TLC Cancels All-American Muslim; Would a Scripted Show Be Better?
Last week, TLC announced that it is canceling All-American Muslim, the network’s reality show tracking the daily lives of Muslim families in Dearborn, Michigan. As the Detroit Free Press reports, TLC told the cast that the show’s ratings weren’t high enough to warrant a second season.
When All-American Muslim first premiered, we celebrated the show for helping to break down stereotypes and change negative perceptions of the Muslim community.
Unfortunately, anti-Islam extremists still found a way to attack it, claiming it covered up the “truth” about Islam by featuring peaceful, noncontroversial Muslim families rather than radical terrorists. One Religious Right group even led a public effort to convince companies to pull its advertising from the show, and Lowe’s Home Improvement caved to the pressure.
That decision prompted 200,000 people and faith leaders from around the country to rally around the show and call on Lowe’s to make a public commitment to reinstate their advertising,
However, despite the groundswell of support in that moment, not enough people actually tuned in to watch the show every week. The noncontroversial, unsensationalistic nature of the families featured was certainly helpful in advancing a public conversation about the portrayal of the American Muslim community, but it may not have made for the kind of reality television that scores well in the ratings.
As Alyssa Rosenberg has pointed out, the Muslim community would certainly benefit from greater saturation in the media at large. Consistently including fully-developed Muslim characters in scripted television shows and movies – similar to the way that the LGBT community has broken into pop culture – may help achieve the “normalizing” benefits of cultural exposure without relying on a sensationalizing format. Rather than a reality show, perhaps the next step ought to be more along the lines of a Muslim version of the Cosby Show.