Jeremy Likes TV

I like TV. Probably more than any human should.

Posts Tagged ‘The Shield

Is Empire the “Black Dynasty”?

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Empire

We’re going to be spoiled for good TV in 2015 if this keeps up, as the new year’s quality run continues with the premiere of Fox’s Empire. I was healthily skeptical going into this one, what with Fox’s incessant promos with the – if we’re being honest – incredibly annoying “No Apologies” song blaring seemingly every five seconds on the network during the month of December. In addition, when you add to it the fact that noted eccentric Terrence Howard was top-lining it and that Fox’s last musical skewing hour-long was the execrable Glee, Empire seemed to have disaster written all over it.

Perhaps that’s why Empire arriving as all of the best of that long-forgotten genre – the prime-time soap opera – came as such a surprise, to the point that some are saying that creator Lee Daniels is making “the black Dynasty.” The series follows hip-hop legend/entrepreneur Lucious Lyon as played by Terrence Howard (Hustle & Flow), who receives a dire medical diagnosis within the series’ first hour that necessitates him creating a succession plan for his label/conglomerate, Empire Enterprises. His candidates are his three sons: Wharton-educated Andre (Trai Byers), spotlight-shunning Jamal (Jussie Smollett), and young and entitled Hakeem (Bryshere Gray), with Empire promising to pit each brother against one another for the future of the company. Complicating matters is the reappearance of Lucious’s ex-wife Cookie (an arguably never better Taraji P. Henson), who shows back up in his life directly out of prison demanding restitution for taking the fall for Lucious on a drug deal gone bad, one that actually served as the funding for Lucious’s enterprise. With the former drug-slinging aspect, it seems clear that Jay Z served as at least a modicum of inspiration for the Lucious character, just as it’s possible that there’s a little bit of Frank Ocean present in Jamal.

Though Empire sounds very soap-ish (and it is), it also deals with social issues like homophobia in the hip-hop world (Jamal is gay and Lucious is embarrassed by him) and interracial marriage (Andre’s white wife is derided by Cookie). In some ways, it’s almost like Daniels crafted the soap aspect to draw the masses in order to actually examine more anthropological issues. When it comes to the performances, Henson is the standout as the brash and memorable Cookie, and it’s easy to see why she ditched procedural pabulum like CBS’s Person of Interest for a showier and frankly more fun role like this. Howard is largely… fine, while Smollett also stands out along with Henson as the introspective Jamal. The characterizations are great, because no one (save maybe Jamal) is a total white hat or black hat. They’re all painted realistically in shades of gray.

Ultimately, it seems that Empire’s going to be a delicate balance of the crowd-pleasing cheese for which soaps are famous and the larger social themes that Daniels wants to explore, so maybe calling it the “black Dynasty” is a little reductive. It’s entirely possible that a show that burns as hot and as fast as this does could lose its fire quickly, but for now, it looks to promise a great deal of thoughtful fun.

Episode 1.01 GradeB+

Stray Thoughts:

*Lucious is originally from Philadelphia. Philly Represent.

*Could have really done without the speechifying about “music on the Internet.”

*To really drive the point home about Lucious’s bigotry when it comes to his son, he’s a “sexuality is a choice” kind of guy.

*It looks like there are going to be flashbacks interspersed regularly to fill viewers in on where the characters came from. For instance, we see one of Jamal dressed up in women’s clothes as a kid and then catching a beating from Lucious, who also stuffs him in a trash can to Cookie’s disgust.

*There’s a twist at the end of the episode that sees Lucious sharing something in common with The Shield’s Vic Mackey, as least where pilots are concerned.

*Cookie Quote of the Night: “You know I was never into wearing those weaves, girls walking around smellin’ like goat ass.”

Where to Watch: Empire on Fox.com / Empire on Hulu

Written by jeremylikestv

January 14, 2015 at 3:16 pm

Morning Links: 2/6/12

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Welcome to the Morning Links. Each weekday, I’ll provide you with some interesting television-related news items culled from the various TV websites I frequent on a regular basis with a slight bit of commentary attached. Pretty straightforward – no fuss, no muss. Busy weekend of news to get you started on a Monday morning. Let’s get to it:

*From Hitfix’s Alan Sepinwall, NBC has relegated its tepid adaptation of The Firm to Saturday nights (which is essentially cancellation) after it performed horribly in its Thursday at 10PM slot, ceding that real estate to one of Fall 2011’s most intriguing pilots, Awake. While Awake received the strongest critical buzz of any network pilot, most expressed concern over whether the show, which follows a detective who’s living in two realities – one where his wife died in a car crash and his son survived, and another where his son perished and his wife lived – can exist as a series. That it comes from Kyle Killen, whose Lone Star was essentially the 2010 version of Awake and lasted a scant two episodes on Fox that fall, isn’t helping fears about its long-term prospects. Still, I’m very excited to see how the pilot comes off even as I have no expectation that it’s going to do well in a tough timeslot. But, hey… no one saw Grimm becoming a modest hit for NBC on Friday nights. Maybe lightning can strike twice? Maybe? Awake premieres Thursday, March 1.

*30 Rock hit a ratings low on Thursday night, pulling in numbers that were much worse than what Community was doing in the same slot earlier this season. Hey NBC… maybe Community didn’t deserve to be unceremoniously yanked from your schedule after all. Just sayin’. In other ratings news, NBC opened February sweeps in a fourth-place tie with… wait for it… Univision. Really. (Via EW and The AV Club)

*Interesting factoid thrown out by the guys over at TV By The Numbers – a recent article in the LA Times states that more than 60% of the two-billion-plus hours of video streamed by Netflix subscribers in the fourth-quarter of 2011 was television content, not movies. This is a fascinating piece of data as it shows the shift in television-watching patterns over the last couple of years. Speaking as someone who has Netflix access via Xbox Live, frankly, it’s the tits. The ability to catch up on old shows whenever I want is incredible and with these numbers it’s obvious why Netflix is anxious to get into the original content game via the upcoming Kevin Spacey/David Fincher project House Of Cards as well as the Arrested Development revival in 2013.

*FX’s top hit, Sons Of Anarchy, has been renewed through a sixth season and series creator Kurt Sutter has extended his own deal with the network through a potential season seven which has been his ultimate plan for the series all along. While SOA experienced a bounce-back year in terms of quality in its fourth season in 2010, I fear that this extension means that nothing drastic is going to happen over the next two years making me wonder if it’s going to be worth sticking it out until the end. There was no good reason for Ron Perlman’s Clay to survive this past season other than Sutter drawing his storylines out to fit his seven-season plan so you’ll have to excuse me if I’m pessimistic about the series’ thrust going forward. (Via Hitfix)

*Even the day after a Super Bowl that saw one of the worst possible outcomes – a New York Giants win – the news coming out of Indianapolis that the NFL is adding five more games to its Thursday Night Football slate of games on NFL Network, bringing it to 13 weeks of coverage beginning in Week Two of the 2012 season, is great news. More football on my TV can never be a bad thing and the fact that we now live in a world where live football almost every single night of the week in the fall between the NFL, college football, and local high school football games is a glorious thing. (Via TV By The Numbers)

*Per EW’s James Hibberd, veteran actor Bobby Cannavale (Louie) nailed down (SPOILER ALERT) a role as the character replacement for Michael Pitt’s Jimmy Darmody (END SPOILER) on HBO’s Boardwalk Empire. Should be interesting to see how he interacts with Steve Buscemi’s Nucky Thompson on the gangster epic.

*In other casting news, Andre Braugher (Homicide: Life On The Street) has booked the lead role in Shawn Ryan’s (The Shield) new ABC submarine drama, Sanaa Lathan (Nip/Tuck) will be joining the second season of Starz’ Kelsey Grammar-starring Boss, and – say it ain’t so – revered alt-comedian Patton Oswalt (Young Adult) is going to be guesting on <stifling vomit> Two And A Half Men as a foil for Ashton Kutcher’s character. I think I speak for comedy fans everywhere when I say, “What the hell, Patton?” (Via EW and TVLine)

*Finally, would that Ron Swanson’s Bacon ‘N Eggs were a real cereal. (Via Warming Glow)

 


Morning Links: 2/1/12

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Welcome to the Morning Links. Each weekday, I’ll provide you with some interesting television-related news items culled from the various TV websites I frequent on a regular basis with a slight bit of commentary attached. Pretty straightforward – no fuss, no muss. New day, new month. Let’s get to it:

*In today’s bit of good news, Hitfix’s Alan Sepinwall reports that HBO has renewed their Michael Mann/David Milch collaboration Luck for a second season following its debut outing on Sunday night. Granted, its premiere ratings weren’t the best, but the show’s really damned good and HBO has a history of renewing its series after their debut outings regardless of what their ratings are. Plus, since Milch’s last series, the inscrutable John From Cincinnati was the rare HBO series not to earn a second season, this was almost a fait accompli as I’m sure they want to stay in the David Milch business and didn’t want to risk his ire again. I’ll have a review of Luck up later this week but a quick preview: it’s a very impressive – if challenging – debut for the show.

*Since Tuesday night is Justified night, why not spend the morning after reading two Justified-centric interviews (after reading my review of episode one and two, which will be posted later today, of the third season, of course). Todd VanDerWerff of The AV Club sits down with Boyd Crowder himself, Walton Goggins, to discuss the evolution of the Boyd character as well as reminiscing on his days on another top-shelf FX drama, The Shield. Meanwhile, Danger Guerrero over at Warming Glow (an honest to God hero of mine – the guy’s a Phillies fan, TV fanatic, and possessor of one of the best Twitter feeds in the world) interviews one of Justified’s writers, Jon Worley.

*If Kristen Bell is going to be absolutely adorable on a talk show, you’re damn right I’m gonna link to it. Or if she’s on a talk show at all, really. Here’s her appearance from earlier this week on The Ellen Show via The Hollywood Reporter where she recounts the surprise she received for her birthday (from her boyfriend Dax Shepard, who’s my mortal enemy).

*Speaking of adorable, The AV Club reports that Natalie Portman is developing a series for CBS based on a Judith Krantz novel. Seeing as this is not only Judith Krantz material but a CBS series, NATALIE PORTMAN STARS IN IT OR GTFO.

*The UFC’s second outing on Fox Saturday night did decent ratings for what turned out to be a boring card. I love MMA and I know good fight cards and you, Saturday night’s card, turned out to be very, very bad. I feel sad if that was some people’s introduction to MMA because I promise you, the quality of fights on Saturday night was not representative of a majority of the UFC’s events. But at least Michael Bisping lost.

*From The Hollywood Reporter, The CW picked up three pilots on Tuesday, including one that’s a collaboration between JJ Abrams and One Tree Hill creator Mark Schwahn. Seeing as it’s coming from those two, I can guarantee you that I will watch the hell out of that show against my will. One of the others is also described as a “time travel musical.” Uh… yeah, good luck with that one, CW.

*Again from The Hollywood Reporter, ABC also picked up a handful of pilots and since all of them look like varying degrees of garbage, I’ll have no more to say on the subject.

*On the subject of The CW, via The AV Club they’ve cast the lead of their Green Arrow adaptation with this guy from The Vampire Diaries and Hung. <shrugs>

*A bunch of people got axed from The X Factor but we don’t care, right? Right.

*Finally, RIP Mr. Pitt. Hopefully your accidental Hitler mustache doesn’t hurt you in the afterlife.