Why 'Empire' Is The True Heir Apparent To 'Breaking Bad' And 'Lost'

March 18, 2015 4:53 PM

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The two-hour season finale of Fox's Fox's Empire Empire airs tonight. The Lee Daniels/Danny Strong soap opera involving the patriarch and owner of a massively successful music business came out of the gates swinging with superb ratings. But the real story is what happened next, as the buzzy and well-reviewed drama grew in live viewers after each new episode over the nine weeks following its January premiere, which may be outright unprecedented on modern television history. It went up, up, up (as opposed to up down, up down, up down) and currently averages 15.8 million viewers and is the top-rated network show among the prized 18-49 year olds. The soundtrack also debuted at #1 last week on the Billboard charts, over Madonna’s new album. The story of the Lyon family has not just become a big hit but has helped reaffirm the worth of network television even as The Walking Dead is basically the most-watched episodic and Netflix Netflix shows like (the terrific) The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt or HBO dramas likeThe Jinx dominate the conversation. More than being one of the biggest network hits in years, Empire has helped (along with arguably How to Get Away with Murder, Fresh Off the Boat, and the CW superhero shows among others) made network television relevant again. Empire is on the way to becoming the “next Lost,” the “next 24,” or the ”next Breaking Bad” precisely because it is doing its own thing and not explicitly mimicking the successes of the recent past.

For those unaware (and I will try to avoid explicit story spoilers beyond the pilot), Empire concerns the attempts of music mogul Lucious Lyon (Terrence Howard) to take his company public while deciding which of his three sons will take over the company after he is gone. There are two wrinkles right...

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