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FX’s Tyrant and USA’s Dig change plans due to Israel-Gaza violence

Fares Fares of Tyrant
Fares Fares of Tyrant
Emily St. James was a senior correspondent for Vox, covering American identities. Before she joined Vox in 2014, she was the first TV editor of the A.V. Club.

The violence in Israel and Gaza has even come to impact American television, which had increasingly been turning to Israel as a location that could sub in for a generic Middle Eastern location in any one of the number of series set there in recent years.

FX's Tyrant has announced it will move production of the final two episodes of its first season from Tel Aviv to Turkey, while USA's upcoming miniseries Dig, a Da Vinci Code-style adventure set and filmed in Jerusalem, will wait to produce its further episodes until things hopefully quiet down. Gideon Raff, the creator of both series, said of the Dig hiatus at the Television Critics Association summer press tour: "Hopefully everything will calm down and we'll go back to working there, and if not, we'll sort it out."

It's worth noting here that Raff himself is Israeli. He's the creator of Hatufim, which brought him international recognition and was remade in the U.S. as Homeland. That series actually filmed a handful of episodes early in its second season that substituted Israel for Beirut, a move that provoked some ire when the show depicted Beirut as a largely violent city constantly in danger of falling into chaos.

The move to Turkey will mark Tyrant's third country in a 10-episode first season. The pilot was filmed in Morocco, but production of the series moved to Israel, where FX said it would be easier to build the sorts of soundstages and facilities an ongoing television series would need. (For more on the decision to swap Israel in for the fictional country of Abuddin, read this essential Hollywood Reporter piece on the show's troubled production history.)

Tyrant attracted a fair amount of criticism from both Muslim and Arab-American advocacy groups, as well as TV critics, for its seeming portrayal of a long string of Muslim and Arab stereotypes, but it's performed fairly well in the ratings. A renewal would have been likely in a few weeks, but if the series is unable to return to Israel, things become more complicated, as moving the show's base of production could prove too expensive for a series that's only a marginal performer.