If you’re interested in or work in the music business, you’ve likely had every outsider you know asking for your thoughts on Fox TV’s new “hip-hop soap opera,” Empire. The show claims to display the brutal and ruthless world of hip-hop music and to shed light on the music business at large.
The protagonist, Lucious Lyon, is a chronically ill “started from the bottom, now I’m here” kind of guy whose three multi-talented sons are vying for the throne of his Empire.
On a diversity level, the show is great; one son is a gay gifted songwriter who shies from the spotlight, one is a mischievous and overly extravagant teenager, and the oldest is CEO material married to a scheming “white girl.” In every other way the show is extremely lacking.
Empire is cheesy and predictable, the acting is unbelievable at best (aside from Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson, of course), and most of all the music is lame. Granted, the show is only in its third week and has already achieved massive milestones (more on that later), but we’re most bothered by the initial introduction of the three sons.
The scene takes place on a larger-than-life yacht at a flashy industry party - girls, loud music, d. all of the above - then cuts to a young over-dressed kid joining his brother tucked behind a grand piano in the bowels of the yacht. Suddenly there’s a booming backing track with synthetic electronic fills and excellent mixing, as the two brothers join together “creating” this new song as the oldest brother (in a suit) and his up-tight wife look-on from the balcony.
On the surface this doesn’t seem so bad, but we have a few issues. 1. Where did the backing track come from? 2. If it wasn’t supposed to be a backing track, how do you get electronic fills from a grand piano? 3. If you listen closely Jamal (On the keys) is only actually playing one note…which sort of lets down the entire scene.
Once you’ve broken down that character introduction it’s hard to take the rest of the show seriously, but we digress. According to IndieWire the show has already been renewed for a second season due to its unprecedented success in its first two weeks.
Indiewire claims “The show has broken a 22-year long record on the Fox Network, becoming the first show since 1993 to actually increase its ratings, and the number of viewers, the following 2 weeks, after the premiere episode.[Sic]”
The online publication quotes TV-by-the-Numbers as reporting, “This sort of thing is practically ‘unprecedented in modern television history.’ The show premiered with a 3.8 adult 18-49 rating, but then climbed to a 4.0 for its second episode, and then jumped again to a 4.4 rating for its third episode.”
We won’t share IndieWire’s speculations as to the show’s success, but if you can get past the show’s initial claims and watch it for what it is, a soap opera, we imagine it’s probably as good as any other contemporary soap opera these days.
However, we certainly encourage you to judge for yourself. Empire airs on Fox, Wednesdays at 9/8c.