Empire, a midseason premiere on Fox, is a Hip Hop family drama centering on the music industry, starring Hustle and Flow costars, Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson. The show, created by Academy Award nominated Lee Daniels (The Butler), and Emmy Award winner, Danny Strong, chronicles what happens when music mogul, Lucious Lyons, (played by Howard) becomes stricken with an illness that will eventually cripple him. Lyons has to prepare one of his three sons to take over.
The plot gets even thicker when his ex-wife, Cookie (Henson) reappears, freshly released from a nearly two decade long stint in jail to vie for the top spot at Empire Entertainment. Cookie took the fall for Lyons’ dirty thug past, which financed his business early on. And now, she wants payback.
When I first heard about Empire, my initial thought was with Howard and Henson, there’s sure to be some good acting here. And they don’t disappoint. The show on the other hand, is not something I feel compelled to watch every week.
Though there were some great moments in Empire, like Cookie beating her son’s a-- after he called her the b-word, for some reason, I just don’t feel like it’s “Must See TV”. And though Henson does a phenomal job portraying the hood-iest of "hoodrats", smacking while she eats and all, but I'm just not captivated by the series. And there were other moments that were a bit over the top.
For instance, I know it was to make an impact, but the flashback scene where Lucious puts his young son, Jamal, in the trash can because he exhibits behavior that suggests he’s gay, was disturbing, and not in provocative way. It was just a turn off - though Howard is great in the scene. (I can’t stand Howard’s allegedly abusive, baby wipe using a--….however, he’s a great actor and always, consistently plays a great a-hole.)
Another turn off was that both parents degrade Jamal - Lucious to his face, and Cookie behind his back by calling him a “sissy”. The African American community is continually stereotyped as being homophobic, and this was an opportunity to portray something different. And, there are some things I just don’t get….
WHAT IS GOING ON WITH LUCIOUS’ HAIR??? Why is he wearing a conk??? What year is this show in? I guess it’s set in present day, but it does have a 90s feel to it – something I actually don’t mind. Maybe the show reminds me of the second wave of the black renaissance we experienced back in the day. And maybe it’s because Malik Yoba is in it? Is Yoba conjuring up the vibe from New York Undercover where the music was an integral part of the show that helped create its iconic feel? And, the show is a bit predictable.
I won’t give spoilers, but someone gets shot and you see it coming. And another thing…do we CARE about the music industry anymore???? It’s so different now. The whole industry has changed. Artists have no mystic anymore due to social media and tabloids. Being in the music industry used to carry a certain cache back in the 90s. It doesn’t anymore. Do artists even go into the studio anymore????? Doesn’t everyone have a home studio now? I think if this had been set in the 90s it would make more sense. I just don’t sense any gravitas in this show….
I think Empire has good music, compliments of the genius of Timbaland, and guest stars who will be enjoyable, but overall, I didn’t find it compelling. It’s entertaining, but I’m not urgently excited about it. I’ll probably keep watching, with the hopes it becomes one of my favorite shows, but for now, I can take it or leave it.
Did you watch the premiere of Empire? What did you think?