Some 2.1 million viewers watched Tyrant Tuesday night, as the Mideast-themed family drama debuted in the United States. Some 775,000 tuned in from the sought-after 18-49 demographic, according to television ratings data. Overall (late-night reruns included), the show lured 3.56 million viewers, and it was a captive audience: 99 percent stayed tuned for the entire 82-minute pilot.
While initial ratings fell short of other FX series (for instance, the Coen Brothers’ Fargo drew 2.65 million viewers), producers hope the show will gain traction as it continues next week. Tyrant was filmed in Kfar Saba to the tune of $30 million, bringing a boon to the local economy.
The show was created by the same team that brought us the Emmy Award winning series Homeland: Israeli writer/director Gideon Raff and executive producer Howard Gordon of 24. They brought on American writer Craig Wright to develop the show, which centers on a fictional Arab nation, akin to Syria.
Raff says the show was inspired by the Syrian civil war and the atrocities perpetrated by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Similar to Assad, who was an eye doctor in London, Tyrant features the younger son of a Middle-Eastern dictator who was a Los Angeles-based doctor; when he returns to his war-torn homeland after a decades-long exile for a wedding, he gets sucked into a political maelstrom.
Israeli model-turned-Hollywood starlet, Moran Atias, landed a leading role as the country’s de-facto First Lady and dictator’s wife. As she told W Magazine, “This woman runs sh--.”
Israeli Arab actor Ashraf Barhom plays the dictator’s first born. But the cast and the setting in Kfar Saba were not the only boon for Israel: The series’ global premiere took place at Glilot’s Cinema City, near Tel Aviv, as actors Adam Rayner, Justin Kirk and Jennifer Finnigan studded the red carpet.
While Tyrant wowed the U.S. cable audience, we’ll see if Israelis who live in the region and observe the Arab Spring from close-up will react in the same way. The show premiers on YES VOD tonight, June 26, and will be broadcast on YES Oh starting this Saturday.