A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this mature drama set in a fictional Middle Eastern country goes full-throttle for realism when it comes to violence, featuring explosions, shootings, torture, executions, domestic violence, and rape. Sexual scenes are intense but stop just short of graphic, with only partial nudity (bare buttocks and the like) and simulated sex, and audible language includes words such as "s--t," "prick," and "hell." There's social drinking, too, including occasional substance abuse.
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What's the story?
After decades away from his Middle Eastern homeland, California pediatrician Bassam "Barry" Al-Fayeed (Adam Rayner) reluctantly flies back with his family for his nephew's nuptials. But Barry's wife (Jennifer Finnigan) and children (Noah Silver and Anne Winters) know surprisingly little about his past, and they've never met their own estranged relatives, including Barry's TYRANT father (Nasser Faris) and sadistic brother, Jamal (Ashraf Barhom), who's next in line for the presidency. The plot thickens when political turmoil forces the family to stay in the country indefinitely, unearthing painful memories for Barry and painful realties for those he loves.
Is it any good?
As a series, Tyrant carries a tumultuous history that includes winning -- and losing -- A-list director Ang Lee, who was ultimately replaced by Harry Potter director David Yates, among other production issues. Not as tumultuous, of course, as the history of the region it attempts to portray on-screen but tumultuous enough to leave visible scars, resulting in an intriguing yet ultimately flawed final product that, for most critics at least, plays like a very expensive mistake.
Tyrant does get points for trying to do what few other television shows have done before: take a politically complex story involving mostly Arab characters and make it appealing to mainstream America. But key decisions to set the series in the fictional Abbudin -- an overgeneralized amalgam of Middle Eastern countries including Egypt, Libya, and Syria -- and have the actors speak in accented English, not to mention casting a non-Arab actor in the leading role, have undercut it's credibility considerably.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Tyrant's choice to portray Middle Eastern culture via a fictional country in turmoil rather than a real one. How does the series score in terms of cultural accuracy? How can you tell it was designed with American audiences in mind?
How does Barry measure up as a role model? Are we meant to sympathize with him, and can we still do so if he has significant flaws? Who's the real Tyrant in the show's title?
How are women portrayed in the series in terms of their power -- and submission? What comparisons is Tyrant drawing between American and Middle Eastern women, and are they fair?
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