11:30am PT by Lacey Rose
FX Renews Middle East Drama 'Tyrant'
FX is going another round with Tyrant.
The cable network announced Thursday that it is moving forward with a 13-episode second season of the Middle Eastern drama. Production is set to begin in the spring, with a premiere planned for the summer of 2015. The network, along with studio partner Fox 21, has not yet settled on a filming locale for the next installment of the Howard Gordon-run series.
"We're so proud of Tyrant's performance throughout its first season," said original programming president Nick Grad in a statement, adding, "Howard Gordon is one of the best and most successful producers in this business. His ability to combine intelligent, edge-of-your-seat storytelling with events from the current geopolitical climate is truly groundbreaking. We look forward to seeing how Tyrant grows in season two."
Added Gordon, whose 20th Century Fox TV-based Teakwood Lane Productions was also involved: "I'm truly grateful for the chance to continue working with them on this challenging and exciting project."
Despite critical backlash, Tyrant generated generally favorable audience reviews on sites including Rotten Tomatoes and IMDb and proved to be a remarkably steady performer for FX. The all-important adults 18-49 audience average for the first half of the season was identical to that of the second half of the season. On a weekly basis, Tyrant averaged 5.1 million total viewers, with 2.3 million of them in that younger demo.
Still, much of the media attention surrounding the high-profile drama from the team behind Showtime breakout Homeland focused on the show's cadre of notable challenges, not the least of which was that the show was set in a foreign land. That that locale was the wartorn Middle East presented a marketing hurdle for the network, which its executives acknowledged in The Hollywood Reporter's cover story pegged to the series' late June premiere.
Personnel struggles generated ink, too, beginning with Oscar-winning director Ang Lee's decision to back out as the pilot's director. A handful of writers as well as creator Gideon Raff exited later in the process as Gordon settled on a direction for the complex series. Then, as the drama prepared to launch, it was attacked by the Council on American-Islamic Relations advocacy group, which made its remarks before having seen the pilot episode. (Gordon and his team had involved a panel of Middle Eastern activists and scholars to weigh in on the series' handling of the region and its customs early in the process.)
More recently, Tyrant was forced to relocate to Istanbul, Turkey, for the final two episodes of its 10-episode first season amid unrest in and around Israel. The locale shift marked the show's second, since the pilot was originally shot a year earlier in Morocco. When a decision was made to move to Israel for the remainder of the season, an elaborate $3 million set was constructed and a crew of 300 was recruited to carry out the producers' vision.
Tyrant's first season, which ultimately wrapped production in the middle of the summer, centered on Bassam "Barry" Al Fayeed (Adam Rayner), the younger son of a dictator who ends a self-imposed 20-year exile to return to his homeland — a fictional Middle Eastern nation that evokes countries such as Egypt, Syria and Libya — for his nephew's wedding. The reluctant homecoming leads to a dramatic clash of cultures as Barry, accompanied by his American wife (played by Jennifer Finnigan) and children, is thrown back into the familial and national politics of his youth.