May 12, 2014

NIELSENWAR 2014-15 Trailer Review: “Empire”


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EMPIRE:  Midseason TBD on FOX

THE FACTS:  Think Nashville, but with a hip-hop beat and an A-level pedigree.  Music tycoon Lucious Lyon (Terrence Howard) is dying–although not just yet–and has to decide who between his two sons will inherit his giant company, causing all manner of family scheming.  Complicating things further:  his ex-wife (Taraji P. Henson), who’s newly out of jail.  Series creator Danny Strong and director Lee Daniels last combined on the smash hit The Butler, and Timbaland is in charge of the music.

WHAT IT’S SAYING:  Old-fashioned family soap a la Dallas and Dynasty about filthy rich people taking advantage of each other, but in a new millieu and with a different sound.

WHAT IT’S REALLY SAYING:  Daniels isn’t a critical favorite, but his Precious and The Butler were two of the surprise hits of the last few years, and he’s got a particular knack for taking what could be niche material and bringing it to a crossover audience.  Howard and Henson are strong stars, and people like Gabourey Sidibe and Macy Gray are due to participate as well.  The trailer sets out plenty of meaty plotlines to drive the suds.

THE OUTLOOK:  It’s audacious, even now, to base a network drama around a mostly African-American cast, and Empire (which doesn’t yet have a timeslot) is a wild card for the season, and one of FOX’s more interesting choices this year.  It has the potential to be a breakout hit with a wide audience, but it could also fail to make an impact.  FOX doesn’t have an obvious companion show for Empire, especially if as rumored American Idol will reduce to a single 2-hour weekly episode next spring, and that will make its scheduling tricky.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."