Strong seasons for ‘Corner Gas’ and ‘Mosque’
TORONTO (CP) – “Little Mosque on the Prairie” joined CTV’s “Corner Gas” this year as a Canadian television rarity – a homegrown situation comedy that attracts a million-plus viewers every week, a feat once routinely achieved only by big American shows.
“Corner Gas” has been a ratings juggernaut since its debut three years ago, with not a single show pulling in fewer than a million viewers. This year, an average 1.7 million Canadians tuned in each week, making it the most-watched sitcom on Canadian airwaves.
Nipping at its heels has been CBC’s “Little Mosque,” the show about devout Muslims living in a small town in the West that became a bona fide prime-time saviour for the struggling network this year.
The show attracted an average 1.2 million viewers for its eight-episode season – quite an accomplishment given that “Little Mosque” was rushed to air in January after CBC brass decided to capitalize on the worldwide buzz about the sitcom and premiere it this winter instead of waiting till next fall.
The gamble paid off: the show’s debut in early January pulled in almost 2.2 million viewers, a record for a series premiere for the CBC.
The finale for “Little Mosque” aired last Wednesday, with the playful romantic tension between Rayyan and Amaar ending the season. The “Corner Gas” finale aired Monday night and featured a visit from Prime Minister Stephen Harper to Dog River (spoiler alert: despite the coy promos, Brent didn’t sell Corner Gas after all).
But even though both shows are off the air for months, it appears the stage has been set for a battle royal between the two Canadian sitcom giants. “Corner Gas” recently lost two members of its writing team to “Little Mosque” – supervising producer Paul Mather and story editor Rob Sheridan. Mather will become “Mosque”‘s head writer while Sheridan is executive story editor.
“We didn’t go after ‘Corner Gas,”‘ Mary Darling, executive producer of “Little Mosque,” said with a laugh on Monday. “What we did is we put out our feelers on who would be a really good head writer, show-runner type and four different names came forward, all of which we were interested and intrigued by, and Paul was one of them.”
Mather’s experience at the helm of “Corner Gas” simply couldn’t be beat, Darling says.
“The edge that Paul had over the people who we looked at is that he’d worked on half-hour episodic comedy on the show which laid the groundwork in Canada, in my opinion,” Darling said. ” ‘Corner Gas’ did it first.”
Next year’s season of “Little Mosque” promises to be sharper and better than season 1, Darling adds, because the writers now have more time to fine-tune the show.
“What we really recognize from our eight episodes, because we made them on such a compressed schedule, is that they were good, but . . . we think that the potential there is great, and what we want is someone to come in and make it great,” she added.
The similarities between “Corner Gas” and “Little Mosque” are plentiful: both are set in rural western communities populated by lovable misfits, both feature humour that is gentle rather than edgy, and both shows have garnered international attention.
While “Corner Gas” has inked huge syndication deals with networks around the world, the same is likely ahead for “Little Mosque on the Prairie” once enough episodes have been made.
Networks from around the world are already interested in licensing the show, says Darling, who’s travelling to Cannes in April for the annual MIPTV television trade show.
“I’m literally, for five days straight from 9 to 7 at night, every half hour, talking to the world. And they’re not appointments that I’ve had to initiate, which is the best part of all. There’s interest from all over the world in both picking up the show and picking up the format in some countries where the Muslim experience is different.”
Networks from the U.S., France, Italy, Taiwan, China, to name just a few, are intrigued, she said.
“The most interesting is the Middle East – some channel that broadcasts through Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq and all these different Middle East countries – they’re interested in picking up the show. That’s the one I’m most intrigued by. You just have to wonder how well the comedy will travel in Arabic.”
The success and the interest in “Little Mosque,” Darling adds, has gone beyond her wildest dreams.
“It’s fun to see the show out there doing something while people are laughing. It’s creating a lot of dialogue and that’s more than we could have hoped for.”
Strong seasons for ‘Corner Gas’ and ‘Mosque’