Empire: Season 1

Thank you, cable!  Success of your sophisticated, smart (yet FUN), ensemble shows is making network TV better… a LOT better!  Also, I have to give respect to Shonda Rimes (esp. on ABC’s How to Get Away with Murder).  Yes, I still watch Scandal, but who DOESN’T love Viola Davis!?  Not unlike HTGAWM, FOX’s music-infused family drama, Empire (which several Fb gal pals were praising), has changed the face of TV. 
WARNING: This review contains MILD spoilers! 
WHY is this (midseason) show so ground-breaking?  Empire (created by Danny Strong and produced by Brian Grazer, Lee Daniels, and Francie Calfo) focuses on a successful African-American family in NYC.  (Everyone can relate to family drama, right?)  They’re running a successful company (Empire Entertainment), which includes musical talent (Timbaland is the show’s music producer), tennis shoes, champagne, etc.  (If you’re a fan of hip-hop, this would be the hook for you.)  The business is headed by charismatic, dapper, and strong-willed patriarch, Lucious Lyon (Terrence Howard).  He’s a man’s man who doesn’t suffer fools; he segued from being a musician to producer, then eventually… entrepreneur (EX: P. Diddy).  At the start of the series, Lucious is in a relationship w/ Anika (Grace Gealey), head of Empire’s A&R division (meaning that she signs/develops new talent). 
Lucious’ ex-wife, Cookie (Taraji P. Henson), is claiming her own power by managing teen pop singer Tiana (Serayah) and their middle son Jamal (Jussie Smolett, younger brother of Jurnee).  Hmmm… why was Cookie put in jail for so long (17 years)?  Do she and Lucious still have a future together?  She provides the a LOT of the humor for this show!

Lucious and Cookie have two other sons- Wharton MBA, Andre (Trai Byers), and impulsive 18 y.o. rapper, Hakeem (Bryshere Gray).  Jamal (considered Cookie’s fave) and Hakeem (chosen as heir by his father) have a contentious relationship for the first half of the season, though the unconditional love between brothers is always underneath.  (ALMOST everyone can relate to sibling drama, right?)

They call us Takeem.  -Tiana explains to Cookie about the celeb couple nickname fans have given her and Hakeem
Tiana and rising star Hakeem seem to make a natural pair, BUT they are NOT as simple/innocent as they appear!  Will these kids have a future… or only sing together? 
An honorary member of the family is a man that grew up on the streets of Philly with Lucious, Vernon (Malik Yoba, best-known for New York: Undercover), a father-figure/mentor to Andre (the CFO and non-musical son).  I started watching when I saw a TV promo w/ Yoba; he’s not in a LOT of scenes, since his main focus these days is on community development. Aside from the strong cast, there are MANY guest stars on Empire.  (Those up on the current hip hop music scene can probably spot who these are more quickly.)
Good Enough
See, it doesn’t matter what you think
I’m still a man

Not only is Jamal talented (his songs are the best IMO), he’s the most kind, honest, and likeable character on the show!  He comes out of the closet (to live openly as a gay man)- something that his father can’t accept.  (We learn about the drastic measure Lucious took when guest-star Raven-Symone shows up.) 
Keep Your Money
Can’t ask for a hand-out
It’s time to be a man now
When Lucious belittles his attempt to go his own way, Jamal refuses his cash.   As the show develops, we see how Jamal is redefining masculinity within his family, by writing his songs (personal/touching)… and network TV!

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