The Qosbi Show

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Author: John Feffer
Date: Feb. 15, 2011
Publisher: Institute for Policy Studies
Document Type: Article
Length: 1,724 words
Lexile Measure: 1170L

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Foreign Policy In Focus received this response from an executive producer in Hollywood to a proposal we recently submitted.

Dear FPIF:

Thank you for your proposal for a new TV show about "a warm-hearted, middle-class Egyptian family named the Qosbis." It's an intriguing idea.

Of course, we were thrilled by Katie Couric's suggestion of addressing Islamophobia by creating a Muslim version of The Cosby Show. I believe, however, that she had in mind a Muslim-American show, not a drama about an Egyptian family. Like you, we've been closely following the events in Egypt. Millions of Americans were glued to their TVs to watch the revolution oust the dictator. But I'm not sure that this fascination with Egypt will endure. People were similarly excited about the fall of Ceausescu, but that didn't translate into a willingness to watch a sitcom set in Bucharest. Even now, Americans have been drawn away from the events in Egypt to other pressing issues, like the Chris Lee sex scandal and the Grammys.

It's true, as you point out, that few people would have expected that shows about a family of undertakers or an amiable serial killer would be hits. But however quirky these shows are, they take place in America. Even that Israeli show about a psychiatrist and his patients was repurposed for an American audience, with Gabriel Byrne as the shrink and the East Coast for the location.

Yes, hundreds of millions of people around the world watch House and old episodes of Baywatch. But it's not a reciprocal relationship. The United States is the celebrity of countries: everyone wants to know what goes on here. Egypt is only enjoying its requisite 15 minutes of fame.

That said, your show has some promising elements. I particularly like the dynamic among the three sons - one in the army, one in the Muslim Brotherhood, and one at the National Bank of Egypt. I like the family crisis over the declaration of martial law. The son working in the bank and his search for the missing billions of dollars that the dictator and his family stole from the nation--that's certainly promising. Americans love a heist caper. And the romance between the son in the army and the Christian Coptic girl next door - that has some Romeo and Juliet potential.

I'm not sure, however, whether Americans are ready for a character in the Muslim Brotherhood. He's got some good jokes in the opening episode. But even quasi-liberals like Richard Cohen talk about nightmare scenarios involving the Muslim Brotherhood taking charge. I understand your counterarguments that the Brotherhood...

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