Mo is now streaming on Netflix.
By Elazar Abrahams
Mohammed “Mo” Amer stars in this loosely autobiographical comedy that centers around his life in a Houston suburb and the hardships that come with being a Palestinian refugee. The series is loud and proud representation, and excels by not dwelling in the sorrows that are often focused on in these stories, but instead highlighting the beauty and joy of one’s culture.
To be sure, some aspects of the show are quite heavy, as the season-long arc follows Mo’s family’s quest for legal asylum to finally become legal residents of the United States. It’s a brutal and tedious process that they’ve been trying to accomplish for years, and the series sheds an unflinching light on issues surrounding immigration. Amer smartly cushions that in great laughs, mining every situation for banter and gags. Mo strikes the rare perfect tone, allowing serious moments the breathing room they deserve, but still making sure the episodes fall under the “comedy” category.
It’s hard to not compare the show to Hulu’s Ramy – not because that show is also rare Muslim representation on TV, but because Ramy Youssef (the creator and star) also had a hand in producing and crafting Mo alongside Amer. There are many differences between the two of course; for example, while Ramy focuses on the protagonist’s religious journey, Mo seems more comfortable in his faith. The settings also lend themselves to different stories. Ramy is East coast-centric with its New Jersey locale, but Mo’s Houston home brings a hospitality and sense of camaraderie between different characters that is distinctly Southern.
While watching the series, I was hit with the familiar theme of “universality through specificity.” When writers go broad, they often fail to connect with viewers, whereas here, Amer has created a world on screen that is so specific to his experience and because of that, everyone will find at least one aspect they relate to. Certainly you’ve dated someone whom your mother doesn’t approve of, and every heritage has food that’s inseparable from the identity. The reasons are different, but the concepts are just inherently human.
I give Mo a B+.