By Randall Rydell Russell
Television shows come on and get cancelled faster than you can say boo. The network Fox is
notorious for cancelling promising shows either due to low ratings or lack of substance. But Wednesday,
January 7, 2015, a program entitled Empire premiered to stellar ratings, outshining American Idol, one
of the networks best shows.
Empire, loosely based on the 1966 play and 1968 film The Lion in Winter, the story of King Henry
ll of England, his imprisoned wife Eleanor of Aquitaine and their three sons Richard, Geoffrey and John,
during Christmas time in the year 1183. A power struggle brews as King Henry deciding on which son
should take the throne when he dies.
Empire, takes those same themes and brings them into the modern world. The King in this story
is Lucious Lyon (Terrence Howard), a former thug and drug dealer who is now a hip hop mogul and CEO
of his own record company Empire Entertainment. Andre (Trai Byers), Lucious’ oldest son is the CFO of
the company, influenced by his wife Rhonda (Katie Doubleday), and yearns to take over the company for
himself. Jamal (Jussie Smollett), is Lucious’ middle son who is gay but hides it from the world, in fear that
it’ll backfire on him, but he has a raw musical talent as singer/songwriter/record producer that Lucious
doesn’t see, due to him being disappointed in Jamal’s sexual orientation. Hakeem (Bryshere Gray), is
Lucious’ youngest and favorite son who is a rising hip hop star who is influenced by women, alcohol and
money. Lucious ex-wife, Cookie (Taraji P. Henson) who helped Lucious start the company seventeen
years prior, is released from prison after all the time, looking to get her half of the company back,
causing turmoil for Lucious, his partner and best friend Vernon (Malik Yoba) and Lucious’ new love
interest Anika (Grace Gealey). Lucious also discovers that he has ALS and must figure out who to leave in
charge of the company, Andre, Jamal or Hakeem, all while a friend from the past, opens up old wounds
that could jeopardize not only Lucious and his family, but the company Empire itself.
Empire, created by Lee Daniels (producer, director of Monster’s Ball, The Woodsman, Precious,
The Paperboy and The Butler) and Danny Strong, and original music by rapper/producer Timberland, this
program shows the highs and lows of the music industry, a traditional old school story brought to our
time, and the trials and tribulations of family while running a business. Gabourey Sidibe (Precious ) also
co stars with a large cast of upcoming performers including Cuba Gooding, Jr., Tasha Smith, Courtney
Love and Naomi Campbell are all set to appear.
For a black program on a major network, Empire is fighting to stay afloat on a network that
usually cancels if things don’t work. But from its series premiere opening to high numbers. Empire may
be here to stay.