Being an avid skeptic, I can admit that it took me a few weeks to tune in to Fox’s latest series, Empire. Starring Terrance Howard and Taraji P. Henson, the show is absolutely reminiscent of the blockbuster smash Hustle & Flow. Whether that intrigues or repels you try giving it a chance before you judge it…you may be presently surprised.    

5. Back to Black– Not to get all racial…but it has been quite a while since we’ve seen a successful…or any series on prime time television, with a majorly black cast. Not only is this show opening and reopening doors for a slew of black and brown actors, it is also making room for more such series to be conceptualized in the very near future. Keep in mind that an array of successful black shows on prime time television is something that we haven’t seen much of since the 90’s…

4. Music Sales– As innovative as it is enjoyable, Empire is doing something unique with its associated music. Not only are they composing and recording original tracks for every episode, they are also releasing the tracks for the fans to stream and download. A controversial move, as the artists are reportedly given zero rights to the music. Nevertheless, the soundtrack adds much to the quality of the show and it has already topped the billboard! There just has to be some Guinness Book world records headed their way.

3. Ratings– In case you’ve somehow missed all of the hoopla, the ratings are through the roof! With views reaching 20 million per week and new fans on boarding to the Lyon bandwagon daily, one can only wonder how much these numbers will climb for season 2. Furthermore, another interesting factoid about their ratings is the fact that much of their views come from ‘on demand’ and streams of the show and many tuned into the series late and took to other avenues in order to catch up.

2. Urban Homophobia– It’s definitely not novel to have an African-American, homosexual character. In fact HBO’s hit series The Wire was the first to successfully integrate an overly masculine, urban criminal into a TV show, via their character Omar. Nevertheless, what makes this show’s commentary on homosexuality so revolutionary is that it boldly displays the intolerance of homosexual males within the black/urban community. One of the main characters, Jamal, has had a difficult journey this season as he has had to grapple with being true to himself or trying to please his bigot of a father, Lucious, whom routinely antagonizes him in the form of snide comments and slurs. (There is even a flashback from his childhood when he got thrown in the garbage for cross-dressing.) It seems that it has opened the dialogue for the community at large as most viewers get together to discuss the subject matters of the show.

1. Psychological Neglect– This season, we also saw quite a bit in relation to mental health issues. The eldest son, Andre, goes through an emotional journey with his unchecked bipolar disorder. Interestingly enough, it seems that the main reason he is not getting the help he deserves is because his father, Lucious, refuses to acknowledge the validity of his issues. Furthermore, even his mother, Cookie Lyon, responded unfavorably to Andre’s commitment to therapy asserting that these issues are ‘some white mess’, or a problem that mostly exists in the white community.  This is a huge issue in the black community as many believe that accepting a diagnosis for a mental health disorder is a weakness. Due to this, the African-American community is said to have the most untreated/ neglected mental issues. The fact that Empire shows how these issues are typically swept under the rug until it explodes, shows great courage and will hopefully lead to dialogue and better resources for mentally ill people within the black community.

Overall…

Empire is not without its flaws. The story-line, at times, is a bit corny and unrealistic (as with all musicals) and it also shares its fair share of stereotypes. Nevertheless, it is a pretty good show that is entertaining and inspiring many people, of all races, across the globe. If you haven’t yet tuned in, not to worry! You can check them out here! No rush though, I hear the next season doesn’t start until January 2016…let’s hope they were joking!

Venus L

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