Empire (2015– )
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Second season came and I said it will get better. I gave it 3 episodes and decided it a waste of my time.
There is no fluidity in the story line. Constantly new characters are being introduced with no character build up. They come and disappear. It seems like the producers are accommodating these celebrities to appear in the show or vice versa. The producers compromises the integrity of the story line. It instead becomes a variety/musical fashion show or a very long music video.
The Empire story does not make sense anymore nor is it believable. The main character Luscious, always wins no matter what. He is able to block all the unbelievable ploys.
I believe Empire lost it. There are a lot of good shows around that last for years. My prediction Empire is a one season show. Producers invest on writers instead of the revolving door of celebrities.
I knew I wasn't going to care about it before it even aired. I saw the promo with Taraji and Terrance, and instantly thought it was an unoriginal "Hustle and Flow" spin-off. Aside from that, it already looked messy. So, I didn't see it when it premiered. Well, my co-workers were praising the show the next day at work like it was the best thing to happen to television. So, yeah, that got my curiosity going. By that time I was aware that Empire in fact was not a Hustle and Flow knock-off. More like an urban "Dynasty", a soap opera, which was one of the inspirations for Empire (Daniels mentioned this himself).
I was not impressed by the first episode. In the first scene Lucius is telling a singer to think about her brother who got shot in order to convey more emotion in her singing a song about love and loss. So, right away, I thought that the show was already bordering on too dramatic with the whole "I need you to REALLY bring the pain" dynamic of that scene. Just ask her to remember her first break up and go from there. Gosh. The flashback scenes with the gay son Jamal dressed like a woman were somewhat unrealistic to me because of how they played out. Why did the kid dress that way and then just stand there in front of everyone? What was the point of that? He didn't even pretend like he was modeling the clothes or anything like how you play dress-up. He just stood there and looked stupid. Was he making a statement? Anyway, Lucius throwing his son in the garbage was really traumatic for some viewers and made some people cry. But, I thought it was a bit extreme, and I almost stopped watching after that. I also wasn't too thrilled with the fact that the writer being gay made the gay son the most sympathetic character with hardly any flaws compared to everyone else. Is that really fair? Makes me feel as though Jamal can do no wrong and will always just be a victim and if not him, then any other gay character. On top of that, I can't stand Jamal's weak, shaky singing voice. How are people saying that he sounds so great? I'm not convinced that the writer knows how to write believable black female characters (speaking as a black female). Cookie is loud and obnoxious, which makes for good drama and entertainment. I'm not mad at her being real, and having flaws. However, there are times when I really wish Cookie would stop wearing her feelings on the outside all the damn time. Honestly, there are times when I believe she could be upset or disappointed about something without being so obvious or over-the-top. I wish she could be more cool in certain situations. The way she deals with Lucius' girl, Anika makes her look extra pressed in almost every scene. But, I guess if she toned it down, she would be less "real", so that won't be an option.
Lucius is a piece of ****. As far as I'm concerned, he doesn't treat any of his sons right, even his "favorite", Hakeem. What does any of his relationships even mean to him? Seriously. Why is he acting like he can't decide which son should be CEO of Empire? Clearly, it should be mature, business-savvy Andre, but, he leans more towards Hakeem the "star". His struggle with the decision really annoyed me from the very first episode and just convinced me that Lucius was simple as hell. In later episodes it shows that Lucius suddenly doesn't seem to trust Andre. Okay, whatever.
When it comes to a show like Empire that combines music with drama, it sometimes feels like I am being forced to listen to music that I don't like. The "You're So Beautiful" track from the show is honestly getting on my nerves. I don't care to hear Cookie or Lucius attempt to sing at times, either. But, that's more of a personal thing, so moving on...
I ended up binge watching the first 9 episodes of Empire OnDemand just so that I wouldn't be out of the loop and to give it a fair judgment instead of copping out after the first episode. Afterwards, I was thoroughly convinced that this show is over-rated... but, not horrible. I do think that for this show to be as real and raw as it aspires to be, it would have to be a netflix series or featured on a premium cable channel where it wouldn't be censored. I can give it 4 stars. The writing is very lacking with poorly developed characters and predictable plots. However, it delivers a good cast, and good entertainment (you won't be bored) and some insight into the music industry.
It seems kind of odd that this almost all black show was created by a gay white man (Danny Strong) who then gets Lee Daniels, a gay black man, to help develop a show full of black stereotypes and maybe even some fabrications? I have no qualms with the two of them creating a show, but it just seems like it would have been more authentic if they'd made something that was closer to themselves, like perhaps a show about a black and white interracial homosexual couple and their struggles. Instead, they make this.
I understand that Mr. Daniels said this show parallels his childhood, but growing up in a hip hop family really wasn't his childhood. I can only hope that the unbelievable extravagance of dysfunction seen on this show wasn't his childhood too. At least with a show like Game of Thrones, you know that it's all made up and not meant to parallel any reality. I think this show makes the mistake of not making that distinction clear.
I was intrigued by the outline of the show, and I wanted to like it, but after watching a few episodes I do not think it represents anything positive. There is quite a lot of colorism. Only the darkest people are "servants," and the lightest are the upper crust. They even manage to have that hierarchy with the Lyon sons, with the lightest (Jamal) being the obvious favorite of the show, the next lightest being the oldest son who's the "smart one" that married and is controlled by his white wife (she literally grabs him by the balls and tells him what to do and he obeys like a child), and then the darkest (Hakeem?) is the youngest son who is bratty, brash, disrespectful, and a wannabe thug. It's also interesting that he's the only of the three sons that seems to like dating his own race, while the "smarter" and more "sensible" brothers don't. It doesn't stop there.
The father dumps the faithful black wife (Cookie) he had, a woman who went to prison so he wouldn't have to for seventeen years, even going so far as to divorce her and forget about her and keep the kids away while she was locked up for the sake of their family. She gets out and he's marrying a biracial (black/white) woman who the show portrays as more desirable and better than Cookie. They show Cookie as an annoyance and someone to tolerate because they can't get rid of her because she knows too much. It seems odd to me that the sons don't seem to care too much about her. The only possible positive is that she does end up being the most likable character on the show, though I'm not sure if that's entirely the writing.
For anyone not sensitive and knowledgeable about racial issues and contexts relating to racism, I think a lot of this will fly over your head, but subliminally it's being shown every second. They call this show "real," but I doubt that it is. I think they deal with some real issues in some very unreal ways, sometimes even insulting the intelligence (or taking advantage of the lack of intelligence) of their audience. Some of the messages I got were that we're all supposed to love homosexuality (which I have no problem with) and that black people should glorify racism by promoting and practicing colourism against other people of color, not to mention being stereotypes themselves. This is on top of the messages about backstabbing, cheating, killing, robbing, and more. This show may be insanely popular, but it is also highly destructive.
In fact it is quite ordinary and seems to be a bit of an old story line. There is a show that hit the TV last year named 'Power' (starring Omari Hardwick and not to be confused with the new superhuman detective show 'Powers') that is far, far better than Empire in many ways...with a similar storyline. However, it did not seem to catch on and I am not sure it will be back for a 2nd season.
The one thing that REALLY bothered me and it occurred in the first couple of episodes. There is a hint the 'ruler of the empire' knows through business dealings/or knew...the president of the USA. Whatever the relationship is there is NO WAY he should be calling the president by his first name while in conversation. He should have called him Mr. President. I found that to be very disrespectful. We get the idea the man is very powerful. I am sure it could have been written in another manner for the audience to draw the conclusion of friendship between the two.
As mentioned...it is not bad...a good little time waster but not outstanding in any way and certainly does not match all that has been said about the show.
Terrence Howard is the only good thing about this. Is the whole show built on racism? Is that the general tone on set? "How do we lie and race bait?" Good to know.
Nothing about this show is captivating or appealing - the characters are dreadful, a problem compounded by a disturbingly amateur like quality to some of the scenes and much of the acting. Any semblance of art imitating life is lost instantly due to the performances.
Taraji P. Henson, Terence Howard and Malik Yoba are seasoned actors but they can do nothing to redeem this latest mess by Lee Daniels. There are too many gimmicks, too many clichés. In summary, this show is Shakespeare for dummies.
The problem is that Fox mis-represented the show. The show is clearly aimed at teenage or young adult audiences. However, it was presented as a serious show for more mature audiences. Among a younger audience this might be somewhat interesting. For anyone who was expecting the next "Scandal", keep looking. Just so sad to see such talented actors get such a juvenile script. Sigh.