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TV review: FX’s ‘Tyrant’ gets off to a very strong start

First Published      Last Updated Jun 24 2014 04:50 pm

Tyrant (11 p.m. FX) gets off to a very strong start tonight. I've seen most of the pilots for the new shows on the broadcast networks this fall, and this is better than any I've seen.

This is sort of "Dallas" crossed with "Homeland." A family drama mixed with a Middle Eastern political drama.

"Tyrant" centers on Bassam "Barry" Al Fayeed (Adam Rayner), the younger son of a Middle East dictator. Barry left for the United States 20 years ago and has never been back home, instead building a life as a peditrician/husband/father in California.

As the series begins, he is reluctantly headed back to his (fictional) homeland of Abbudin for his nephew's wedding, along with his American wife, Molly (Jennifer Finnigan), and their two teenagers.

It's not exactly a happy reunion. Barry's older brother, Jamal (Ashraf Barhom) is a monster who thinks nothing of beating, raping and killing. ("Tyrant" is filled with nudity and violence.) He's also the heir apparenty to their father, and dear old dad isn't looking too good.

There's a lot to like in "Tyrant." The first episode is gripping and loaded with suspense.

But Gideon Raff, who wrote the pilot, left the series because of "creative differences." That left the show in the hands of Howard Gordon, best known for writing and producing "24" and "Homeland." And both those shows started off strong and then suffered a massive drop-off in quality.

But tonight's "Tyrant" premiere is great and the next three episodes are good, so there's hope.