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Building a new “Empire”

Move over Reality Television! The nighttime Soap Opera has reemerged and is seemingly here to stay. Fox’s “Empire” is this generation’s newest guilty pleasure.

Despite some flaws, “Empire” is a perfect concoction of your grandma’s classic soaps, new age pop culture, and a hip-hop twist that you never knew you needed. Created by Lee Daniels and Danny Strong, the phenomenon that is “Empire” has proven to excite millions of fans like nothing before.

What has intrigued so many viewers is the story of the Lyon Family, a powerful pride at the helm of the legendary record label, Empire Entertainment or Empire for short. And as within most powerful empires, there is often a battle over who is best fit to control it. This empire is no different.

The series focuses on the race for control over Empire that envelops the entire Lyon family after Lucious Lyon, the current CEO and co-founder of Empire, hears some unforeseen news that prompts the immediate grooming of an undetermined successor.

Lucious, played by Terrence Howard, uses his power and callous nature to send his three sons into a tizzy of a competition for the company. With music being an integral part of this family – and the show for that matter – taking over the record label quickly becomes the most sought after goal of the Lyon boys, who do whatever they can to sideline each others’ attempts to rule.

The tumultuous dynamic of this family gets even more turbulent as Cookie Lyon, the ex-wife of Lucious and rightful co-founder of Empire, played by Taraji P. Henson, bursts back onto the scene demanding what was rightfully hers before she was imprisoned for 17 years.

Photo courtesy of Fox
Photo courtesy of Fox

With themes like adultery, death, backstabbing, plotting and jealousy, the fight for Empire won’t be an easy feat for anyone involved. But it makes for wonderfully dramatic television to watch. The inclusion of original music, produced by Timbaland and sung by the cast, takes the musical nature of the show to a whole new level.

Charting new territory as what some would call a hip-hopera, casted with a predominantly black cast, “Empire” has taken topics that often are taboo, especially in the black community, such as race, homophobia, and mental illness, and approached them head on. It’s a take that is refreshing to the genre.

With fuss and flare like this, it is no surprise that for the past three months “Empire” has dominated the prime-time television lineup, with its initial 13 million viewership ratings rising each week, a feat that had been amiss in television for 23 years.

The nature of the soap opera format, however, tends to leave much to the viewer’s interpretation. The fast-paced, over-the-top progression of plot lines in this realm make some of the story lines slightly shaky.

Seeing that this isn’t your average prime-time television show with gradual plot progression, plot holes can be overlooked, but as with any soap only so much can be forgiven until they reach their peak soapiness and lose credibility.

Only time will tell if the star-packed soap with fall to a fate as many soaps of the past. Until then, the millions of viewers, including myself, will continue on enjoying their newest prime-time guilty pleasure.

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