Is it just me or did Taraji P. Henson kill it?

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The soap opera, musical, drama that is Empire premiered on Fox last night. Fox was smart in some ways by placing the show’s premiere after the American Idol season premiere and in other ways will probably pay for that decision. Anywhere near American Idol is a prime time slot but the audiences for the shows are probably completely different. The network no doubt lost viewers once families heard the language and learned of the premise of the show – a former drug dealer makes good while his wife serves a 17-year prison sentence. Wife gets out of jail, reunites with the record company she left behind and her three sons who are in competition to take over Empire records.

The show benefits from stellar acting and slick camera work (as well as super fine actors). The real gem of the show is Taraji P. Henson’s Cookie though. From the moment the camera cuts to her in jail the audience realizes her face was the one that launched a thousand ships. Ships in this case being drug deals and hit records. Cookie’s impact on her sons, despite being incarcerated, is evident. The present day scenes are interspersed with flashbacks from both Cookie and Lucious (Terrence Howard) and their three sons. Taraji is always on point in every role she takes on but this role seems to have been written for her. I loved everything about her portrayal of Cookie in the first episode from her beating son Hakeem with a broom when he called her a bitch to her calling all of her sons and former husband for the skeletons in their closets and their flaws and quarks on which the show focuses. Her portrayal of Cookie was everything and she shut the game down, showing once again why she is a force in the world of black actresses. Really she should be competitive in all Hollywood circles, black or not, but we will not go there in this post.

We learn in the first episode that Lucious is ashamed of his gay son Jamal, that Lucious has been diagnosed with ALS, that Andre’s white wife is controlling him and that he’s on some type of medication and that Lucious has a great number of enemies – most of them friends from the neighborhood who he came up in the drug game with.

Talking to a few friends about the show, they seemed on the fence. I, however, am intrigued and will continue to watch. I think she show will be good and will get better and bring in more action weekly. I find it interesting that Fox decided to put the show up against ABC’s Blackish. The two are completely different, but would probably attract some of the same viewers. It will be telling to see ratings numbers as I think Blackish is probably not as strong of a bet in the long run.

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