Review: Empire

I’ve never been a fan of hip-hop or rap music. The closest I ever came was watching the movie “Hustle and Flow” starring Terrence Howard. That film’s greatest claim to fame is that it won an Oscar for the song “It’s Hard out There for a Pimp”. While I’m sure a lot of people voted for that song just because they wanted to see an Oscar go to a song with the word Pimp in the title, it actually deserve the award. So often films hire some popstar to sing some new song over the closing credits. The song really does nothing to enhance the film itself and did not appear in the body of the film. It’s just an excuse to get an Oscar nomination and possibly a win. In this case the song was integral to the story. It showed how this wannabe rap star actually created a rap song. He gave me a slightly more positive impression of rap music. I’m still not a fan of rap. I guess I’m just “old school” in that I happen to like melodies.

Terrence Howard is in the rap business once again in the new Fox series Empire. In some ways this might be a sequel to what is original pimp character might have done had he actually succeeded. It’s not a sequel. These are totally different characters. Howard plays Lucius Lyon, a rap star turned media mogul who is about to take his company Empire Media public on the stock exchange. In the midst of what should be the pinnacle of success he discovers he has approximately three years to live because of ALS a.k.a. Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Meanwhile his ex-wife Cookie played by Taraji P. Hansen. She has just been released from a 17 year prison sentence for dealing drugs. We find out that her drug money provided the initial $400,000 investment to lunch Empire Media. She uses that fact to blackmail her ex-husband and she’s trying to wrestle control of the company from him.

Meanwhile Lucius has told his three sons that they are all on trial to see who is going to take over the company from him “someday” even though he doesn’t tell them how soon that someday might be. The obvious choice is the son who went to business school and has had his life together is whole life. This is once actual rap star to take over the reins and one of his sons is obvious choice except for the fact that he is gay and Lucius has never accepted it. The third son is a musician and rapper but is pretty much a slacker.

Without giving away one minor plot twist we get to see that Lucius hasn’t completely left behind his gangster roots despite the fact that he is trying to portray himself as a legitimate businessman.

Overall the show is well written, well acted, and has the potential to be a big hit. The plot lines are reminiscent of a Shakespearean tragedy. There was a reference to King Lear in the pilot episode and future episodes have titles like “Unto the Breach” and “Sins of the Father” on which give it sort of an epic scale.

It appears we are also going to get three or four performances of rap and R&B songs in an episode all of which seem to be fairly well done although as I said I’m not a fan of the genre.

I was fully anticipating to give this show an honest review but did not think that it would grab my interest enough to make it on my regularly watched list. I watch way too much TV and I’ve still got season 2 of House of Cards unwatched 3 ready to drop next month. But for the time being I’m going to stick with this one and give it a “I’m watching” rating. It might not be for everyone. It might not be for me.

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