From the creators of HOMELAND!! Hercules Swears Fealty To FX’s TYRANT!!
A sort of contemporary Middle East “Godfather,” “Tyrant” follows an American doctor with an American wife and American kids who finds himself returning visiting his powerful Vito-ish dictator of a father on the occasion of the doctor’s Fredo-esque nephew’s wedding, but ends up sticking around thanks to some unanticipated events. It’s a rich nation teeming with terrorists who don’t much care for the dictator’s brutal history.
The new comes to us from longtime “24” showrunner Howard Gordon and Gideon Raff, who previously collaborated on Showtime’s “Homeland.”
If Dr. Barry Al Fayeed is the Michael-ish American son who initially wants no part of the family business, his older brother Jamal better resembles hothead Sonny Corleone (but is rather more odious thanks to his Hussein-ish penchant for raping attractive locals).
The doctor character may have been inspired by Syrian president Basha al-Assad, an eye surgeon without much interest in politics who unexpectedly came to rule his nation after his heir apparent older brother died in an auto mishap.
The fictional nation of Abbudin is not the most typical Middle East state, as its official language appears to be English.
The doctor at the center of the drama is played by Adam Raynor (“Hawthorne,” “Hunted”), but the more recognizable regulars include Justin Kirk (“Weeds”) as an American diplomat, Alice Krige (the Borg Queen in “Star Trek: First Contact”) as the dictator’s British wife, and Jennifer Finnigan (“Close To Home,” “Monday Mornings”) as the doctor’s American wife.
As with “Homeland,” I liked some parts better than others, but found the first four episodes FX forwarded watchable and even DVR worthy. There’s certainly nothing like it on American television.
The critics are all over the place.
... What it unfortunately plays like is a Middle Eastern version of "Dallas," with Barry as the good son reluctantly coming home to clean up his family's ugly way of doing business, and his older brother Jamal (Ashraf Barhom) as the villain ruled by his temper and his libido. Despite the novel setting, everything about the show feels stodgy and cliched. …
... a sophisticated thriller that oversimplifies its characters and narrative: The pilot tries so hard to make everything clear that it becomes too obvious where the story is headed, and what people will do next. Fortunately, subsequent episodes are a little less expository, and more action-driven.…
... Amid all the cop shows, medical shows and post-apocalyptic dramas, "Tyrant," which premieres Tuesday, certainly stands out as bold and possibly daring. But in the gorgeously produced pageantry of the pilot, directed by "Harry Potter's" David Yates, more than a few red flags are visible. In attempting to mix West with Middle East, the show too often seems content with stereotyping both. …
... The pilot is riveting but, like our protagonist Barry, a bit joyless. Here’s hoping the series doesn’t collapse under the weight of its own gravitas; it’s a compelling premise that plays out in a part of the world not often seen on TV. Rating: ***½
... [FX] may have another winner with “Tyrant,” an intense new Middle East-set family and political drama. … gets off to an engrossing start as it melds family drama with political intrigue and a clash of cultures. … as engaging when it focuses on family drama as when it veers more in the direction of taut, serialized, political thriller.
... the series has enough going for it to merit attention, especially beyond the relatively standard-issue pilot episode. …
... Nothing could seem less appetizing at the moment than a clumsily written and stultifyingly acted TV drama stocked with tired and terribly broad notions of Muslim culture in a make-believe nation on the brink. …
... In essence, Tyrant is a ruling-family variant on The Godfather, shifted from Italy and America to the Middle East. But don't dismiss the shift out of hand: That move is precisely what makes Tyrant (* * * out of four) so intriguing — and so troubling.…
... a solid but not particularly distinguished effort, one that requires a significant suspension of disbelief to explore its insights about the Middle East, and the nature of the strongmen who have held sway there. …
... the pilot is strong and entertaining but not immediately a knockout punch …
10 p.m. Tuesday. FX.
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