TV Ratings: FX's 'Tyrant' Delivers an OK 2.1 Million Viewers

Shy of recent debuts, the 82-minute broadcast draws a very steady audience over the course of its premiere.
Patrick Harbron/FX

Tyrant didn't set any records for FX, but it did get off to a pretty solid start — off just a bit from the cable network's most recent premiere, Fargo.

The series loosely described as The Godfather set in the Middle East lured 2.1 million viewers to its June 24 launch. The 82-minute debut proved remarkably steady, shedding only 4 percent between the first and third half-hours. Among the key demographic of adults 18-49, Tyrant averaged 775,000 viewers. And with another telecast airing that night, Tyrant grossed 3.46 million viewers and 1.32 million adults under 50.

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Unlike the network's bigger hits — American Horror Story, Sons of Anarchy — FX is likely expecting these numbers will prompt significant DVR growth along the lines of Fargo, The Bridge and The Americans. As FX Networks chief John Landgraf acknowledged in an interview for The Hollywood Reporter’s June 4 cover story, he wasn’t at all sure that U.S. viewers regularly exposed to the grim realities of the Middle East region would be ready or interested in watching a fictional drama that was set there.

From the outset, Tyrant was poised to test a long-held belief in TV circles that viewers aren’t particularly interested in watching a show set elsewhere. "The easiest thing to get people to watch is themselves, and the second easiest thing to get them to watch is their idiot neighbors, who they can look down upon and judge. I think it’s much harder to get people to watch the other," said the network chief, who, like his Fox 21 studio colleagues, was hopeful that this series had enough entry points, including a displaced American family at its core.

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Showrunner Howard Gordon seemed similarly optimistic, while still recognizing the uphill battle the sought-after drama would meet: "Television has changed, and our appetite and our literacy have changed. Look at The New York Times, the front page and the fifth page and the eighth page — every story that’s happening is Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Palestine,” he said from the show’s Israel set in early May. "History is really being made in this part of the world, and I think for a lot of people, particularly an American audience, it’s confusing. And this just felt like a great way to sort of get under the hood of this crazy engine of the Middle East that’s in such turmoil right now, and to put faces and a family saga there."

Adding to the challenges facing the Arab drama was its Israel locale. Given both the geographic distance and the series' production schedule, it wasn’t possible to host a stateside premiere, which would have given the little-known cast and producers an opportunity to generate some ink for their show.