Channel Surfing: An Ambassador, A Sheikh and An Arab-American Doctor Walk Into A Bar… or Tyrant

What happens when you send an average American family to a Middle Eastern dictatorship on the verge of a revolution, where the family’s dad is also second in-line to that country’s throne but he can’t stand his Middle Eastern family?  Well, you either get a reality series, or you get “Tyrant” – the new FX show that tries to piggy-back on a number of recent developments in the Middle East.

Brought to us by Howard Gordon, the man behind “Homeland” and “24”, “Tyrant” strikes a more contrasting tone to its creative predecessors.  Outside of a few flashback scenes, protest scenes, and a scene that out of respect to those who have  yet to watch it I will just simply call “the bite”, the pacing of this show can at times be painstakingly slow.  That said, that might not necessarily be a bad thing, since it allows for deeper, more intellectual and emotional connections to the characters and the plot without always needing to be two feet from a defibrillator.  For those looking for a Jack Bauer-like shoot-em-up experience of “24”, or Carry Mathison’s manic, bi-polar pacing of “Homeland”, you will be left hugely disappointed.

Slow pacing aside, the main premise is interesting and enjoyable.  An Arab-American doctor Barry Al-Fayeed, played rather too stoically by Adam Rayner, reluctantly accepts an invitation to attend his nephew’s wedding and go back to the country he escaped from as a child.  We truly don’t know much about this character, and only learn about the many reasons for his discomfort with being a member of the royal family through a series of flashbacks that play a prominent role in flushing out who the “real” Barry Al-Fayeed is.  He is joined on his trip by his lovely and very understanding wife, played by Jennifer Finnigan, and his two teenage children, played by Anne Winters and Noah Silver.  The family’s naiveté about their status as royalty and some of the (rather uncomfortable) social dynamics that it creates is odd, but understandable given Barry’s reluctance to discuss his childhood.  The good doctor’s only other connection to the West comes in the form of US Ambassador John Tucker, masterfully played by Justin Kirk.  Based on at least the first five episodes, it appears that John Tucker’s role as a go-between Barry and the US government will expand and will turn into a more supporting role.  The rest of the characters represent the standard jambalaya of  Middle Eastern stereotypes of ruthless rulers, millionaire sheikh playboys and the cunning women who love their men, but love their power and status even more.

Because the “Middle East through the eyes of an American” genre has been explored ad nauseam, Tyrant’s approach of looking at the fictional-but-all-too-real social and moral issues of that region and its many cultures through the eyes of someone who is intimately tied to the West and the East is a refreshing one. So far, FX has picked up 10 Episodes, and if the first five are of any indication, “Tyrant” is likely to be picked up for at least another season.  You can catch “Tyrant” on Tuesdays at 10pm. on the FX Network.

Till next time.

Tyrant airs on FX, Tuesdays at 10pm.

~ TheRealThirtyMinuteAbs ~



Categories: Channel Surfing

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