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What to Watch on Tuesday: FX debuts ‘Tyrant’

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- Patrick Harbron/FX
(L-R) Ashraf Barhom as Jamal Al-Fayeed and Adam Rayner as Barry Al-Fayeed in the FX series “Tryant.”

Tyrant (10pm, FX) - In this new drama from FX, the youngest son of a Middle Eastern ruler reluctantly returns to his home country for his nephew’s wedding, after a long exile in America. Things happen, let’s say, and Bassam (played by British actor Adam Rayner), has to stick around longer than he’d planned. Bassam (or Barry in the U.S.), a stoic pediatrician who disapproves of his father’s violent rule, brings his naive American wife ( Jennifer Finnigan) and two rather annoying teenagers along with him to the volatile (and fictional) country. Ashraf Barhom plays the dangerous and cruel older brother Jamal, the heir to the presidency. The comparison to “Homeland” is natural – there’s the setting and subject matter, plus it was produced by Howard Gordon (“Homeland,” “24”). But it also hasn’t been lost on anyone who has viewed the pilot that the family politics lend a definite “Godfather” vibe as well. Events in the first episode – which include some graphic violence and not one but two disturbing rape scenes – moved along quickly enough to keep me involved. Unfortunately, subsequent episodes left me less enthusiastic about the whole ordeal. There has been some controversy surrounding the series already – primarily that a white man was cast in the lead role and that no one speaks Arabic on the show (characters do speak Arabic on Showtime’s “Homeland” and Russian on FX’s “The Americans.”). All of that noise would fade away if the show were great, but it’s not.

Also on tonight . . .

Pretty Little Liars (8pm, ABC Family) - Alison has trouble dealing with her mom’s death, and her friends must go along with her newest lie.

Freedom Summer (9pm, UNC-TV) - An “American Experience” documentary recalling the summer of 1964 in Mississippi, when student volunteers from around the country joined local activists in an effort to register African American voters. Adrienne Johnson Martin screened it for us and here’s what she says: What struck me was the bravery of those kids, their stunning commitment to an effort that, in that summer, wasn’t all that successful. (They didn’t get a ton of new voters.) But they could see the big picture and they changed Mississippi and the lives of disenfranchised people in the next years – and they changed America. It really brings to mind the folks attending Moral Monday who feel we’re moving back toward that time when the vote was hindered. If they are right and we allow that to happen, we’re betraying those young people who died and those who served during the Freedom Summer.

Rizzoli & Isles (9pm, TNT) - Have a hankie handy tonight when the team mourns the loss of Det. Frost.

I Am Steve McQueen (9pm, Spike) - Movie star Steve McQueen’s life and legend are explored through archival footage, movie clips and interviews. Among the featured interviewees are McQueen’s son Chad and grandson Steven.

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