“The sitcom ‘Aliens in America’ plays anti-Muslim hostility for laughs,” by Janice Rhoshalle Littlejohn for The Associated Press (thanks to Twostellas):
A group of Muslim worshippers were gathered for evening prayer inside the Islamic Center of Southern California when Moses Port and David Guarascio arrived.
“The fact that we’re here is bigger than anything we could have even hoped for,” said Guarascio, creator, along with Port, of the CW sitcom “Aliens in America.” “But being here seems to make sense, you know, appropriate.”
Appropriate, certainly, for the bold, satirical comedy, premiering at 8:30 p.m. Oct. 1, which explores Americans’ fears and cultural ignorance of Muslims. Port, who’s Jewish, and Guarascio, who was raised Catholic, were at the Islamic Center this night to introduce their new series to the faithful.
Though not unique — the popular Canadian series “Little Mosque on the Prairie” also deals with anti-Muslim attitudes — it’s rare these days for an American sitcom to tackle such sensitive social and political issues.
At first, “Aliens in America” seems more akin to NBC’s short-lived 1999 series “Freaks and Geeks” with its story of Justin Tolchuck (Dan Byrd), a nerdy Wisconsin high school student who just doesn’t seem to fit in.
Then the twist: His overly involved mother, Franny (Amy Pietz), agrees to take in a foreign exchange student, hoping it will help Justin become as popular as his sister Claire (Lindsey Shaw). Only the student who arrives is Raja Musharaff (Adhir Kalyan), a Muslim from Pakistan.
Raja is polite, idealistic and hardworking, much to the pleasure of Justin’s father, Gary (Scott Patterson). But everyone else in town sees Raja as a potential terrorist.
In one scene from the pilot, Raja sits wearily in class listening to a student confess that she is angry with him because “his people” blew up the twin towers. The teacher then asks if others in the class are angry with Raja and all raise their hands.
The response from the Islamic Center crowd was overwhelmingly positive, just as it has been with TV critics. Although a small minority of columnists complained that the pilot suggests Americans are “bigoted and stupid.”
Yes. There is no reason for the teacher or the class to be angry with Raja, and this is a deft and vicious caricature of those who call upon Muslims to repudiate and work against the global jihad movement.