Season two of Tyrant on FX may be an upgrade over season one, a somewhat interesting, if uneven, affair that somehow left something to be desired.
However, that means there is room to improve and Tyrant on FX may just make good on that unsaid promise. A look at the season two preview, shown on FXM, appears to offer better production values and locations for this FX show. It is hard to put a finger on just what it was that made season one seem a bit lackluster, but the above two culprits may be to blame.
Production values and location shooting are very expensive and an infusion of cash in those areas would give Tyrant a whole new look and feel. The previews seem to show a slicker and more expensive look. This would be welcome and in keeping with the subject matter. Additionally, it appears the location shooting has been moved as well. Swapping Morocco for Budapest and Tel Aviv may give the production a richer feel. The FXM preview also seemed to indicate it allowed a more expansive freedom than that which had been enjoyed in season one.
[Editor’s Note: I have left the above paragraph in this article, in particular, and the article as a whole, in general, as I wrote it before reading about the production nightmare of Tyrant, in order to highlight just how difficult the production of this ambitious television show has been. This kind of perception is what the creators of this FX show have to deal with. From the outside looking in, the average viewer may just conclude this show is a bust. What those armchair quarterbacks don’t know is that it is darn near a miracle that this show made it through season one and on to season two. A little spin around the internet puts things in harrowing, proper perspective. The pilot was shot in Morocco, but production had to be moved to Israel for logistical reasons, including production infrastructure such as building a soundstage. Then in a case of life imitating art, things in the political and military reality of the Middle East got too hot in Israel and the Gaza Strip. So it was off to Turkey, leaving behind the elaborate sets and infrastructure built in Israel. Additionally, there were changes in directors along the way. And there were problems upon other problems. So I may have been too hard on old Tyrant. The problem for FX and company, however, is that Bubba Joe in Arky don’t read no Hollyweird trade papers. Fact is, Bubba Joe don’t read at all. So when Bubba Joe clicks on Tyrant he may just go, “This heeere’s a load of K-Rap.” And Bubba Joe clicks off. And the weird thing about it is, even though Bubba Joe in the pre-television era would have been clinically labeled an imbecile, in today’s super-highly-mega competitive television and entertainment landscape, he is a television critic. And, no, my name is not Bubba Joe, but thanks for asking. In any event, it appears that making television is like the old adage about making sausage. There are some gritty stages to that production process before you get the tasty end result. So with all due respect to Tyrant, this is my instructive mea culpa, replete with a link to one of the trades that anyone interested in the pitfalls of television production might find interesting. http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/fxs-tyrant-dramatic-backstory-709209 As for Bubba Joe, I am sending him an engraved apology at this very moment, but, alas, as Bubba Joe would say, “Don’t make no nevermind.” And in the interest of complete accuracy, Bubba Joe wouldn’t say “alas”, either. Darn this is getting complicated and I just can’t spit it out. Oh, Bubba, Bubba, Bubba Joe, where you been all my life, buddy…]
FX television shows look like television shows instead of movies. To be honest, it is something I embrace. I somehow like these shows as much, if not more, than their fancier, more monied brethren, such as The Sopranos and Breaking Bad. In a sense, less is more. It seems to me that FX does more with less than any other network when it comes to scripted television. It seems familiar, like television of the past. I like the title cards to each segment after the commercials. Again, it is hard to put a finger on this, but it feels like a throwback to another era and provides a warm and familiar feel to the viewing experience, personalized just for you. Rather than just jolting back into the show, you get a few seconds of warning, to grab your drink and sit down, or just to steel yourself for more of what makes FX great, and say “Okay, here we go again.” After all, those title cards do give fair warnings, at your peril, because sex, drugs, and violence are coming your way, right on to your couch, in the comfort of your home. It’s so fun and easy. You don’t even have to lock and load. Okayee! In fact, it has gotten so wild that the next big thing on FX is simply entitled, Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll. What, no violence? The ironic redundancy of the anticipated title cards for this upcoming show is almost too rich to envision. Shame on you, Denis Leary, that’s hilarious and obviously must-watch television. And there will be violence, but it will be Denis Leary-style, usually humorous. A pulled hammy while trying to revisit punk rock dramatics on stage, the ever-present scheming and screaming ex-wife, or a well-deserved or undeserved (does it matter?) punch in the face from friend or foe. However, I am not expecting the new Leary vehicle to tread the darkest moments of Rescue Me.
But, seriously, just imagine what Rescue Me or Justified could have done with the budget of The Sopranos or Breaking Bad. Don’t burst my bubble because that is the stuff of dreams. The differences in production values, location shooting, and the like, would be as dramatic as the differences between television and movies, and digital and film. If given those benefits, the best television productions of FX would likely look on par with those of pay-cable and the film industry. Otherwise, they are on par or just barely a stroke behind. A hint would be the quality of FX’s Fargo, but perhaps that would be just scratching the surface. I guess it is a case of what could have been. And doesn’t that fit nicely into the entire thematic of Rescue Me and Justified. Oh, well. FX, you gotta love it, anyway.
So, back to the tyranny of Tyrant on FX which is that you can’t live with it and you can’t live without it. Will extra production values and new shooting locations give this show a kick in the rear? Am I going to watch season two? “I guess so,” is the lukewarm response. Then again, I guess I could seek real adventure and vacuum under my bed. The whole California soccer mom and kids meet Saddam Huever vibe of the show required restrain lest one seek treatment for permanently rolled eyes. Yet, when California doctor dad, Barry, went all deranged deposed dictator and slapped the smack off his teenage son’s face in episode one last season, things got real. There is real potential in this show and it is oddly somewhat educational despite all its tropes. There is gold in them there hills. Not California, but Abbudin. I wish the show had gone even further last season in mining the rich vein of stereotype, a California soccer family dropped into a desert dictatorship dreamscape. Or is it a nightmare? I’d really like to see what would happen if one of these California Yankee kids, or better yet, the irresponsible sister who showed up in need of cash (what better plan, I ask you…), goes all Kardashian on the uptight world of Abbudin? Take the worst American behavior and drop it right in there and see what happens. Let’s see, one part reality TV, two parts selfie, add alcohol, entitlement, lack of understanding and respect for Abbudin, a too short this and a barely there that, perhaps an emotional or mental issue or three, mix violently, and stand back. DY-NO-MITE! Like I said, Sutter’s Mill ain’t got nothing on this potential paystreak. Anyway, something has to be done to get past the Leave it to Beaver meets the Mujahideen feel the show sadly could not get around at times last season. Just hoping. And no, I did not suggest a story line that involved publicly hanging a selfie snapping soccer infidel from a crane in the city square, maybe that irresponsible sister who in a horror movie would be so obviously marked for death, did I? No, I categorically assure you, I did not.
But still, let yourself go for a moment. Picture a glowing sunset, a walled city, a mini-skirted cadaver, gently wafting in the breeze, all to the tune of “Death to America.” Inspiring, huh? Get me some Eastman Kodak Kodachrome 35mm movie stock. Wait, what about black and white? Do they still make Super-Sensitive Cine Negative Panchromatic? Well, find out, dammit! Like, yesterday! And can we get Ingmar Bergman? Yeah, and film it on location on a deserted Swedish island. Right, for a desperate, despairing, and desolate surrealistic vibe or something. Right! And, like, call me and we’ll do lunch. Spago? I love it! And I love you, Bubba Joe!
Just a little dreaming from my high-powered couch, remote control in hand. It’s so fun and easy.