All Articles Tagged "lee daniels"
I am always thrilled when shows with Black casts are produced on major television networks. Without hesitation, I will support by watching at least the first couple of episodes. If I can stomach the program, I will commit to watching it regularly. I felt this type of loyalty last year when FOX announced the newest addition to its lineup in Empire.
Season 1 monopolized the Zeitgeist. The world could not get enough of the evening soap opera. I personally enjoyed the ’70s, Blaxploitation film look of it all, paired with the original music and pop culture antics. And I loved the character development provided in flashback sequences. Every story needs a villain like Lucious (Terrence Howard), and a tell-it-like-it-is bada– like Cookie (Taraji P. Henson). The show touched on topics many others weren’t touching, including homophobia, religion, and mental illness. I was ecstatic that Empire had gained such a vast following and that Wednesdays seemed to be bridging the racial divide, even if only for an hour, as the viewing audience has been just as much White as it is Black.
That is why it pains me to say now, five episodes into Season 2, that the show has lost its “it” factor to me. There are many reasons why but let me start at the source with the show’s creator, Lee Daniels. He’s produced and directed great (and often controversial) films like Monster’s Ball, Precious and, of course, The Butler. But since the success of Empire, Daniels has been seen and heard more frequently in the media. Whether he’s speaking out on why Mo’Nique’s career didn’t take off after her Oscar win for Precious or appearing on talk shows to talk about the success of his hit program, Daniels has proven that he is not just a behind-the-camera guy. He comes alive with a very blunt opinion in front of the camera as well.
One particular interview that left me perplexed was The Hollywood Reporter‘s Drama Showrunner Emmy Roundtable. Daniel’s sat around the table, the only Black writer amongst writers of other popular and critically-acclaimed shows. I was proud to see him in that setting representing an almost silenced group of people–the Black screenwriter. When the topic of diversity in television came up, Daniels professed that “Nothing is more beautiful now than to go into the writers room of Empire. I don’t know what gives me more pleasure, watching my story unfold, or going in and watching the room full of Black people talking for me.” Daniels went on to say, “I hate white people writing for me. It’s so offensive.” Yet as I watch Season 2 and refer to Daniels’s roundtable sentiments, I am left perplexed because it’s the writing that is causing the show to lose its luster.
Episode 1 of Season 2 started with a stunt double Cookie dressed in a gorilla suit, descending from the sky in a cage. Once her cage reached the stage where a concert for Lucious was taking place, she ripped the suit off and protested, “How much longer are they going to treat us like animals?” This imagery, I’m assuming, was meant to attack the prison industrial complex and the disproportionate number of Black men and women in prison. But someone must’ve missed the memo that ape images are coon caricatures and the scene further perpetuated the Blacks-as-animals stereotype.
And then there are the petty moments. Specifically the moments when shade was thrown at 50 Cent and Donnie McClurkin. On the one hand, 50 Cent has publicly dissed Empire on social media for being similar to his hit show Power. However, Donnie McClurkin was simply dragged into unsolicited cattiness over his stance on homosexuality. During his cameo appearance on Empire, Lawrence Washington, known to the world as Miss Lawrence of Real Housewives of Atlanta and Fashion Queens, laid on top of a piano and said Donnie McClurkin would be attending an LGBTQ awards show. Gabourey Sidibe’s character responded by shouting “Shondo!” and throwing her hands in the air as if she were in church. The whole thing was unnecessary and came across as a desperate ploy for laughs.
Another thing about the show is that it has become about more and more about cameos. Celebs come to crash and burn. Al Sharpton, Marisa Tomei, Ludacris, Kelly Rowland, Ne-Yo, Sean Cross, Swizz Beatz, Don Lemon, Andre Leon Tally and Chris Rock are just a few who have all come and gone so fast it leaves you wondering, “Was that…?”
It’s all too much and too soon, taking attention and emphasis away from the core characters.
Lastly, at the height of the Black social justice movement, Empire writers made an attempt to address the #IfIDieInPoliceCustody hashtag that came about after the death of Sandra Bland while in police custody. As the FBI was investigating the family record label and the entire Lyons family, Cookie was arrested outside of Jamal (Jussie Smollett) and Hakeem’s (Bryshere Gray) video shoot. Before being driven away, Cookie yells out of the police car window, “Is anybody videotaping this? If I die in police custody, I did not commit suicide!” And from there, it was impossible to tell whether Cookie’s character was trying to remind people of a serious issue, or just making light of a serious situation.
There are so many ways to touch on topics prevalent in Black culture today without being catty, insulting, insensitive and perpetuating stereotypes. Empire could start by not jam-packing one episode with too many themes and give the writing a chance to really delve into these issues. Not just gloss over them for quick laughs and shock factor.
The cast of Empire is great. The acting is wonderful, and the new talent that is emerging through the show is refreshing. But the writing is the issue for me. It is my hope that Empire’s success continues as this body of work has every right to exist in this place and time. But I hope such success won’t make the show’s storytellers lazy. The pressure is on, and I am holding my fellow Black writers to a standard that I know they can meet.
I really have no idea why menfolks like Dr. Boyce Watkins object so harshly to Lee Daniels’ smash hit television show “Empire”?
Actually I do: it’s about the women and the gays. It’s always about the women and the gays…
That is certainly the theme in Watkins’ latest essay entitled, Why I refuse to support the coonery of the show, “Empire.”
I use “latest” as a relative term here considering this was originally posted in March of this year. Still this link, along with similar sentiments about the show, have been making the rounds again in lieu of the Empire’s second season premiere. As such I thought it best to address some of the “finer” points in the essay.
“When the Fox Network released the new show, “Empire,” I was concerned about what I might see on screen. Fox is not known for producing the most favorable images of black people, so I figured this show wouldn’t be any different. For some reason, black dysfunctionality makes for great television, and there is a long line of white guys getting rich off of our willingness to celebrate all that makes us miserable.
If you do some research, you might notice some of the same things I’ve seen in this ghetto-fied hood drama: Pimps, hoes, thugs, gangsters, emasculated black men, and all kinds of other kinds of stereotypical coonery that many of us have grown tired of seeing portrayed on-screen. Lee Daniels is apparently the man responsible for this televised monstrosity, and I wonder if a day will ever come that the majority of us will refuse to support directors who pimp their people to help bigots like Rupert Murdoch get rich from modern day minstrel shows.”
I am not going to bore you with the rest of the essay, but rest assured it is filled with the same ugly vitriol you would find in most essays and social media rants about the effeminate men and Black women.
And to be clear: Watkins may try to hide it inside a need and desire for more favorable images of black people” as a whole, but this is an attack on Black women too.
In fact, Watkins has made a habit (some would say a career) railing against programming created for the entertainment of Black women. “Scandal” is one. Reality television is another. And now “Empire” which, according to this article in Vulture Magazine, is the ratings share “equivalent of a Super Bowl” among African-American women between 35 and 49 years old.
Without saying it directly, Watkins, as usual, lays the onus of both the destruction and the repair of the community falls on the shoulders – or in this case, the eyeballs – of Black women. After all, it is our entertainment and viewing habits, which are allegedly hurting our image. And it is our support of “Empire” that is allegedly helping evil media mogul Rupert Murdoch get wealthier.
And if us Black Queens [eyeroll] would stop watching these frivolous programs that do nothing but distract us from raising children and making sandwiches for our men (that’s why they are emasculated), our men would be free to get jobs, stay out of prison and get down to the business of nation building.
But let’s suppose it’s all true. Let’s imagine for a moment that “Empire” is nothing more than a high-tech minstrel show, bankrolled by FOX with an agenda to turn all Black men into the gays and Black women into weave-wearing, White-men screwing NeNe Leakeses. My question is when will menfolks like Watkins lead by example?
What I mean is why are there never any essays connecting the dots between Murdoch’s evil plans to harm the Black community and FOX Sports?
Besides reality shows and “Empire,” there is no other more problematic image of Black people on television than what has come out of the NFL. I’m talking sexual assaults and domestic violence. I’m talking the financial castigation of Black men through exploitive contracts and poor ownership opportunities. And I’m talking head traumas, broken backs and other permanent physical damage to the players themselves.
Murdoch gets paid handsomely off of that oppression too. In fact, his Fox Sports networks are gaining ground on ESPN in terms of ratings, including in Black households. Taking a stand against the “coonery” by boycotting Murdoch’s sport networks and broadcast of NFL games would be the ultimate opportunity for the brothers to flex that invigorated-brand of masculinity, which they are always claiming is being snatched away from them by Black women, effeminate Black men and The Man.
And yet there aren’t any scathing essays imploring the menfolks to empower themselves through a boycott of the upcoming Washington Redskins vs. Atlanta Falcon or the New England Patriots vs Dallas Cowboys games on FOX Sports. To be fair, Watkins, in 2008, did call for a boycott of NCAA basketball season, some of which might have aired on FOX Sports. But that was solely about getting college athletes paid. And he made no mention of how our support of March Madness contributed to FOX or Murdoch.
I guess he was cool with us lining Murdoch’s pockets back then. Just like how it was cool when we all went to go see X-men, Planet of the Apes, Alien vs Predator, Fantastic Four, and other action films produced by FOX. You know because Murdoch owns a lot of shat including the film studios, production and distribution companies and television stations in which great deal of our entertainment comes from?
Nope. Watkins, and others brothers who charge others with the task of fixing the Black community’s image, rarely seek empowerment through self-control and personal accountability. Instead, these fellas mostly seek validation of themselves through the policing of what the we women can say, do or even enjoy.
What’s most interesting in Watkins’ angst over “Empire’s” alleged role in bankrolling Murdoch’s empire is that Watkins himself has been a guest quite a few times on FOX programming. Talk about contributing to one’s own demise. But I guess that was different, huh?
Let me hip y’all to some game. Church folks love “Empire.” Now, the show might have lost some followers once Lucious started calling himself God; (Not after he shot Bunkie in the eye though.), but with 16 million views last night, many among them, were church folks.
And they noticed that there was a Donnie McClurkin reference. “Fashion Queens” star Miss Lawrence appeared on the show. Lying on top of a piano, in a sequin blazer he hyped Becky’s life by mentioning that Donnie McClurkin would be attending an LGBTQ award show.
In case you missed it, there’s a clip from the moment on Instagram.
It’s interesting to say the least. Lee Daniels is an openly gay man and Donnie McClurkin is a reformed homosexual. It was clearly a dig.
McClurkin didn’t take too kindly to the reference and issued this press release.
“There’s no explanation or understandable reason for the actions people take under the guise of entertainment. When did the art of creative writing resort to penning scripts for shock value and controversy? During the premiere of FOX Television’s hit show, Empire, the writers targeted gospel artist Donnie McClurkin.
There are several ways one can respond to this new form of bullying and the pastor, singer songwriter took to Twitter to share his comments:
“It was brought to my attention via social media that my name was included in a “back-handed” manner during a scene in the FOX show, Empire. What might have been meant for evil, God uses for good! Despite the scripting used by @leedanielsent it has helped bring attention to the gospel of Jesus Christ that I sing and preach, an empowering moment! To my brothers and sisters, thank you for your support, encouragement & love! No negativity towards @leedanielsent let’s show the love of Jesus,” says McClurkin.
“Let this experience be a reminder that as loving Christians we’re called to share the good news of Christ and be examples of God’s love on the earth.”
I have to be honest, at first I was thinking that Donnie was doing too much. I thought, as a public figure who has been very vocal about his own deliverance from homosexuality and his disagreement with the Supreme Court’s ruling on same sex marriage, this is kind of par for the course, what you sign up for.
But then I stumbled across this article titled “No Longer A Victim.”
In it, McClurkin explains that his first sexual experience was rape, at the age of eight-years-old, at the hands of his Uncle. And then at 13, that same Uncle’s son molested him. And when McClurkin found the Lord, instead of the men in the church helping him heal from the abuse, they exploited his confusion and introduced him to a secret, homosexual lifestyle.
McClurkin says it wasn’t until years later, with help from God, he began to finally heal from the hurt of being raped, molested and abused at the hands of men in the church.
You should certainly read the piece in its entirety, as it is very illuminating.
McClurkin has been through some very, traumatic life events that only God could help him come through.
I don’t agree that homosexuality is a sin. And as such, I don’t agree with his stance on marriage between two, consenting adults, who happen to share the same gender. But I can understand how he internalized his rape, molestation, abuse and exploitation as painful, dirty and not of God. Those experiences were all those things. He wasn’t given the opportunity to explore his sexuality appropriately or healthily. And He does not want to be considered a homosexual man. As a Christian, he believes that God has delivered him from that. As a human it is his right to define himself as he sees fit, whether people like or understand it.
However we interpret the events of McClurkin’s life and his subsequent sexuality, his story didn’t deserve to be used as some sort of punchline on a network television dramedy.
Lee Daniels has to be one of the best bosses ever. Even when you’re dead wrong he’ll defend you against the public “backlash.”
And while Terrence Howard might appreciate his support, it’s gotten Lee into a bit of trouble.
Last week, after Howard admitted to beating several women in a Rolling Stone interview, people began discussing the issue. There have been allegations about his abuse of women for years but hearing Howard himself describe the horrific incidents disturbed quite a few people.
In his own interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Lee Daniels expressed the sympathy he felt for Terrence Howard. He said that because Howard is Black is he being unfairly demonized in the public eye.
“That poor boy,” Daniels said. “[Terrence] ain’t done nothing different than Marlon Brando or Sean Penn, and all of a sudden he’s some f*ck*n’ demon. That’s a sign of the time, of race, of where we are right now in America.”
Well, Sean Penn, like Howard has been accused of not being able to keep his hands to himself either. But Penn has never admitted it and took issue with Daniels referencing his name in all of this.
He’s suing Daniels for $10 million for defamation of character.
According to TMZ, in his lawsuit he wrote, Daniels’ comments were “reckless and malicious” and Sean has “falsely for years been the subject of scandalous, scurrilous, and baseless attacks.”
Penn was caught on video attacking paparazzi and was prosecuted for it. But there is no hard proof when it comes to his abuse of women. There have been numerous reports that he allegedly beat Madonna in the late ’80’s with a baseball bat and tied her to a chair for nine hours and beat her. Many publications report that he was charged and convicted. But Madonna never pressed charges and TMZ reports that he was never charged.
The lawsuit continues:
“Daniels’ defense of Howard (and his improper invocation of two of the greatest actors and humanitarians of our time, Brando and Penn, in doing so) is apparently part of a misguided campaign to profit and further bolster and brand his show “Empire.”
Whew chile! The White folks are mad, honey.
I have to be honest, I’m giving every last person involved in this story a severe side eye and offering them a seat in the time out chair, located in the nearest corner.
Lee’s defense of Howard was just wrong. I don’t see how he’s being demonized any more than any one else who admitted to beating a woman. In fact, he’s not being demonized at all. People are just asking him questions. And perhaps that, in and of itself, is the take away from all of this foolishness. Howard has admitted to beating several women, yet he still has a job on a hit television show, he recently presented an award at the Emmys, no one’s taken anything away from him. He’s good. So I really don’t understand why Lee was so crunk.
Are Black men and White men often punished differently for the same offense? Yes. But most times if that offense is against a woman, whether its physical or sexual abuse, and not caught on camera (i.e. Chris Brown and Ray Rice) then the men involved, whether they’re White or Black, get to walk away scott free. And I really wish that instead of Daniels taking this as an opportunity to turn and point the finger at society, he expressed some type of desire to get Howard help for what is clearly a habitual problem.
Instead, he referenced White men who did it, as if White people doing it makes it alright. No, it doesn’t. His comments just further seem to perpetuate the sick and twisted behavior of holding ourselves up to some kind of White standard. White is not inherently right. We cannot look to Whiteness as any type of standard of morality. We’ll be lost. If any man, of any color, is beating a woman that man deserves to be punished for it. Period.
Sean Penn and his lawyers are also out of their minds. Listen, I don’t know for certain whether Sean Penn beats women or not, but if these types of allegations keep finding you, there’s a good chance that at least one of them is not completely fabricated.
But what tickled me was the contempt in the lawsuit’s wording. “Two of the greatest actors and humanitarians of our time” and “part of a misguided campaign to profit and further bolster and brand his show “Empire.”
You mad that Black ass “Empire” show continues to breaks records and barriers?
Penn’s lawyers are guilty of doing the same thing Lee did by lifting up these White, male actors as some sort of pinnacle of morality. That hyperbole is on fleek. Even if Brando and Penn are as great of men as Penn’s lawyers make them out to be, they are still flawed people, privy to making mistakes just like any other human being. They seem to assert that Daniels’ words are unfounded when they just aren’t. For all of his talent and activism, particularly in the Civil Rights Movement, Marlon Brando, the man, was very troubled. And based on the fact that there are accounts from law enforcement and many others about Penn’s graphic and morbid abuse of Madonna, I’m sure he’s not perfect either, though there might not be official legal charges to prove it.
The point is, instead of trying to determine who’s better or who was punished more, it would be nice for men, bosses, friends, families and society too to hold all abusers accountable for their actions and stop trying to look for a way to point the finger at someone else.
“All Of A Sudden He’s Some F*ck*ng Demon”: Lee Daniels Defends Terrence Howard Against Critics Of His Violent Past
It’s no secret that Terrence Howard has been accused of domestic violence on multiple occasions. But the actor’s recent court battle with ex-wife, Michelle Ghent, has earned the troubling allegations a place back in the spotlight. In a recent interview with Rolling Stone, Howard went as far as to admit to slapping his ex-wife, Lori McCommas, and reasoned that while it was wrong to slap her, he momentarily “lost his mind” and lashed out because she spoke to him harshly.
“She was talking to me real strong, and I lost my mind and slapped her in front of the kids,” he said. “Her lawyer said it was a closed fist, but even slapping her was wrong.”
It’s unclear if the actor walked into the interview knowingly prepared to share this bit of information, but his explanation certainly raised a few eyebrows.
“Empire” creator Lee Daniels, however, expressed sympathy for Howard in a recent interview with the Hollywood Reporter. From the sounds of it, the producer believes that the public is guilty of unfairly demonizing the actor over some of the violent allegations made against him, while giving White actors in similar situations a pass.
“That poor boy,” Daniels said. “[Terrence] ain’t done nothing different than Marlon Brando or Sean Penn, and all of a sudden he’s some f*ck*n’ demon.”
“That’s a sign of the time, of race, of where we are right now in America.”
It’s unclear if Daniels was aware of the contents of Howard’s Rolling Stone interview when he spoke to THP.
According to the Daily Mail, both Murphy and Winfrey have been confirmed as cast members of the film. Murphy will play play Pryor’s father, Leroy “Buck Carter” Pryor; Winfrey will play Pryor’s grandmother, who ran a brothel and raised the legendary comic there.
The two will join Mike Epps, who will play Pryor, and Kate Hudson, who is set to play Pryor’s widow, Jennifer Lee Pryor. Epps’ highly coveted, lead role was also auditioned for by Nick Cannon and Marlon Wayans, according to the report. After much deliberation about securing a powerhouse cast, The Weinstein Company and director Lee Daniels are slated to start production in March, after wrapping up the second season of his hit Fox series, Empire.
With such a star-studded cast, this film is sure to be one of the biggest, most talked about productions upon its big screen reveal.
Lee Daniels plays entirely too much!
Earlier this year we told you that Patti LaBelle joined the growing list of A-list celebrities set to appear in season two of “Empire.” Of course, this won’t be her first time on the hit series. As you may recall, she made a cameo during the season one finale. Luckily for us, the world renowned singer will be returning for an encore.
During a recent chat with Huff Post Live, Aunt Patti revealed a conversation she had with series creator Lee Daniels, and it’s hilarious. Apparently, Daniels was looking to go there with her character this season and asked Miss Patti if she’d be willing to go wigless!
“We talked about it about three months ago. He said ‘LaLa,’ — he calls me ‘LaLa’ — ‘would you take your wig off?’ I said, ‘Hell no,’” she laughed. “So he’s trying to do something daring with me, but I ain’t going out like that. I love you Lee, but no, no. Viola Davis did it well on ‘How To Get Away With Murder,’ but not Miss Patti. I can’t do it.”
Honey, Miss LaBelle ain’t having it! And honestly, we can’t blame her.
In other Patti news, the songstress is preparing for the release of her first jazz album, which remains untitled at this time. The project, which is scheduled for a late 2015 release, features 13 tracks including the singer’s renditions of songs by Nina Simone (“Wild Is the Wind”), Frank Sinatra (“Softly As I Leave You”), and Gloria Lynne (“The Folks That Live On The Hill”) just to name a few.
LaBelle says that she’s excited to have been able to include classical music on the album and is thrilled that newer artists have been doing the same.
“I’m very happy to hear some of the young singer’s going back to old school, like Tyrese, Jill [Scott], and Johnny Gill,” she said. “They’re singing songs like they used to be sung — with basic R&B chord changes and basic stories.”
We’re looking forward to this gem’s new album and of course, her “Empire” appearance.
After battling it out with Robin Thicke and Pharrell over “Blurred Lines,” the Gaye family is ready to collect coins from another well known individual in the entertainment industry.
Gaye’s son, Marvin Gaye III is planning to sue Empire creator Lee Daniels, as he says the show was his idea and brainchild. Marvin is claiming that he registered a treatment for a show called Diamonds & Ballads (aka Those Sons of Riches!) in 2010 through the Writers Guild of America. The treatment of the show describes a family in the music industry–”a music based ‘black’ and ‘hip’ version of ‘Dynasty’–with a little Sopranos.” Gaye is said to have shopped around the show to a number of TV execs but was turned down. He now believes people that Lee Daniels is associated with may have received emails regarding the treatment he pitched, which was loosely based on the lives of his family and the Berry Gordy family. Now, Gaye wants in on the coinage Empire has raked in.
Gaye also recalls Daniels saying, “I wanted to make a black Dynasty,” back in 2014 after the show gained its success. He also mentions that Lee said Empire was similar to The Sopranos, supposedly the same words that were used to describe Gaye’s treatment.
According to TMZ, Gaye’s lawyer says that he is plans to file a lawsuit against Daniels, Fox network and others associated in the matter. “We understand that three things can’t be hidden for long: the Sun, the Moon and the Truth!” the lawyer said.
We’ve all known from the very first episode of “Empire,” that Taraji P. Henson is the star-uh of the show. We literally wait for the moments when she’ll appear on screen.
So, if “Empire” were ever to make a sequel or prequel, our girl would have to equal or more screen time.
And according to the show’s co-creator and producer Lee Daniels, that’s exactly what’s happening. During his speech at the Television Critics Association summer press tour in Beverly Hills, California he said: “There is going to be a spin-off from Empire, without question. We’ve talked about it in the writers’ room already.”
He continued, “There’s so much ripe story that we’ve talked about already—about Cookie’s family, what makes her her. That in itself is fascinating to me.”
And they’re going to let the star shine.
“Here Cookie is now, but how did she get to where she’s at right now?” Lee stated. “Let’s go back and understand her mother, her sisters. Let’s understand the makings of her. It’d be like a prequel.”
If this is done right, it could perfect.
Would you watch a Cookie prequel?
Breaking all types of records, Daniels is a golden boy over at Fox this year. An “Empire” prequel won’t be the only project he has in the pipeline.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Daniels is also developing a new show called “Star.” It will center around three women in Atlanta, Georgia who form a girl group and navigate that music business as they increasingly become a force to be reckoned with in the industry.
Sounds a lot like TLC, huh?
If you’re a young lady who can sing and act, Daniels is looking for women to participate in the project.
By now, everyone has seen or at least heard about Lee Daniels’ fake me out Instagram video in response to the dearth of Emmy nominations his record-breaking hit show garnered. In quintessential Daniels fashion, the Empire co-creator and executive producer, with breakout star Jussie Smollett by his side, said, “f**k these mother”— well, you know the rest. The video was tagged with the hashtag #emmyniceguyoverwith. And while some took Daniels’ words to heart, he made it perfectly clear that he was just joking. In a follow-up video, Daniels stated that he loves the Emmys and wishes all the nominees well. But die-hard Empire fans have no chill and felt the show was snubbed when Emmy nominations were announced more than a week ago.
As is oft the case come awards season, it should go without saying that not every show is going to get nominated. And thankfully, unlike this year’s Oscars, whose lack of diversity in the acting categories spawned the hilarious yet poignant hashtag #OscarsSoWhite, the list of actors nominated for this year’s Emmys is more diverse than usual. Taraji P. Henson is nominated for Lead Actress in a Drama for her role as Cookie Lyon, along with How To Get Away With Murder star, Viola Davis. This marks the first time that two Black women have been nominated for the coveted category simultaneously. And though Empire is also nominated for Outstanding Costumes, that’s where the nominations stop. No love for Lucious himself, actor Terrence Howard, or the show as a whole for Outstanding Drama Series. And while not everyone’s aboard the Empire train (some have argued the show perpetuates negative stereotypes about Black folks), given the show’s overwhelming popularity and success, and the industry’s obsession with ratings, folks are wondering what gives. After all, Television Academy members wouldn’t have any shows to nominate if it weren’t for the fans and viewers who consume and keep alive the very content they’re voting for. Not to mention, in one season, the critically-acclaimed hip-hop drama became a pop culture phenomenon. Thanks to word of mouth and the Twitterverse, Empire’s viewers grew exponentially week after week. This feat is virtually unheard of in network television and in today’s DVR world. In short, Empire changed the game. So what more does the Academy need to acknowledge the show for all its juicy, plot-twisting, meme-worthy greatness?
Clearly, the Emmys are not the People’s Choice Awards. If that were the case, it’s safe to say that Empire would be all up and through the nominations. The Emmys are a symbol of peer recognition and Television Academy members’ votes on nominees and winners – presumably for the work (and the people) they know, the work they’ve hopefully seen and loved, and the work they’ve played a hand in. This is part of the reason why we’re used to seeing repeat offenders. Shows like Modern Family, Mad Men and The Big Bang Theory have been nominated and won time and again. Seemingly, once a favorite is picked, it’s difficult for newer shows to break in.
But the Academy has thousands of voting members, members who clearly thought enough of Henson to nominate her for her performance. The impact of her on-screen presence alone is obvious. Cookie is bold and sexy; she never holds her tongue and will tell you the truth, even when you don’t want to hear it (especially when you don’t want to hear it). Because of Cookie, Henson’s star power has shot through the roof. She has graced countless magazine covers, some with Howard. That makes her instantly recognizable to people, even to those who haven’t actually seen an episode of Empire, and has given that much more credit to both her and talent. But as Henson recently stated in a Los Angeles Times interview, “Cookie is nothing without Lucious. She is nothing without her family.”
In Lucious Lyon, Terrence Howard plays the kind of man people fear. He’s ruthless and will stop at nothing to get what he wants, even at the risk of harming those he supposedly loves. I’m not suggesting that’s the reason Howard wasn’t nominated for an Emmy. Clearly, as previously stated, there’s a lot at play, campaign ads and politics included. But let’s face it. Empire is unmistakably and unapologetically Black and “Black shows” are still seen as less viable in Hollywood and are thought to lack relatability. (And yet, when shows or movies with predominantly Black casts succeed and defy the limits put on them, it’s always met with surprise.) Could this be the reason why Empire was snubbed? It doesn’t help either that the show is a prime-time soap opera, a genre that’s not exactly favored in the television world. But that didn’t stop a show like Desperate Housewives from being highly celebrated and recognized. Or Scandal, for that matter, which has soap-like qualities.
If “best” were defined as most popular, Empire would be the best show on network television. But perhaps the Academy isn’t ready for the series. Given the show’s popularity, it should be around long enough to be able to garner more nods in the future. It has already made history and there’s plenty room to make more.
What do you think? Did Empire deserve more Emmy nominations?