaged the Silver Spring-based TLC over its handling of the show in a “We Handled This Poorly” blog post on Kayak’s Web site.

The series about the five Lebanese American families has found itself 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, Russell Simmons offered to buy up remaining ad time on an upcoming episode, blah, blah, blah.

Viewers, however, seem pretty uninterested in the fracas. “Fracas” is usually TV-ratings lighter fluid. But only about 908,000 people bothered Sunday to check out the most recent episode, which aired in the eye of the storm.

That’s because viewers are so wholly swept up in the far more important story about the break-up of soon-to-be-former spouses Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries. In the same Sunday 10 p.m. time slot where “All-American Muslim” was attracting so few viewers, a whopping 3.2 million people were glued to E!’s latest “Kourtney & Kim Take New York” episode. Viewers had been promised that 31-year-old Kim would tell Kris she had decided to get off birth control (tick-tock, tick-tock!), much to the surprise of Kris, who wasn’t so sure he was ready to have kids.

Now that we’ve put this maelstrom in perspective:

“For the record, we didn’t ‘pull’ our ads,” Kayak’s Birge insisted in his blog post about the “Muslim” ad decision. “Our ads kept running on this program, but we have made the decision not to give TLC more money when the show returns in January.”

That’s because, he said, “TLC was not upfront with us about the nature of this show. . . . We believe TLC went out of their way to pick a fight on this and they didn’t let us know their intentions. That’s not a business practice that generally gets repeat business from us.”

Asked to clarify what he meant by “went out of their way to pick a fight,” Birge responded to The TV Column in a statement:

“When TLC pitched ‘All-American Muslim’ to advertisers, it was characterized as a fair-and-balanced look at the life of an American Muslim. However, what was not disclosed was the preexisting controversy surrounding race, religion and specifically the divide between the Muslim and Christian communities in Dearborn, Mich.,” Birge said in the statement e-mailed to The TV Column.

“Dearborn has been a center of controversy for right or wrong; however, that was omitted by TLC when it pitched the show.”

Really? Pick up a paper much? Check out a news Web site?

TLC declined to comment, despite our pleading. We’re guessing it’s their policy not to engage in a battle of wits with an unarmed opponent.

In his “We Handled This Poorly” blog post, Birge said the straw that broke the camel’s back came when he settled in and actually watched the show on which his little company had bought ad time.

“I watched the first two episodes. Mostly, I just thought the show [unprintable word signifying the show was a blight on the TV landscape].”

Birge continued:

“Based on our dealings with TLC and the simple assessment of the show, I decided we should put our money elsewhere.”

NFL deals through ’22

CBS, Fox and NBC have officially extended their deals to broadcast NFL games through 2022. According to news reports, the new pacts are guesstimated to have a collective value of more than $3 billion — a year.

They’re also the longest contracts ever between the broadcasters and the league, those reports agree.

The NFL had already reached an eight-year deal with ESPN on “Monday Night Football” through the 2021 season.

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