Electric Review

Culture & Criticism From the Far Distant Realms

Tyrant

TYRANT. FX. Starring Adam Rayner, Jennifer Finnigan, Anne Winters, Noah Silver, Nasser Faris and Ashraf Barhom. Produced by Howard Gordon.

TyrantBassam (Barry!) Al-Fayeed (Adam Rayner) is a Pasadena pediatrician who lives a nice Pasadena pediatrician-type life with his American wife (Jennifer Finnigan) and teenage children (Anne Winters and Noah Silver). He has a dark past, however, as the self-estranged second son of a brutal mid-Eastern dictator, Khaled Al-Fayeed (played by Nasser Faris).

Shot mostly in Morocco, the fictional emirate of Abbudin at one point features the unmistakable cityscape of Dubai, with its Khalifa Tower. Al-Fayeed oppresses, along with his almost cartoonishly brutal younger son Jamal (played with leering menace by Ashraf Barhom, who cheerfully rapes virgins on their wedding day, shoots dissidents, drives a Lambo that plays Aerosmith loudly enough to be heard in Israel). Jamal, unsurprisingly, is head of paw’s secret police.

 The pilot does a good job of showing the conflicted nature of Barry, who returns with his family after a absence of twenty years for a niece’s wedding. It’s not fully explained why this was enough to get him to return. He has apparently said nothing to his wife and kids of the extraordinary opulence and power his family enjoys. They are, not surprisingly, overwhelmed.

The Emirate palace is a vast set constructed in Israel, and explains the stratospheric cost of the production (amortized to $3 million per episode). It is satisfyingly eye-popping. Ironically, the characters complain about the cost of the fireworks display for the Royal wedding, which presumably also inflated the show’s production costs.

FX has a solid track record with dramas, the most recent being the magnificent “Fargo,” and the Network has billed this show “The Godfather in the Middle East.” But there are some warning signs requiring a longer look: Ang Lee was supposed to direct at least the pilot, but left the show without explanation. He was replaced by Howard Gordon, whose previous efforts include Homeland and 24. Gordon’s approach to matters Islamic tends to straddle the hard-line American point-of-view, and there’s strong elements of that in the pilot. Moreover,  the show has already generated its share of complaints for its  sometimes ugly stereotyping of the Abbudin people.

Still, Tyrant has its moments, and the story leaves off as a point where I am compelled to watch next week’s episode to see what happens. If Gordon can better balance the scripts and refrain from distasteful cultural stereotyping, Tyrant has the potential to a memorable ride.

by Bryan Zepp Jamieson

© Bryan Zepp Jamieson. All rights reserved.


Zepp Jamieson was born in Ottawa, Ontario, and spent his formative years living in various parts of Canada, the UK, South Africa and Australia before finally moving to the United States, where he has lived for over 40 years. Aside from writing, his interests include hiking, raising dogs and cats, and making computers jump through hoops. His wife of 25 years edits his copy, and bravely attempts to make him sound coherent. Reach him through The Electric Review.

Advertisements

Talk to Rat:

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Information

This entry was posted on June 27, 2014 by in 2014, Guest Reviews, In the Spotlight, June 2014, Television and tagged , .
In accordance with FTC Guidelines on blogging and product reviews, The Electric Review discloses that the books, records, DVDS and other products reviewed are submitted to us by publishers, record labels, publicity firms, artists, manufacturers and creators free of charge. The Electric Review further states that these entities and individuals submit materials to us of their own volition and understand that the submission of material is for discretionary consideration by the Editor and is not to be construed as to be in ‘exchange’ for a review.
The Electric Review does not serve as a ‘for-hire’ advertising vehicle and the submission of material for review creates no agreement either express or implicit requiring us to provide comment on a book, record, film, product or event. In sum, The Electric Review accepts no payment for the publication of a review. Instead, commentary is published as a free public service with reviews based solely on merit and the lasting classroom or cultural value of a given work: this compendium of essays meant to serve as an electronic library and on-going teaching resource surveying the 21st-century landscape.
Website copyright: John Aiello & The Electric Review. All rights reserved.
Violations of this notice are subject to sanction under United States Code: Title 17.
Reproduction of material from any Electric Review pages without the written permission of John Aiello or the named author is strictly prohibited.
%d bloggers like this: