Fox Scores Big With ‘Empire,’ New Show Is Network’s Best Debut In Years

Fox scored a real winner with Empire. Not only did it devour social media for director Lee Daniels’ depiction of an LGBT character in black culture and the hip hop community, it also scored huge ratings for the network.

According to TVLine, Empire, which stars Taraji P. Henson and Terrence Howard, scored 9.8 million viewers with a 3.7 demo ratings. This makes Empire the highest-rated series debut in three years for Fox. The last time a series pulled in these kind of numbers, it was with the ill-fated Touch starring Kiefer Sutherland.

Overall, Empire is tied with ABC’s How to Get Away With Murder for the top spot of the television season. Seeing as How to Get Away With Murder already had a built-in brand and legacy, that’s pretty impressive for a show that doesn’t have Shonda Rhimes’ stamp on it.

Empire is a show about a rags to riches hip hop artist Lucious (Terrence Howard), who worked his way up to becoming a CEO of his own entertainment empire with the help of his estranged ex-wife Cookie (Taraji P. Henson). Together they had three sons, who are being primed to take over Lucious’ empire due to an ALS diagnosis.

The show delves into the different relationships both parents have with their three sons. The driving storyline that makes Empire a fascinating watch revolves around the shy middle child, Jamal, who is gay and considered a second class citizen by his father, but who’s undeniably the most talented of the sons. The oldest son, Andre, is a business savvy man, but lacks the charisma his father needs from him to show that he can handle both the business and social lifestyle that the music industry demands. The youngest son, Hakeen, is a rapper who would much rather roll around in money and women than put in the hard work, but either way he’s championed by his father because of his tough masculinity.

Empire also did well with critics, as they applauded how truthful each portrayal was. Director Lee Daniels (The Butler) opened up in an interview with Time about the truthful realities he faced once again while directing Empire. In a scene that sees Jamal trying on his mother’s shoes only to be shoved into a trash can by his father, Daniels points out that specific scene in being the one he had the most trouble directing.

“When the kid put the shoes on, having him walk in front of his father, I had a meltdown. I was crying at the monitor because it happened, you know. My soul left my body, I was looking down, it was a weird moment, I couldn’t direct it.. I was terrified and it took me right back to a place of truth, which is what this show’s about. There’s nothing in it that’s fake. Every person who’s on that screen is someone I know.”

Empire is on Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on Fox.

[Image via Fox]