Fox's "Empire" is breaking new ground on TV, becoming the #1 new show.

Fox’s “Empire” is breaking new ground on TV, becoming the #1 new show.

THE SECOND this new Fox show aired, the cultural voyeur in me knew “Empire” was something very special. It wasn’t just because Taraji P. Henson, playing Cookie, was one of the stars. Terrence Howard is always electric, see Hustle and Flow, but this role as Lucious Lyon pushes him to reveal more than his thug self. Then there is the music and who’s behind this project.

I’m beyond addicted.

The most daring part of “Empire” is the true-to-life knock-down drag-out discussions between Terrence Howard and his son, Jamal, played by Jussie Smollett, because he’s gay. Howard’s eviscerating portrayal of an African American father who thinks his gay son is a “bitch,” is as searing as it is evocative. It comes to life because of the truth embedded in Lucious’s struggle to understand “the little girl” who is actually a man.

Vulture has more, taking viewers up to episode 4.

The rise of Fox’s Empire has been swift and stunning: Following an unexpectedly high-rated debut three weeks ago, the music-driven soap opera from Lee Daniels has managed the exceedingly rare feat of adding audience in each of its subsequent airings. It’s passed ABC’s How to Get Away With Murder as TV’s No. 1 new show this season among viewers under 50…

But even it does, it will still rank as one of the most successful series launches in the past couple years, and serve as a much-needed ego boost to a broadcast-TV industry continually being written off as extinct. The question now: Will Empire have an impact beyond its 9 p.m. Wednesday time slot — both for Fox and for the TV business in general? …

[…] After all, Empire is in many ways Fox’s attempt to capitalize on the smashing success of Shonda Rhimes’s Scandal and How to Get Away With Murder, both in style and in taking a diverse approach to casting. It’s on that front — opening up more roles to actors of color — that Empire might have its most immediate impact. Pilot-casting season is just now underway, with the broadcast networks all scurrying to place hundreds of actors into their new projects. This season’s two biggest drama hits (Empire and Murder) and the only new comedy success (black-ish) all feature nonwhite actors in leading roles. It’s hard to see how this fact doesn’t further push execs and producers to diversify their casts. After all, nothing changes behavior in Hollywood faster than the prospect of a big hit. [Vulture]