“Empire” was such a monster hit when it ended its first season on March 18, 2015 , 17.6 million people tuned in for the big cliffhanger. The show had debuted on January 7, 2015.
Five years and six seasons later, “Empire” ended last night with just 2.94 million fans still interested in the fate of the Lyons family.
“Empire” was a rocket with no engine. The Lee Daniels soap opera about the Lyons and their Empire Records company didn’t pace itself. It burned through guest stars and crazy plots at a dizzying speed. They never teased anything, or spaced out a story. They just blew through everything and everyone without looking back.
Starring Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson, “Empire” had three strong seasons, a tepid fourth season. By the 5th season interest was already waning when cast member Jussie Smollett got involved in a scandal in Chicago. He said he’d been mugged in a racial and sex-centered hate attack. But when his story proved unfounded, headlines pounded away. Smollett was fired from the show, but the damage was done. “Empire” quickly crumbled.
It didn’t help that the sixth and last season was foreshortened by coronavirus. Production shut down before the actual final episode could be filmed. Last night’s show, which was likely its last, wasn’t what the producers wanted. But by the time it was over, a reasonable ending was capped onto the last episode filmed. They could come back. But would anyone care?
My guess is, “Empire” returns in five years with new actors and characters a la “Will and Grace.” It’s time to let nostalgia set in.
PS As I wrote in the previous item about Prince’s tribute on CBS, it wasn’t nice of the Tiffany network to schedule that show against “Empire.” You know their thinking– black, music, etc–so let’s try and steal that audience. “Empire” may pick up a few more points from delayed viewing.