'Tyrant' review: A missed opportunity on FX

From left, Ashraf Barhom as Jamal, Adam Rayner

From left, Ashraf Barhom as Jamal, Adam Rayner as Barry in "Tyrant." (Credit: FX / Patrick Harbron)

THE SHOW "Tyrant"

WHEN | WHERE Premieres Tuesday night at 10 on FX

WHAT IT'S ABOUT Bassam "Barry" Al-Fayeed (Adam Rayner) is a California pediatrician who is summoned to his nephew's wedding in a Middle East nation torn by war -- direct parallels to Syria. Reluctantly, he ends a two-decade self-imposed exile to return with his wife, Molly (Jennifer Finnigan), and two children, Sammy (Noah Silver) and Emma (Anne Winters). Barry quickly learns that his father is still very much the iron-fisted ruler he left behind all those years ago and that his older brother and ruler-in-waiting, Jamal (Ashraf Barhom), is a corrupt, arrogant, self-entitled, Westernized psycho. He wants to head home, and fast, then . . . The show is produced by "Homeland's" Howard Gordon (from Roslyn) -- with an assist from another prominent Long Islander, Glenn Gordon Caron (from Oceanside).


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MY SAY Think of "Tyrant" as a Mideast reimagining of "The Godfather," with Jamal as a combo of Sonny and Fredo, and Barry as Michael: Just when he thought he was out, they pulled him back in . . .

But overlooking that cliche could be the least of viewers' problems. Content is the much bigger issue here. In the pilot, "Tyrant" at times comes perilously close to embracing derogatory media stereotypes of Arabs.

Two brutal rape scenes are designed to cast the perpetrator as a monster but instead are simply abhorrent.

They also beg the question -- when is too much simply too much?

Here's a perfect example of too much: A boy, about 8 years of age, picks up a gun, then blows off the head of a man. The scene is crucial to character and plot, except, so what? A lot of FX dramas have content problems -- what a shame this latest drama from an especially gifted producer should be the one to so forcibly remind us of that all over again.

It's also a shame because "Tyrant" -- which is otherwise beautiful to look at -- does have real-world parallels. Not only are those enormously tragic ones, but they are in the news, and "Tyrant" has an unusual chance to explore the Middle East conflict with a certain degree of sensitivity and intelligence.

With its premiere as guide, it won't bother.

BOTTOM LINE A disappointment.

GRADE C-

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