hip hop mogul drama, empire, rakes in the american ratings

With its Timbaland soundtrack and Naomi Campbell cameo, Lee Daniels’ new family dynasty melodrama needs to come to British TV.

by Colin Crummy
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Jan 8 2015, 6:40pm

Lee Daniels is a man who knows how to make a splash, like the time he got Nicole Kidman pee over Zac Efron for fun in The Paperboy or made under Mariah Carey as a social worker with heart in Precious. Now the Oscar nominated director is at it again with new television show, Empire, which premiered on US screens last night.

Empire follows music mogul Lucious Lyon (Terence Howard) as he discovers he's got three years left to live after an ALS diagnosis and has to decide which of his three sons - the boring business brain, the reluctant singer-songwriter gay son or the young give-a-fuck rapper - to pass on the empire to. Then comes his ex wife, Cookie [Taraji P. Henson] strutting straight outta prison in fur and fedora to claim the throne.

To say that Empire is campy, OTT stuff is probably to understate it. In overnight reviews, it was dubbed "gaudy, trashy, guilty-pleasure TV that'll keep Black Twitter percolating whenever it's on the tube" by Vulture. And The Atlantic said Daniels was "willing to create a catastrophe if he thinks he can find something unique and beautiful in it."

But, critics aside, the premiere was a huge ratings success. There are no plans to show Empire over here just yet, but with a score by Timbaland and a recurring role for longtime Daniels friend Naomi Campbell as a woman who seduces the youngest son, it sounds like our kind of show, and we want it on our screens.  

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