TV REVIEW: “EMPIRE”
Welcome to Week 6 of Some’n Unique. For this week’s edition, I’ve decided to do a review of perhaps the fastest growing show on television; FOX’s “Empire”. Upon watching the trailers for the show’s pilot, I was somewhat hesitant to really tune into the show because of its seemingly, cliché-ish, ‘ghetto’ demeanor and portrayal of Blacks. Even after taking that into consideration, I was primarily drawn to the show for three reasons;
- 1 – It features the invincible, ‘silver-screen’ acting duo of Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson, who had excellent on-screen chemistry in the blockbuster, “Hustle & Flow”. Because the film depicted Howard as an aspiring, undiscovered rap artist, and Henson as his pregnant girlfriend providing background vocals and choruses; many fans now consider the film as Lucious (Howard’s character) and Cookie’s (Henson’s character) early beginnings. FYI, the film and the show are not related.
- 2 – The show introduces many aspiring Black actors, actresses, and musicians. The show allows these young, talented individuals a medium to showcase their talents, gain exposure, and establish themselves in the entertainment industry.
- 3 – Music. For those of you who don’t know—I’m an avid music lover. I can listen to almost any genre with the exception of Opera and Hard Rock/Heavy Metal.
The show has an interesting storyline filled with plenty of twists, betrayals, family bonding, action, and yes— drama. Terrence Howard portrays Lucious Lyons, one of the biggest music moguls heading “Empire Entertainment”. The label features his and Taraji P. Henson’s 3 sons; Hakeem, the youngest and a rapper, Jamal, the middle son and R&B artist, and Andre, the oldest son, who’s a ranking board member of the company.
Taraji P. Henson portrays, Cookie Lyons, Lucious ex-wife, who has suddenly been released from prison after serving 17 years. Cookie is also a founding member of Empire, and has an extensive history with Lucious that dates back to their beginnings when they were the average young, black couple striving to get out the ‘hood’.
Lucious has been diagnosed with ALS and has been given only 3 years to live. He’s now faced with the task of deciding which of his 3 three sons will head Empire after he’s gone. The drama begins with Cookie’s unexpected release from prison, her undeniable attempt to bogart her way into Empire as one of its rightful heads, and vicious feud she initiates with Lucious fiancé, Anika, portrayed by Grace Gealey. Additional problems occur due to constant and severe sibling rivalries among Hakeem, Jamal, and Andre, as well back and forth bickering between Lucious and Jamal. In addition to his family issues, Lucious is also being investigated for murder as he’s entangled in a deadly beef with his former mentor and direct competitor, Billy Beretti.
Casting and crew selection for Empire is excellent. Heading the cast and drawing a following to the series are Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson. Supporting cast members include; Malik Yoba, Gabourey Sidibe (“Precious”), Derek Luke, and Naomi Campbell. The newcomers who round off the core are; Bryshere Gray (Hakeem), Jussie Smollet (Jamal), Trai Byers (Andre), Kaitlin Doubleday, (Rhonda Lyons) and Grace Gealey (Anika). It’s easy to see how each cast member has been carefully chosen for their role, and how they each portray their characters in the unique fashion that only they could—it’s almost as if their characters were tailored for them.
BEHIND THE SCENES:
In addition to a great cast, big names continue behind the scenes of Empire. The show was created by Academy Award Nominee, Lee Daniels, most acclaimed for his award winning films, “The Butler” and “Precious”. He is accompanied by Danny Strong, who also share accreditation for “The Butler” and as well as “Game Change”. The show could not have staffed a better music producer than the super-producer himself—Timbaland, whose name speaks for itself as well as volumes.
KILL THE STEREOTYPES:
Okay, as I mentioned earlier, when I first saw the initial trailer for the show, I wasn’t too impressed because I thought it was just going to wind up as another “ghetto-ass” show that portrays Blacks in a negative light—I was wrong. Also, as previously mentioned, while I’m not entirely happy with the “ghetto-element” of the show, I do understand it, and understand the show could not be properly done without it. So let me clear this up – If you haven’t been following the show, please don’t jump on that “ghetto-bandwagon” as I almost did.
The show addresses some of the serious topics not only plaguing Black America today, but society itself. Empire confronts the topic of disunity among Black families, and displays the Lyons in different phases of combating this problem as well as overcoming it. The issue of homosexuality is also addressed in a non-bias light, as it presents viewpoints of both sides of this societal debate on the lifestyle. The show also addresses interracial relationships within today’s society as well. Empire deals with the personal aspect of someone living and coping with a terminal, incurable disease, and how it affects everyone in their lives. Finally, the show enlightens us to just how difficult it can be for even the most successful Black entrepreneurs and businessmen and women.
Finally—the music. Empire, has chosen the right, multi-talented actors and actresses that have actual musical talent and experience. But rather than elaborate on this, I’ll just let these videos do it for me.
Thanks again for checking in for—Some’n Unique! As always, see next week!