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Fox picks up rights to build U.S. 'Mosque'

Studio assembling writing team for comedy

BANFF, Alberta -- 20th Century Fox TV has acquired the U.S. format rights to the popular Canadian comedy "Little Mosque on the Prairie."

There is no writer attached yet to adapt the comedy about a Muslim community in a small prairie town.

"Comedy is a great way to bridge cultures and bring peoples' guards down," said the original series' executive producer, Mary Darling of Toronto-based Westwind Pictures, who announced the deal with 20th TV on Monday at the Banff World Television Festival.

"Mosque" has garnered extensive U.S. interest in the media and within the TV industry since its premiere on pubcaster CBC in January 2007.

Darling said that Westwind and CAA were close to a U.S. deal just before the WGA strike but took a break in negotiations when Hollywood writers took to the picket lines.

Ultimately, 20th TV, led by head of comedy development Jonathan Davis, beat out rival U.S. studios and cable channels for the format rights.

"Fox got the creative vision of the show, that it has to be funny while it treads sensitively on certain Muslim issues," Darling said.

The U.S. format deal will not preclude a separate deal to air the original Canadian comedy south of the border, she added. "Mosque" already has been sold widely internationally, including to Canal Plus in France.

20th TV has been active in the foreign scripted format arena, recently landing "The Ex List," an adaptation of the Israeli show "Mythological X," on the CBS schedule. Meanwhile, aspects of the Muslim culture were showcased on the CW's praised but short-lived comedy "Aliens in America."