There’s little chance you haven’t heard of Fox’s new hit show, “Empire.” With an average of 380,000 social media mentions per episode and a collection of Buzzfeed articles dedicated to it, “Empire” is undoubtedly the most discussed new show of 2015. The show is about the fictional Lyon family, who own a music production and entertainment company called “Empire.” The heir, Lucious Lyon, played by Terrance Howard, is in the process of deciding which one of his sons will succeed him in leading the empire. Things get heated as Lucious’s ex-wife, Cookie Lyon, played by Taraji P. Henson, is released from prison after 17 years, eager to claim her part of the company. The show is not only incredibly entertaining, but also a revolutionary force in the TV world. Here are just some of the reasons why you should drop everything, sign up for Hulu Plus and watch all 14 episodes of “Empire” season one:
1. It’s the first ever hip-hop soap opera. When I first heard that I didn’t (much like you probably don’t) understand, but trust me, it works. It’s not like a “Days of Our Lives” or “The Young and the Restless” type of daytime soap opera; it’s a dramatic prime time TV worthy soap opera that happens to feature hip hop.
2. The hip-hop music is bomb. Thanks to renowned music producer Timbaland the show’s tunes are catchy and perfect for a party. My friends and I play “Drip-Drop” and “You’re So Beautiful” at every turn up. Many times when we do a friend will ask, “Oh my God, who is this?” And just like that, another Empire fan is born.
3. The cast, besides being incredibly talented and drop-dead gorgeous, are all black. Not only it is great to have more people of color represented in prime-time television, but “Empire” also presents a different type of blackness than other shows. These characters are not limited by black stereotypes; the show’s actors portray a variety of different complex, well-developed characters within the black community.
4. The Lyon family gives hope that the American dream still exists. Lucious and Cookie came from the streets of Philadelphia and now sit at the top of Manhattan. Sure, it took a bit of drug money to get the business up and going but the couple’s drive is what got them their empire.
5. The writing is fantastic, but the actors’ freedom to improvise makes the show absolutely hilarious. The show is already famous for its many witty one-liners. “Shut up, Dora” is my favorite.
6. The fact that Lee Daniels created a TV show is notable enough. The Oscar-nominated director is best known for his films “Precious” and “The Butler.” If anyone knows how to create a meaningful show revolving around black people, it’s Lee Daniels.
7. If Lee Daniels doesn’t mean anything to you, then Terrence Howard, might ring a bell. The Oscar-nominated actor (known for “Hustle & Flow,” as well as “Iron Man 2”) plays Lucious Lyon, the show’s central character as well as its antagonist. You’ll love the way you hate Luscious, as his deep murderous voice and charming smile make him the perfect villain.
8. But we can’t forget the queen of the show, Cookie Lyon, played by Taraji P. Henson. Nominated for an Oscar for her role in “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” Henson is a highlight of the show. Cookie Lyon walks out of prison and into Empire’s corporate building with her head held high demanding what is hers. Her confidence, attitude, fashion taste and countless hilarious one-liners make her the most universally loved character on the show.
9. Not surprisingly, this attractive and talented couple has three equally attractive sons. Hakeem, the youngest of the three and an up-and-coming rapper, is played by Byshere Gray. Jamal, the soulful singer with a voice that will melt your heart is played by Jussie Smollett .The oldest, Andre, the head of the business side of the company, is played by Trai Byers. The three characters are so different from one another that it’s hard to predict who will be deemed worthy enough to become heir of Empire.
10. The show speaks out against homophobia in the black community. Jussie Smollett, who is gay himself, plays a gay character who is not accepted by his father. Lee Daniels, who is gay as well, talked about modeling Jamal’s story after his own, including a horrible scene in which the young Jamal’s father throws him into a trashcan as punishment for trying on a pair of heels. Although the show has received some critique due to Lucious’s outdated attitudes, my guess is that Lee Daniels purposefully made Lucious’s homophobia seem outdated in order to open up a dialogue about homophobia within the community.
11. In addition to opening up a dialogue about homosexuality, “Empire” also opens up a dialogue about mental illness. The oldest son, Andre, has bipolar disorder. While his family is supportive, they initially react defensively to their son’s mental illness. They say things like, “My son’s not crazy” and “That’s white people s—.” One of the show’s strengths is the way it candidly discusses the stigma against homophobia and mental illness in some black families. The writers of this show recognized that this topic is not talked about enough in mainstream television, and did something about it.
12. In the first season alone there are a plethora of famous guest stars. All your favorites, from Raven Symone to Gladys Knight to Snoop Dog, appear as memorable and compelling characters.
Don’t sleep on Fox’s new hit show, “Empire,” which airs Wednesday nights.