Last week’s Season 2 premiere of Empire was, in one word, OVERTHETOP. From Cookie’s grand entrance in the gorilla suit, citing an impromptu reference to the Black Lives Matter movement, correlating with a message to free Lucious from prison to the irrelevant cameo appearances (Swizz Beatz, Al Sharpton, Don Lemon, Chris Rock, DeRay Davis, Miss Lawrence, Petey Pablo, Ricky's mama from Boyz In Da Hood – did I forget anyone?). Additionally, the same-sex overtones - Jamal (who deserved that double slap) mind controlling his boyfriend, Michael, and "Anita" being designated to sleep with the female investor so that her nemesis, Cookie, can position herself to take over the company. Just. Tew. Much.
Although I live tweeted through the full first episode, I found myself critiquing each scene rather than getting lost in the anticipation of how the new storyline would unfold. And that’s the thing – after rushing through Season 1 and climaxing prematurely for fear of not being renewed, Empire’s overall storyline still isn’t quite clear.
Yes, we know that Cookie donated some of her own
drug money to fund Lucious’ music career, which ultimately catapulted him to success, showcasing her loyalty via a 17-year bid. And it’s clear that all three sons, Andre, Jamal and Hakeem, struggle with their own issues, including bipolar disorder, homosexuality, and narcissism, respectively. Yet, the supporting characters serve as nothing more than fillers for a randomly put together cast. With Becky (Gabby Sidibe) as the awkward-dressing Executive Assistant, Anika aka Boo Boo Kitty as the mistreated mistress, Porsha as Cookie's Ratchet, illiterate do-girl, and Andre’s wife, whose name and presence is so forgettable, as the token white chick, it’s apparent that the show lacks substance. The hype mostly stems from Cookie’s outrageous, mouth-dropping punchlines (i.e. “You can’t even dyke right!”)
But when did shock factor become an acceptable substitute for quality writing? In an era where primetime television has become an interactive event, with many of us sharing thoughts online, quickly responding to the action during commercial breaks, and even going as far as hosting watch parties, there seems to be little room for the positive shows that some may argue are more worthy of the spotlight (insert Blackish here).
However, when we station ourselves in front of our flat screens, it is an attempt to escape from the hectic reality of our everyday lives. Sometimes, we even notice bits and pieces of our personal experiences dwelling in the midst of the action. Perhaps that’s why I steadily succumb to partaking in such an entertaining and unhealthy vice. I should be utilizing that one-hour slot to write as much as I can, since most of my time lately has been dedicated to editing. Instead, I’d rather press pause on my important tasks and divert my attention to the Lyon family and their dramatic, dysfunctional problems, complaining about the plot discrepancies and poorly executed dialogue.
You're probably wondering why I'm faithfully watching, only to produce negative feedback. One: I'm a writer. Two: I'm studying. Lastly: I absolutely love Taraji P. Henson. I'm actually rooting for Empire to succeed, but for better reasons; not because of the shade behind the coonery.
If Empire's contract with Fox network is extended, it will solely be due to its loyal fanbase; it will not survive on the acting alone. Nevertheless, I’ll be tuning in tonight, scouting for any and all necessary signs of improvement. I'll also be looking forward to hearing Jussie Smollett's voice. At least his songwriting/singing skills are getting recognition. But can he prove that he's man enough to reign as heir to the throne? We gon' see...