‘Empire’ keeps rising in the ratings — and nothing EVER rises in the ratings
The rise of Fox’s “Empire” has been fascinating to watch over the last few weeks, and things just keep getting better for the new hit show.
For an unbelievable seventh week in a row, the series — a primetime soap about a family dynasty divided by the fight to control a hip-hop empire — surged in the ratings, netting 13.8 million viewers on Wednesday. That’s up from last week’s 13 million viewers, up from the previous week’s 12 million.
Just to give context, this never happens. Like, actually never. It’s record-breaking. In its fifth week on air, according to Entertainment Weekly, the drama became the first series since 1991 (when Nielsen started a new way of tracking ratings) to increase for a consecutive five weeks. And the juggernaut has only continued, which is why trade publications like Variety say they need to find terms of description for it that go beyond “megahit” “phenom” and “unprecedented.”
There’s no question that expectations were high for “Empire” with its star-studded cast including Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson. Still, even shows that get dynamite ratings for the debut episode (9 million viewers in the case of “Empire”) generally see them dip by the second. Or if the ratings rise in the second, they fall in the third. That’s just the way TV works.
But “Empire” has defied all odds, thrilling Fox executives and sending the rest of the TV industry scrambling to figure out the secret. Has Hollywood finally realized that people are thirsting for more diverse programming? Or is it the music? The acting? The power of Taraji P. Henson?
From the moment it premiered, self-consciously populated with lounging pajamas, hooker furs and animal-printed everything, Fox’s hip-hop drama “Empire” has used fashion as entertainment, plot point, back story and weapon.
The show is a fashion delight. But it is also an assessment of the public face of hip-hop, clothing as class and style as identity.
“Empire” details the story of Lyon, a hip-hop mogul with the problems of King Lear: Which of his three sons will take over his business now that he has been diagnosed with ALS? The show is populated with a warring cast of characters who represent the full spectrum of hip-hop — from the street-tough world of shady entrepreneurs to corporate behemoths powered by MBAs prepping for an IPO.
Cookie, played with a smooth roar by Taraji P. Henson, just finished 17 years in prison for drug dealing. She struts onto the screen wearing a tight leopard-print dress, a white fur coat, monster hoop earrings and a slick ponytail that sits high on her head and swishes down her back — as if her cell block had a beautician on call. Cookie looks a bit like Mary J. Blige circa the mid-1990s, when ghetto fabulousness was making waves in the fashion industry and everyone from Gucci to Chanel took a bite out of the trend.
“Empire” depicts the inevitable — but not necessarily admirable — shift in aesthetics as folks move up the economic ladder as well as the social one. Lucious has dumped the faded jeans and sneakers and styled himself in business suits and silk scarves. Cops stand at attention when he walks into a jailhouse; the president takes his call. But now he’s just a thug with better tailoring.
The stars of the hit TV show Empire.