TV’s Surprising, Thriving ‘Empire’

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TV’s “Dallas” for the hip-hop age. We’ll look at “Empire,” and the Fox take on a hip-hop dynasty.

In the new Fox drama "Empire," Terrence Howard (center) plays Lucious Lyon, the CEO of Empire Entertainment. (Courtesy Fox Broadcasting Corporation)
In the new Fox drama "Empire," Terrence Howard (center) plays Lucious Lyon, the CEO of Empire Entertainment. (Courtesy Fox Broadcasting Corporation)

Fox took a big risk on "Empire."  An hour-long, soap opera-style Shakespearian drama with an all-black cast.  A fictional hip-hop empire sent down the fabled television road traveled before it by all-white family dynasty shows like "Dallas," "Falcon Crest" and "Dynasty."  And it’s working.  Terrence Howard is irresistible as the up-from-nothing family patriarch.  Taraji P. Henson, hot and fabulous as is his volatile ex.  The kids?  Well, one’s the rapper, one’s gay, one’s straight arrow.  All with their own King Lear. This hour On Point:  hip-hop’s "Empire."
-- Tom Ashbrook


Michael Arceneaux, writer and freelance pop culture critic, who blogs at The Cynical Ones. (@youngsinick)

Renee Graham, music and pop culture critic for NPR's Here & Now. Op-ed contributor at the Boston Globe. (@reneeygraham)

Cecilia Kang, staff writer covering the business of media and entertainment at the Washington Post. (@ceciliakang)

From Tom’s Reading List

Complex: The "Empire" Pilot Introduces Hip-Hop’s Best New Soap Opera (No Shade to VH1) -- "I meet any Lee Daniels-related project with equal parts curiosity and trepidation. If nothing else, Daniels is sure to provoke, but that interest is either piqued by the power of the story and performances (Precious) or the sheer spectacle unfolding before you (Shadowboxer, The Paperboy). So, when it was announced that Daniels would be at the helm of Empire, a drama about a drug dealer turned music mogul, I couldn't help but wonder what direction the director would go in."

The Artery: Beyond The Melodrama, ‘Empire’ Boldly Tackles Homophobia — In the pilot episode of 'Empire,' a young boy, wearing his mother’s scarf and pink sling-back pumps, toddles into the living room. While guests look away with scorn, his father, face knotted in rage, whisks the screaming child into a dingy alley and drops him into a garbage can. The boy’s mother quickly rescues him and, clutching her child close, punches and pushes her husband, daring him to try and stop her. Can any other scene this TV season match the utter horror of watching a parent, fueled by homophobia, literally throw away his child?"

Washington Post: With shows like ‘Empire,’ ‘Black-ish’ and ‘Cristela,’ TV is more diverse than ever -- "'Empire' co-creator Danny Strong didn’t think about race when he came up with the idea for the show. About two years ago, he was driving around Los Angeles and heard a news story about Sean 'P Diddy' Combs on the radio. Strong, who wrote and co-produced “Lee Daniels’ The Butler,” imagined that the over-the-top world of hip-hop could be the perfect subject for a TV show. And he immediately thought of a Shakespearean construct — putting a King Lear-themed family struggle at the center of a hip-hop story."

This program aired on February 6, 2015.


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