HD Heads-Up: TV2 Gives Empire a Spin

TV2 will premiere the solid gold network drama of 2015, Empire, on May 19.

The King Lear of hip-hop soap opera stars Terrence Howard as as music industry mogul whose three sons are vying to take over his empire when he dies.

Guest stars in the top-rating series include Gladys Knight, Courtney Love, Snoop Dogg, Naomi Campbell, Jennifer Hudson, and Mary J. Bilge.

Empire became the most watched free-to-air drama on US TV and TV2 is launching it off the back of its own ratings juggernaut My Kitchen Rules.

Empire is credited with helping 21st Century Fox to beat earnings forecasts for the first quarter and internationally the popularity of the biggest African-American TV smash since The Cosby Show is helping to make primetime more diverse.

Ironically, though, Empire’s largely black cast and inside-showbiz trappings were seen as a sales hindrance, which is why broadcasters like TVNZ, which over-estimated Nashville’s appeal in this market, were reluctant to buy the series until it started setting viewership records in the US.

Empire‘s phenomenal ratings — viewership increased week-over-week, every week, closing with a season high of nearly 17 million total viewers — convinced buyers to take another look,” The Hollywood Reporter says.

Marion Edwards, 20th Century Fox Television Distribution’s president of international, told THR: “When it started to air — every week it grew and grew — many important clients of ours have contacted us to rethink what they were doing.”

But US critics were quick to see its appeal. Entertainment Weekly dubbed it both “a richly realised family drama” and “a saga of a black gay man that directly confronts hip-hop’s homophobia”.

And TV Guide argued it “doesn’t really matter if hip-hop is your musical genre of choice, because the beat the deliciously entertaining Empire grooves to echoes the more traditional and timeless rhythms of grand soap operas”.

Other heavyweights also endorsed the series, with the New York Times acknowledging while “almost every turn seems obvious and a little hackneyed … it is surprisingly enjoyable.”

But among the detractors were the Wall Street Journal (“derivative to the point of parody”) and Variety, which said the “handsome series dutifully plucks all the chords, yes, but doesn’t invest them with much surprise or conviction.”

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