An “Empire” on the Rise

Taraji P. Henson and Terrence Howard fight for Empire.
Taraji P. Henson and Terrence Howard fight for Empire.
Taraji P. Henson and Terrence Howard fight for Empire.

The long-anticipated series Empire, from acclaimed big-screen director Lee Daniels (Precious, The Butler), stars Terrence Howard as rap mogul Lucious Lyon, who rose from petty drug dealer to the head of Empire. When Lyon finds out he has ALS, he is determined to choose his successor from among his three sons: Andre (Trai Byers), Jamal (Jussie Smollett) or Hakeem (Bryshere Gray), none of whom are ideal for the gig. Enter Howard’s Hustle & Flow costar, the brilliant Taraji P. Henson, as Lyon’s ex-wife Cookie, who is released from prison after 17 years and wants her share of Empire, too. With this cast and music by Timbaland, it’s my pick for the best of the new season.

Constance Wu and Hudson Yang in Fresh off the Boat
Constance Wu and Hudson Yang are Fresh Off the Boat

In Fresh Off the Boat, a Chinese-American family is forced to readjust after they relocate to Florida in the mid-’90s. Based on restaurateur and food personality Eddie Huang’s memoir, the show stars Randall Park — the very same Randall Park who plays Kim Jong-un in The Interview. This show could be a winner or it could go the way of every other failed ethnocentric sitcom. Here’s hoping.

Story continues below.

Apparently, Vince Gilligan wrote a pilot script ages ago, pre-Breaking Bad, and now it’s a CBS series. We’re talking about Battle Creek, which stars Dean Winters and Josh Duhamel as a detective and FBI agent paired up in Battle Creek, Michigan. I have adored Duhamel ever since his stint on All My Children, so let’s hope this bro-show-cop-show sticks around. Anyone see my Rice Krispies?

Following the tawdry copy Gracepoint, the return of the original BBC series Broadchurch is a welcome sight. With David Tennant as Detective Alec Hardy and Olivia Colman as Detective Ellie Miller, Broadchurch enters its second season with a hush-hush storyline and Charlotte Rampling and Marianne Jean-Baptiste joining the cast.

I don’t have to be hush-hush about State of Affairs. The show, and star Katherine Heigl, ain’t doing it for me. Every week, when the predictable something goes wrong, Heigl gets that look on her face of “I know I have to break the rules, but damn it, I’m Charlie and I need to save the day!” Yawn. This is ho-hum, CIA crap that Piper Perabo and Covert Affairs do way better. Even Alfre Woodard, as POTUS, can’t make this dog bark.

This Week on the Tube…
Season 5 of Downton Abbey begins with Lord Grantham sinking further into financial disaster. No matter what this family goes through, I’m glued to the set. Maybe it’s just Maggie Smith and Penelope Wilton who keep me coming back, but Highclere Castle, the beautiful estate of Lord Carnarvon that serves as Downton, cannot be overlooked.

Naomi Grossman as Pepper in AHS: Freakshow
Naomi Grossman as Pepper in AHS: Freakshow

Best TV Moment of the Week…
Hands down: Naomi Grossman as Pepper in American Horror Story: Freakshow. Grossman, with shaved head, outlandishly large ears and buck teeth, has embodied Pepper since AHS: Asylum and brings her character full circle this season. I must confess that I haven’t watched every season, but Grossman’s character makes me want to.

And Don’t Get Me Started…
When will Bill Cosby’s denials end? It’s up to 26 women now. His poor wife Camille, forever at his side, is putting on a brave front, but when you live with someone for as many years as she has, you gotta know something is going on. As for Cosby trying to discredit his accusers: really?

Previous articleOnce Upon a Christmas Window Dressing
Next articleRemembering the Brilliant Stories of Mavis Gallant
The TV Junkie was preceded in her family by a large mahogany cabinet that housed a small screen with a large speaker below. Thus began her love affair with the older sibling in the living room. Theirs was a tenuous relationship, prone to mishaps (forgetting to use the special "screen" for Winky Dink), joyous events (Julie & Carol at Carnegie Hall), sad moments (Clarabelle saying goodbye to the Peanut Gallery) and a wide range of emotions (the funeral of John F. Kennedy and the Inauguration of Barack Obama). From Captain Video to Star Trek to Lost; from A Brighter Day to The Edge of Night to One Life to Live; from Peyton Place to Dynasty to Desperate Housewives; there has never been a greater love, than that of the TVJ and the best friend a girl could ever have. Like "The TV Junkie" on Facebook and follow her on Twitter: @thetvjunkiepml.