Review of "Empire" on FOX From The TV MegaSite

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Lucious, Cookie and their kids

"Empire" review by Suzanne 1/7/15
Premieres January 7 on FOX 9/8c

This is a really good soap opera. There's never been one like it before. Although it reminds me a bit of past soaps like "Dallas" and "Dynasty", as well as "Nashville", it's not the same at all. The mostly-black cast makes a huge difference, for one thing. They've never had a show like this on network TV. They had one daytime soap, "Generations", that had a mostly-black cast, but it was very tame compared to this.

Like a lot of FOX shows, the characters are very intense and over-the-top.  Cookie does remind one a bit of Alexis Carrington (or at least the trashier version of her). Lucious reminds me a bit of both J.R. and Blake, but he's much worse than either (and also, much more likable than either). The show's drama never slows down, and there's always something interested going on. There's a big shocker at the end of the first episode.

Lucious (Terrence Howard) and Cookie (Taraji P. Henson) created a musical empire years ago, and as we learn in the pilot, Cookie stole some drug money to help create it, and she went to jail for that. She gets out in the first episode and comes looking for her part of the company as well as her family. Lucious is now king of this empire and about to go public with it. He doesn't want Cookie to have her share, but he does want to choose one of their three sons to run it after he's gone.

What the rest of them don't know is that Lucious is dying of ALS, so he only has a few years left, at most, to live (somewhat similar to the character on "Boss").  All of the actors do a great job, especially Howard and Henson (who both starred in "Hustle and Flow", which covered similar ground; Howard was nominated for an Oscar for that).  There is lots of music, much like "Nashville". Two of the three sons are singers/rappers.

I don't normally like shows where the protagonist (in this case, Lucious) is a bad person, but much like the show "Boss", which I loved, it works if the writing and actors are fantastic, there are many great characters, and nobody thinks he's a hero. Also, it's better if they're not police because I don't like it when they try to portray corrupt cops as heroes. It works very well on this show.

You'll want to do yourself a favor and check this out. I will definitely keep watching it if I can fit it into my already-full schedule.

Here's a note from Lee Daniels, who created the show, to those of us in the press:

Dear press member, 

Please enjoy the “Pilot” episode of EMPIRE, a show I created with Danny Strong that will premiere Wednesday, Jan. 7 (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. It is now available for review on the FOX SCREENING ROOM.

The story revolves around music-based Empire Entertainment, a hugely successful company built from the ground up by its CEO, LUCIOUS LYON, who is played by the immensely talented Terrence Howard. We soon learn that he has been diagnosed with a neurodegenerative disease that will cause his demise within three years. The father of three sons, he has to make a decision as to whom will run the company and continue his legacy – the oldest son, a smart businessman and the company’s CFO; the middle son, a musical prodigy who has always infuriated his father because he is gay; or his youngest son, a gifted rapper, but a spoiled playboy only in it for fame. To complicate matters, their mother, COOKIE, played by the incredible Taraji P. Henson, makes a triumphant return after seven years in jail, determined to get part of the good fortune as amends for taking the fall for Lucious’ crimes. This is not your typical family! Throw in some original songs from one of the best producers and musicians of our time – Timbaland – and we’ve got a show that makes you cry, makes you laugh, makes you cringe, but most importantly, makes you have a damn good time.

It’s a privilege to be part of the FOX family. They’ve given me, Danny and Brian Grazer the creative liberties we needed to make the show we originally envisioned. They allowed us to cast the people we saw in these roles. And they’ve given us the support a producer could only dream of.

From a guy who’s spent a career making films mostly in the independent world, I feel lucky to have been given the chance to work on a project of this magnitude with a great team behind me. Now it’s time to show America. I hope you enjoy the show as much as we have enjoyed creating it.

All my best, Lee Daniels

Find a lot more info about the show on our forum!

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