Back in 2010 the extremely talented Israeli director and writer Gideon Raff created a television drama series called Prisoners of War. The show, which Raff also wrote and directed, went on to become Israel’s highest rated drama of all time and spawned a US adaptation, the highly acclaimed and multiple award winning Showtime series Homeland, starring Claire Danes and Damian Lewis. Tuesday at 10pm on FX, Raff unveils his latest drama with the debut of Tyrant, which takes Raff back to the familiar territory of the Middle East and in this case a fictional Arabian country ruled by a dictator.
British actor Adam Rayner plays Bassam “Barry” Al-Fayeed, the self-exiled son of said Middle Eastern dictator who returns home with his California family for the wedding of a relative only to become immersed in the politics of his family, the country and the region. An interesting premise and Raff has shown in the past that he is not afraid to get his hands dirty when it comes to the maelstrom of Middle Eastern politics. Homeland showed that there continues to be a market for smart drama with deep political tones, but a show based in a foreign country is a much harder sell even with the obvious potentially cultural clashes between the US family and Al-Fayeed’s homeland.
Rayner, who at one point was apparently tagged to be the new Simon Templar in a remake of The Saint, has appeared in a number of shows such as Hawthorne, Miranda and Hunted as well as the Doctor Who episode The Unicorn and the Wasp as Roger Curbishley. As a huge fan of the original Saint, starring Roger Moore as well as the 1978-79 series the Return of the Saint, that featured Ian Ogilvy, I’m disappointed that didn’t come to fruition. Hunted is one of those shows that is tucked away on my to do list and I’ll be doubly curious to watch that knowing Rayner’s new role.
This looks like Rayner’s first major break, which is in contrast to Canadian actress Jennifer Finnigan who plays his wife Molly Al-Fayeed and is best known previously as the star of Close to Home as well as stints on The Bold and the Beautiful and Crossing Jordan. Anne Winters and Noah Silver play the teenage children of the Al-Fayeeds and that’s my one big red flag regarding the production. There’s always a temptation to have a “what did the kids do stupidly this week?” show in such a scenario and I’m really hopeful that Raff’s pedigree, along with that of co-developers Howard Gordon and Craig Wright, avoids that gaping pitfall.
That being said Tyrant is another addition to what has been an intriguing summer season line up joining 24: Live Another Day, Gang Related, Crossbones and The Last Ship as shows that have caught my attention and just goes to show that good television has become a year round phenomena rather then the purview of the classic network season.
– Wallace Poulter