The FOX TV is betting heavily on the success of the midseason drama “Empire” debuting tomorrow after American Idol. Some, including 50 Cent, call it a rip-off of his Starz series, “Power” while others refer to “Empire” as the modern day cousin on Fox’s 90’s hit “New York Undercover” or a hip-hop version of 80’s TV classics “Dallas” or “Dynasty.”
Empire is a family drama about the battle for the family business of a record label. The patriarch, Lucious Lyon (Terrence Howard) a “reformed” drug dealer and street thug turned entertainment mogul who has just been diagnosed with ALS. With little more than three years to live, he’s got to find a successor in one of his constantly feuding sons. His oldest son, Andre (Trai Byers), is CFO of Empire, but he’s not a performer. His youngest son, Hakeem (Bryshere Gray) is a talented rapper, but he’s a spoiled brat who mostly loves to floss, not work. The middle son, Jamal (Jussie Smollett) is a talented musical prodigy and a Mr. Nice Guy (you can guess what happens to him), but he’s gay and his father is a nauseating homophobic bigot (and you can guess where that goes).
Lucious’ ex-wife, Cookie (Taraji P. Henson) takes the “L” and has spent nearly 20 years in prison on drug charges. Upon her release, she makes it clear, her drug money founded Empire Entertainment and as she states in the show promos, “wants half her company back.” That is the continuous thread of the power struggle plot that at times reminds you of a bad soap opera with a drunk organ player.
Overall, Empire is good for the 13 episodes which are the norm for a mid-season replacement. There are a few captivating storylines, a couple of pearl clutching moments and hot, original music by Timbaland, the show’s music songwriter and producer. The show has a strong cast of recurring characters in actress Gabourey Sidibe, model Naomi Campbell and rocker Courtney Love. You can also expect guest appearances by the likes of Anthony Hamilton and Gladys Knight, who if the coins are right, may also appear as a recurring character.
Oscar ® nominee Lee Daniels is an executive producer of Empire so let’s hope we can count on him “bring it, y-a-a-a-z-z-z-!’