TV review: "Empire" is hardly king of the midseason

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Fox’s newest drama “Empire” is filled with acclaimed actors, writers and directors, but it doesn’t add up to much more than a typical story of greed and power. From multiple award-winners Danny Strong (“Game Change”) and Lee Daniels (“Precious”), and starring Oscar-nominees Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson, “Empire” has a pedigree matched by few on network television.

Unfortunately “Empire” — and its central pieces — are approaching this story with very little that feels new and/or effective. There are a few kernels of potential, but I’m skeptical of the payoff.

Lucious Lyon (Howard) is a music-label mogul and father of three boys, who started out as a drug dealer before hitting it big in the music industry. As Lucious is preparing to groom one of his sons to take over, his ex-wife Cookie (Henson) is released from prison after a long stint — for which Lucious is most likely responsible.

All of this leads to familial strife, as everyone begins to scheme against each other. Lucious clearly has a favorite son to lead his company, but discourages all three. Is he just trying tough love? Maybe. Is he just an a-hole? Yup.

Henson’s Cookie is the most intriguing character and contains “Empire’s” best performance. Henson is really quite good at making you side with Cookie, only to see she’s a master manipulator too.

If you were to offer a simple description of “Empire,” it’s basically a newer, slightly better and more hip-hop-y version of “Dallas.” If the more soap-operatic elements can fall to the wayside, and it can be more of an examination of the music industry (in this current, changing environment), “Empire” can surely grow. There’s the talent there to do it.

[photo courtesy Fox]


9 p.m. Wednesdays on Fox

2 stars