The recently-released first season of “Empire” has a lot to offer — part “Dynasty,” part “Glee” and — to those familiar with the fascinating and sordid history behind Berry Gordy’s music empire — part Motown. Like “Dynasty,” “Empire” is a high-glossed soap opera involving the power struggle within an extended family. Like “Glee,” there is a ton of terrific music and up-to-the-minute progressive politics.
Luscious Lyon (the great Terrence Howard) is a drug dealer turned hip-hop star who, with the help of his mouthy and musically brilliant wife Cookie (Taraji Henson), built Empire, an entertainment conglomerate that dwarfs Motown but shares many of its legal, romantic and family entanglements.
Like Springsteen or Madonna or Bono, Luscious is past his prime but still a living musical legend. With his eye on a legacy he looks to his three twenty-something sons, Jamal, Hakeem, and Andre, for a successor. Andre is already the company CFO. Jamal and Hakeem are budding music superstars.
What ensues is a bitchy, deliciously nasty, and melodramatic battle royale with Cookie stealing every scene lucky enough to have her. The whole cast is super, though, and it is good to see Howard in the kind of iconic project his iconic talent deserves.
“Empire” is trashy (in a good way) escapism done at a very high level. The plot twists and then it turns and then it bounces and then it jumps up and down and then it does a cartwheel, all within a single episode. The characters all have rough edges, some rougher than others. And the show is addicting. There’s not much depth in all this plot-plot-plot-plot, but you definitely want to know what happens next.
Except for the explicit gay sex.
In every episode there’s explicit gay sex.
In our increasingly fascist, politically correct culture I’m a member of the Ku Klux Klan for saying this, but watching two guys get randy and intimate makes me uncomfortable. It’s icky. I cover my eyes, and most of the heterosexual males about to call me a bigot agree with me but don’t have the courage to say so
Unfortunately, knowing explicit gay sex is a mainstay in every episode, as the season rolled on, it got oppressive and undermined the many other pleasures of the show.
Which is a shame. “Empire” is so much fun otherwise. I don’t even mind the politics, which are handled with just the right amount of cynicism.
Until the Left invented same sex marriage as a means to strip Christians of their rights and put them in jail, I was to the Left of Democrats for decades on the issue of gay rights. What consenting adults do in the privacy of their own homes is of no concern to me or to anyone else.
But that doesn’t mean I want to watch.
‘Empire” Season One is available at Amazon.com.
Follow John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC