Sunday, January 11, 2015

Pilot Review: Empire

Empire (FOX)
Premiered January 7 at 9pm

What’s with all the singing on TV today? “Galavant” contained plenty of that earlier this week, and this show isn’t even as secure in what it wants to be, occasionally infusing music in a way that seems believable but then having characters belt their hearts out at other moments. It’s not a surprise to see Terrence Howard in this kind of role after he burst onto the scene in 2005 with a similar part in “Hustle and Flow,” though his character in FOX’s new series is considerably more successful and full of himself, much removed from his humble roots. This certainly represents a meaty role for Taraji P. Henson, who spent her time on “Person of Interest” playing a rather unchallenging and somewhat dull straight man to her action-loving counterparts. Here, she has the opportunity to chew scenery galore but also make sure that Cookie is a complex and substantial character. Every time I see Malik Yoba I lament the fact that “Alphas” was cancelled by Syfy and that he’ll never have as great a role as he did playing Bill on that show. Howard is the right person to play Lucious, and he’s not a terribly likeable character. The show isn’t too likeable either, unfortunately, so filled with over-the-top personalities and divas that it’s hard to latch on to any one of them and get into their storylines. It’s an ambitious project for FOX to take on, one that suits the network but isn’t likely to be able to sustain itself for too long.

How will it work as a series? Cookie is trying to play two of her sons against each other so that her third and oldest son can inherit the company from their father, who no one knows is dying. That’s a lot of drama that isn’t likely to be able to last without imploding and getting far too soapy for its own good.
How long will it last? Credited as FOX’s highest-rated new show in years by Entertainment Weekly, this show’s future does look promising. That said, numbers like this are hard to sustain, and I think this one may crash and burn before FOX decides to re-up and give it a second season.

Pilot grade: C

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