Last Updated: Tue Nov 02, 2010 12:06 pm (KSA) 09:06 am (GMT)

Arab-US reality TV show set to air in America

The cast of the show in New York (Courtesy Layalina)
The cast of the show in New York (Courtesy Layalina)

The next level of reality TV rolls onto U.S. small screens on Wednesday covering a topic far from the typical bug-eating and mate-finding -- how Americans and Arabs can overcome clashing cultures.

"On the Road in America" follows four young, fashionable Arabs – all in their 20s – across the United States.

While the show has a free-wheeling MTV vibe, much of it centers on topical debates about U.S. history, its ties to Israel and differences among Arab cultures.

The series will air on cable television's Sundance Channel and is backed by Layalina Productions, a Washington non-profit group that wants to use television to foster better understanding between the two worlds.

When the series was shown by pan-Arab broadcaster MBC – Al Arabiya's parent company – in 2007, it attracted 4.5 million viewers an episode from countries such as Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Kuwait and Algeria.

The stars – three men and one woman – were selected from an audition pool of more than 400 people.

Cast member Lara Abou Saifan left Beirut in the summer of 2006 to begin the 60-day "On the Road" trip just as Israel invaded her country. When the series begins, she is anxious about friends and family she left behind.

Her experience comes full circle when she returns to see the damage, pointing out the window of her mother's apartment to the rubble that was all that remained of the garden where she used to play.

The view moved one of the American producers, who was Jewish, to tears.

Abou Saifan, who is Palestinian, said her biggest surprise was meeting Americans who did not support Israeli policies in the Palestinian territories.

"I was surprised that people were aware of what was going on," she said.

Egyptian cast member Ali Amr said that "On the Road" provided the Arab world a glimpse into the diversity of the United States' 300 million people that is vastly different from what they see at home.

"They think Americans are spoiled. They spend money for nothing. They are fat," he said. "After my experience, when I traveled in different places, no, I found the people different."

Amr hopes Americans see a group of young Arabs who are not potential terrorists -- a sentiment that pops up in almost all 12 episodes, including when they are barred from Chicago's Sears Tower because of their nationalities: Egyptian, Saudi and Lebanese.

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