As you know by now, I am going to review and recap all eight episodes of TLC’s All-American Muslim. And I do so not only because it’s an important series (though still a reality show with reality show problems) but because the show is working on two fronts:
-it continues to make the what should be an obvious case that we’re all the same
-and it really pisses off both extremely Conservative Muslims and Conservative Christians who believe that all Muslims should be separated from the rest of the world
In my heart — and please know that this is my opinion and my opinion only so direct your hate comments to me — I think those ticked off at the show are full of horseshit. They have no true concept on what makes us Americans, let alone what makes us human fracking beings. It doesn’t matter what your skin color is, what ethnicity you claim to be, whether or not you believe in a supreme being, or how you worship that supreme being, we’re all in the same shit boat, sailing in murky waters. Anyone who wants you to believe differently has a nefarious agenda.
And sorry for taking up a couple of paragraphs in a pop culture site to explain a position that most of us truly have. My encounters with BuzzFocus reader have always been thoughtful and kind. Again, you guys rock.
Anyway, a couple of major events happen in this week’s episode of All-American Muslim, entitled “A Muslim Goes to Washington”:
-Nawal goes to the hospital to give birth but not before she experiences complications
-Coach Foaud gets an invitation to The White House, to share an Iftar meal with President Obama as he met with leading members of the Muslim-American community
They are very important events. Massive ones. And here comes my criticism: they should have been the sole focus of their own episodes.
The best reality shows will never be on the same level as a scripted show like Breaking Bad or The Sopranos. Those classics have the benefit of an actual writer’s room where they could tie up storylines with awesome themes in any given episode and throughout the season. It’s why a series like Boardwalk Empire, which seemed a bit unfocused in its first season, all of the sudden goes up in quality in its second when the writers and producers figure out the underlying tone in each episode (last night’s episode dealt with debt). Reality shows, on the other hand, either force a theme (as evident in the worst shows like Jersey Shore and The Real Housewives franchise) or forgo it all together and just string up the happenings that have been captured on tape.
Better reality shows — that don’t deal with competitions like Top Chef or basic information like Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations – tend to have a uniformed setting. A series like The Rachel Zoe Project focuses on the Miss Zoe’s work or All-American Muslim focuses on the going-ons in a town in Michigan. (The best reality show on television, An Idiot Abroad, deals with one stubborn — and inadvertently funny — man but it’s still a travel series.) Because there is no real theme in All-American Muslim we have to take trust that the producers have given us the most important and interesting stories they found.
The two storylines I mentioned above are very intriguing. There is a good amount of attention given to them in this episode but I don’t think it’s suffice. The Coach wonders out loud for a good chunk of his plot if he should turn down the invite because he would rather be practicing with his team of high schoolers. It is a surprise when he accepts and when he does go to Washington, we don’t get to see the dinner through his eyes. Instead, we see news footage of the event, where The President gives a nice speech, and then The Coach later tells us what he thought about it.
Of course, one assumes that the producers didn’t get the okay to enter The White House but we were then saddled with a couple of meandering plots dealing with Bilal’s brief suspicion of Jeff’s commitment to his faith (turns out Jeff is still a good Muslim) and Nina’s pursuit of a nightclub. Nina talks a lot about opposition to her plan but we still haven’t really seen it. Sure her old business partner told her to drop the idea in the first episode, but that doesn’t seem as old fashion now as it did then. It now looks like it may be a smart business decision.
(Nina’s plot also suffers from the “telling not showing” syndrome that many reality shows fail to deal with. We have to take her word that everyone is against her.)
And then there’s Nawal. She’s still compelling whenever she talks. And her relationship with Nader is refreshingly normal. (Her getting upset that he wouldn’t hold a friend’s baby is completely understandable. If he acts this way now, how is he going to act when their baby comes into this world?) The last ten minutes of the episode deals with her going into labor. I don’t know what’s to come next week, but I would have loved to see more of the couple preparing for the baby’s arrival. (Though the scene at the weird hippie lamaze class was pretty amusing.)
Like I’ve stated above, dinner with the President and having a baby are two very big life events that deserved to be focused on more and not edited together into one unsatisfying episode. But hey, the good news is that now that All-American Muslim can be criticized for doing things other reality shows so, like not getting the pacing down and or uninteresting storylines. You know, things that anti-Muslim bigots and anti-Muslims getting along with others don’t understand because they’re too mired in their own hate. That is awesome.