TLC has cancelled All-American Muslim, its reality series about an interconnected group of Muslim families in Dearborn, Michigan. The show pulled relatively low ratings — even as the show’s buzz reached its height, fewer than a million people were tuning in on Sunday nights. And members of the cast told the Detroit Free Press that TLC explained that the ratings were the reason All-American Muslim wouldn’t be coming back for a second season.
The show was also the subject of a campaign by prominent Islamaphobes. Pamela Geller insisted that the show was offensive because it refused to portray Muslims as extremists, terrorists, and criminals. The Florida Family Association, essentially a one-man front group with a history of running boycotts rather than advancing family values, convinced hardware giant Lowe’s and travel discounter Kayak to drop their advertising on the show. Lowe’s tried to hide behind claims of negative buzz for the show on social media, though there was little evidence of any such chatter that wasn’t inflected by anti-Muslim sentiment, and Kayak’s founder wrote an incoherent attack on the show in response to criticism. Both companies were subject to intense pressure to reinstate their advertising, and music executive Russell Simmons offered to buy up spots on the show, only to find that they were sold out.
That All-American Muslim couldn’t find an audience is disappointing, and not just because the Florida Family Association and Geller will treat the decision as a victory. It was a warm, unsensationalistic show that featured serious debates about religion, obligation, and community norms — in other words, the best that reality television is capable of. This is a loss for quality television, as well as for tolerance.