After six seasons, the CBC hit series Little Mosque on the Prairie finally closed up shop earlier this year, but it’s got a new lease on life on Hulu, which is releasing it as simply Little Mosque. It’s a move I’m excited by, for a lot of different reasons, not least of which is that I love the show and I’m pleased to see it picked up and brought to more potential viewers. The more funny, smart television people can access, the better, especially since this fall television season looks dismal and we’re going to need something to watch on long, cold nights.
Whether viewers are being exposed to it for the first time or re-watching, Little Mosque couldn’t be coming with more perfect timing. In fact, I’m desperately hoping Hulu brings on more older shows from other corners of the world, because it seems US networks can’t properly entertain us with their new ones. Perhaps they’ll get the hint if we all start turning to Hulu?
Hulu has been slowly but steadily picking up Canadian series of various vintages to expand its offerings, a delight to viewers like me who have a not-so-secret fondness for offerings from our fair neighbours to the north. Whether you want to watch Regenesis (with a young Ellen Page!) or Da Vinci’s Inquest, chances are that Hulu can hook you up. Given that it’s highly unlikely we’d see these shows syndicated to US television because they’re over and interest is limited, this is a great way of increasing distribution. Hulu’s also branching out into shows from other regions of the world, indicating a smart approach from the site, which has been struggling to deal with how to sustain itself.
As a grand experiment, Hulu backed itself into a bit of a corner, and it’s been trying to fish itself out with premium content, more ads, and other adjustments to its business model, realising that as long as people can get things for free, they’re going to resist paying for them, which doesn’t leave the site with much to support itself. Syndication of older shows is one way to get people invested in the site’s offerings, and I’m glad to see them picking up a diverse mix.
Little Mosque is part of a larger culture of Muslim comedy that’s steadily growing, and has me pretty excited. For those not familiar with this incisive, smart, and witty half-hour show, it revolves around the lives of members of a Muslim community in the fictional town of Mercy, Saskatchewan. Yet, it’s not focused on Muslim life specifically as much as it is on small-town life in general; there’s a great scene, for example, with the imam and the parish priest drinking coffee together a bench outside the church, talking about community life.
Yes, Little Mosque is filled with often dark political humour; the creative team was well aware of the social consequences of Islamophobia, and they weren’t afraid to poke fun at attitudes about Islam and Muslims, as well as rifts within the Muslim community. The show depicts a range of attitudes from the conservative to the liberal; feminists in headscarves, traditional older male community members ferociously advocating for a barrier in the mosque, and more. The residents of the town also range from the politically rapacious mayor to a conservative talk show host, giving a wide spread of people and perspectives to play against each other.
But this is not A Show About Being Muslim, as such a programme would inevitably end up being in the United States. It’s a half-hour comedy and it’s meant, above all, to be funny and entertaining. It simply happens to be funny through the lens of a marginalised and poorly understood community, and uses the experiences of that community to drive some of the comedy. The show’s creator, Zarqa Nawaz, speaks to the value of comedy when it comes to breaking down cultural barriers and shattering boundaries which she discusses why she made the show and how she made key creative decisions. I’m reminded of the Arabs Gone Wild tour, which plays with stereotypes and get audiences of all backgrounds laughing at the same time; it is in fact possible to confront damaging social attitudes while also having fun.
My hope is that people will watch Little Mosque because it’s funny, and charming, and all the things good comedies should be. Along the way, they’ll be showing Hulu that there is an audience for Muslim comedy, which opens the door to more syndication as well as funding and support for exclusive programming. Hulu’s been embracing web-only series and webisodes as a way to adapt itself, and I’d like to see those growing in scope and diversity. Little Mosque on the Prarie had its run, but Little Mosque has only just begun.