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It’s Time For Empire To Hit The Reset Button

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At some point the network has to pull the plug or hit the drawing board on Empire. For a show that started off so strong in its first season and then to see it just crumble before our eyes is a punch to the gut.

I remember hearing about Empire and thinking “this could be huge”. I admit the majority of my anticipation was due to Taraji P. Henson (she is my celebrity crush) and Terrance Howard being the main characters. Individually they are great but together there was a chance for them to rival the chemistry of Cliff and Claire Huxtable on the small screen.

America and myself was ready for an explosion.

And exploded on the scene Empire did. The cast is great with Byrshere Y. Gray as Hakeem Lyon (The rapper), Trai Byers as Andre Lyon (the financial advisor), Kaitlin Doubleday as Rhonda Lyon (the dedicated wife) but the true surprise was Jussie Smollett as Jamal Lyon (the singer).

It was clear from the beginning the show was based upon family values as Cookie Lyon was released from prison after serving 17 years for a crime her husband did. While incarcerated her husband and three sons managed to build an Empire in the music world with brains, talent and muscle. After Cookie’s release she wanted what was her’s, which was a piece of the company and her kids but she was in a big surprise when she hit free soil.

Season One was about the music and reconcile. There is no doubt that it was crafted for the African-American viewer as the music, wardrobes, slang and characters were predominantly black but the writers forgot there was a great story to be told. The first few episodes had you on the edge of your seat but it wasn’t due to the story. It was either from the laughs as Cookie shows up half-naked for a family dinner thinking her and Lucious were about to reconcile or the music tugged at your heart. One song in particular got me the moment I heard it.

Season Two was a mixture of everything but with no direction.

Jamal who is gay on the show, he slipped up and slept with a woman, was thought to be a father of a child by another woman and that has left us all wondering how gay he really is. Andre is smart as a whip but struggles with mental issues but yet seems to be the most stable person in the family all the while putting his all in faith and church only to be forced out of the church for some unseen cause. I guess the writers are struggling with GOD, the Bible, homosexuality and violence in each episode and can’t figure out how to balance the scales week to week. Hakeem is the walking cliché of the bunch. His days and nights consist of drinking and partying, he thinks he found love, but yet still acts a fool. He recently discovered he is the father of his father’s ex-fiance, Anika’s child and, well you get the point. It’s just too much going on.

The parents story-lines are a total mess. Cookie is brash and maybe over the top with the acting, she became a snitch, fell in love with a security personal, then a gang member who robbed her son and now she has her sights back on Lucious. Yeah all this in two seasons. As for Lucious, he is in prison one episode, killing his mentor then taking the guy’s daughter under his wing to pit against his own son, or threatening his youngest with a violent death if he doesn’t return the Empire throne back to him. Who does that to their child?

And to top it off we have a baby killer story to focus on, and the biggest threat of them all. One of the stars may be leaving the show.

It would seem as if Empire should be flawless but what’s missing has been on the minds of watchers this past season. Empire is to busy tying to compete with Power to focus on great storylines. Empire is a cross between Glee and Days of Our Lives while also trying to be in the range of “The Wire” and “Power“. I understand that hip hop music has always been associated with the inner city and all that comes with it but the writers must pick a lane and stay the course.

If you want to be Glee then be Glee and give us the music. If you wish to be The Wire then be that inner-city show, but if you desire to be Will and Grace then go that route, but please find your purpose on TV before you destroy what should be something spectacular because there seems to be no communication in the writers room. The show has great music, while the hip hop side needs work the R&B is perfect. As a fan of the main characters, the music and the vision of the show I am disappointed in the direction. There are changes that can and should be made if Empire wishes to keep its core audience.

And stop with the celebrity guest spots. This is not Entourage.

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Robert D. Cobb
Founder, Publisher and CEO of INSCMagazine. Works have appeared and featured in places such as Forbes, Huffington Post, ESPN and NBC Sports to name a few. Follow me on Twitter at @RobCobb_INSC, email me at robert.cobb@theinscribermag.com