Hip-hop drama Empire is the best show on TV this week

American drama Empire is a powerhouse series inspired by the hip-hop music industry.

American drama Empire is a powerhouse series inspired by the hip-hop music industry.

REVIEW: 

Knockout first and second episodes of Empire (TV2, 8.45pm) on Tuesday night had this viewer readily booking in the rest of the series to watch actress Taraji P. Henson and Terrence Howard go up against each other in this feisty King Lear-ish musical soap opera.

Think Nashville but with a different style of music and an almost entirely black American cast. Howard's at the core playing Lucious Lyon, an over reaching music mogul who according to his own self-mythology lifted himself out of poverty and crime through the power of music.

He's at a cross roads in his life after being diagnosed with a rare cancer and given only three years to live and with his business under threat, has to decide which of his three very different sons will take over the business.

Unaware of his terminal illness, the three sons are on notice to demonstrate leadership to take up the top spot at Empire recordings. Will it be Andre, the straight businessman married to an ambitious white girl; Hakeem, a spoilt bling-splattered rapper; or Jamal, a closet gay talented muso who is his father's least favourite?

To complicate matters Cookie, Lucious' first wife who took the rap for him and did 17 years inside, gets released from prison and wants a slice of the company. It was her seed money that started up the company and Lucious owes her big time.

Cookie (as in smart) struts out of the prison gates wearing the clothes she wore in when she went inside a couple of decades ago. She makes a bee-line for Jamal, the least afraid of his strong-as-mustard mommy as she tries to coax this reluctant musician out of the shadows and into the lime light to make him a star.

Lucious knows that the homophobic black community won't want a bar of Jamal and urges him to make a show of stepping out with the fairer sex while Cookie sees an angle and signs away her rights to the company on the proviso that she gets to manage Jamal.

"I wanna show you that a faggot really can run this company," she boasts as she thinks several moves ahead to use the closet gay story line, and Jamal's cruel rejection by his father.

Cookie'a take-no-prisoners, pistol-packing Mamma kind of a gal and the clothes she wears are as delightfully loud and sassy and as audacious as her personality. I predict a cult clobber following equivalent to the influence of the stylish threads worn by the Sex and the City gang.

Lucious still admires Cookie but finds her scary. After all it takes one to know one as we watch him in cold blood put a bullet through his best friend's head. Even if you loathe hip-hop and rap music, this is a powerhouse series which promises guest appearances by big stars such as Beyonce. Best show of the week.

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 One to Watch

Check out TV3's bizarre new show Lip Sync Battle tonight after the final of Campbell Live. Anne Hathaway, Jimmy Fallon and Emily Blunt put their laughing gear up against each other in competition to 7.30pm, while Prime serves up a new series of Bones at 8.30pm. 

 - Stuff

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