Okay, I have to say it: I am not a huge fan of Empire. It's entertaining, it's interesting, it has some pretty good humor, and I liked the casting choices. However, this show is soooo not original, the content is very shallow (meaning no depth), and I find it hard to follow at times.
I knew I wasn't going to care about it before it even aired. I saw the promo with Taraji and Terrance, and instantly thought it was an unoriginal "Hustle and Flow" spin-off. Aside from that, it already looked messy. So, I didn't see it when it premiered. Well, my co-workers were praising the show the next day at work like it was the best thing to happen to television. So, yeah, that got my curiosity going. By that time I was aware that Empire in fact was not a Hustle and Flow knock-off. More like an urban "Dynasty", a soap opera, which was one of the inspirations for Empire (Daniels mentioned this himself).
I was not impressed by the first episode. In the first scene Lucius is telling a singer to think about her brother who got shot in order to convey more emotion in her singing a song about love and loss. So, right away, I thought that the show was already bordering on too dramatic with the whole "I need you to REALLY bring the pain" dynamic of that scene. Just ask her to remember her first break up and go from there. Gosh. The flashback scenes with the gay son Jamal dressed like a woman were somewhat unrealistic to me because of how they played out. Why did the kid dress that way and then just stand there in front of everyone? What was the point of that? He didn't even pretend like he was modeling the clothes or anything like how you play dress-up. He just stood there and looked stupid. Was he making a statement? Anyway, Lucius throwing his son in the garbage was really traumatic for some viewers and made some people cry. But, I thought it was a bit extreme, and I almost stopped watching after that. I also wasn't too thrilled with the fact that the writer being gay made the gay son the most sympathetic character with hardly any flaws compared to everyone else. Is that really fair? Makes me feel as though Jamal can do no wrong and will always just be a victim and if not him, then any other gay character. On top of that, I can't stand Jamal's weak, shaky singing voice. How are people saying that he sounds so great? I'm not convinced that the writer knows how to write believable black female characters (speaking as a black female). Cookie is loud and obnoxious, which makes for good drama and entertainment. I'm not mad at her being real, and having flaws. However, there are times when I really wish Cookie would stop wearing her feelings on the outside all the damn time. Honestly, there are times when I believe she could be upset or disappointed about something without being so obvious or over-the-top. I wish she could be more cool in certain situations. The way she deals with Lucius' girl, Anika makes her look extra pressed in almost every scene. But, I guess if she toned it down, she would be less "real", so that won't be an option.
Lucius is a piece of ****. As far as I'm concerned, he doesn't treat any of his sons right, even his "favorite", Hakeem. What does any of his relationships even mean to him? Seriously. Why is he acting like he can't decide which son should be CEO of Empire? Clearly, it should be mature, business-savvy Andre, but, he leans more towards Hakeem the "star". His struggle with the decision really annoyed me from the very first episode and just convinced me that Lucius was simple as hell. In later episodes it shows that Lucius suddenly doesn't seem to trust Andre. Okay, whatever.
When it comes to a show like Empire that combines music with drama, it sometimes feels like I am being forced to listen to music that I don't like. The "You're So Beautiful" track from the show is honestly getting on my nerves. I don't care to hear Cookie or Lucius attempt to sing at times, either. But, that's more of a personal thing, so moving on...
I ended up binge watching the first 9 episodes of Empire OnDemand just so that I wouldn't be out of the loop and to give it a fair judgment instead of copping out after the first episode. Afterwards, I was thoroughly convinced that this show is over-rated... but, not horrible. I do think that for this show to be as real and raw as it aspires to be, it would have to be a netflix series or featured on a premium cable channel where it wouldn't be censored. I can give it 4 stars. The writing is very lacking with poorly developed characters and predictable plots. However, it delivers a good cast, and good entertainment (you won't be bored) and some insight into the music industry.