Skip FX's new series 'Tyrant' and watch 'Kings' instead

If you're looking for a series about the leader of a fictional country, you can do better than FX's 'Tyrant'

Watch <em>Kings</em> instead of <em>Tyrant</em>

Watch Kings instead of Tyrant

Tonight FX launches its new drama series Tyrant. Set in a fictional Middle Eastern country and modeled after several real-life dictatorships in the region, the show has struggled to combat controversy before it ever aired a minute.

Created by Israeli screenwriter Gideon Raff (perhaps best known for developing the series on which Homeland was based) and developed by Homeland and 24 producer Howard Gordon, Tyrant has drawn the ire of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) for its use of Muslim and Arab stereotypes and frustrated many by casting a white Englishman as its leading man.

But hidden behind all that contentious chatter is a major item of importance for television viewers: Tyrant is boooooooring. Borrowing the Law & Order ripped-from-the-headlines trick of mentioning other Arab nations and dictators so as to avoid any specific parallels with one of them, the show starts off on the defensive and never really lives up to the challenges of its ambition.

In watching Tyrant build its fictional Arab nation, I couldn't help but be reminded of NBC's short-lived drama Kings, which starred Deadwood's Ian McShane as the ruler of a fabricated modern-day monarchy. Inspired by the biblical story of David and Goliath, Kings gained a lot of mileage out of setting its story in an alternate reality that bore many similarities to the present day, but had the freedom to explore the possibilities of its premise. Yes, its filled with more lily-white faces than Tyrant, but then they aren't trying to pass of the blonde-haired, blue-eyed Christopher Egan as an Arab. Also, Kings doesn't introduce any of its major characters by showing them perpetrating a brutal rape, so points for that, as well.

The first and only season of Kings is available for purchase on iTunes and Amazon. Tyrant premieres tonight at 9pm on FX.

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Laura Baginski, Editor (@TimeOutChicago)