Fox network to make Americanized version of CBC's "Little Mosque"
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Fox network to make Americanized version of 'Little Mosque'
Lee-Anne Goodman, THE CANADIAN PRESS
BANFF, Alta. - The producers of the gentle CBC sitcom "Little Mosque on the Prairie" have announced a deal with Twentieth Century Fox Studios which aims to get an Americanized version of the show on the Fox network, known for pushing the envelope with programs like "The Family Guy" and "Mad TV."
"It's taken a long time to get here, some due to the writers' strike and some due to just making sure that we had the right collaborator," Mary Darling, head of Westwind Pictures, said after announcing the "Little Mosque" deal Monday at the Banff World Television Festival.
"The reason we pursued a deal with this studio is because we really feel we've found people who are in synch with us on the vision of the show. They're very earnest in terms of getting the tone of the show right, and yet they want to make it as funny as possible in order for it to play to a wide audience."
The deal also involves another Westwind Pictures show currently in development; Fox will help Westwind develop the show and then determine if it wants to buy it.
The CBC show, about a community of devout Muslims living in a small prairie town, won't be changed drastically for an American audience, Darling added.
"It'll be 'Little Mosque in Minnesota,' if I have my way," the Minnesota-born Darling said with a laugh.
A year ago, U.S. cable network the CW debuted the critically acclaimed "Aliens in America," which explores Americans' cultural ignorance of the Muslim community.
Darling speculated that by securing the "Little Mosque" deal, Fox was "trying to broaden their horizons and become a bit more of a serious player."
The deal was one of a flurry announced Monday at the festival, as BBC Worldwide and Toronto's Temple Street Productions revealed that they'd entered into a development partnership.
BBC Worldwide has acquired a minority stake in Temple Street, which is already producing the Canadian version of the BBC hit series, "How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?" The reality show, hosted by Gavin Crawford, premieres this weekend on CBC.
BBC Worldwide already bid successfully for international distribution rights to Temple Street's time-travel drama "The Session," debuting in January on CBC.
And Toronto-based Shaftesbury Films, the country's biggest producer of dramatic and children's programming, announced it had bought Smokebomb Entertainment, a developer of original, multi-platform digital content.
But it wasn't all wheeling and dealing amid the majestic snow-capped mountains and towering firs of Banff. A number of seminars were devoted to the very future of the TV industry, with "Digital Heavy Hitters" featuring industry insiders who were managing to find success on the Web stemming from their television productions.
The issue of piracy - people recording TV shows and posting them on YouTube, for example - and rapidly changing viewing habits were weighing heavily on the minds of most TV executives at this year's festival. The industry is grappling with the challenges posed by the lucrative younger generation of viewers who want to watch their TV on the Internet, on their cellphones and on their hand-held devices.
"It's scary," said Doug Ellin, the creator of the HBO hit series "Entourage," at Banff talking to producers about the success of the show. "You spend a lot of money producing these shows and producing content and if people are stealing the content, you're not going to be able to produce it for much longer."
He added the traditional methods of measuring viewers are flawed since there's no way to track how many people are watching shows like his on the web or via PVR.
"I talk to HBO all the time and I am not sure even our numbers are accurate, because I'm quite sure kids are watching the show other places," he said.
Nonetheless there was still plenty of celebration at the Banff festival. Brent Butt of "Corner Gas" fame won the Peter Ustinov Comedy Award while Sofia Milos from "The Border" was honoured with the festival's excellence award at a glitzy luncheon at the historic Banff Springs Hotel, the home of the annual event.
"When you're honoured, it's hard not to feel honoured by it," Butt said with a laugh. "I'm honoured and humbled and it's a tremendous award ... I'm sure they've mistaken me for someone else, but I'll take it."
Among other awards announced at the luncheon:
Blueprint Entertainment, the producers of shows including "Kenny vs. Spenny" and "Whistler," was given the the Lionsgate/Maple Pictures Innovative Producer Award.
ABC Studios, the producer behind such hits as "Desperate Housewives" and "Lost," was given the outstanding achievement award.