The day before Empire premiered on Fox, Danny Strong, who co-created the blockbuster hit series with Lee Daniels, called his agent to ask about ratings. Fresh off the box-office success of The Butler, which he wrote, and critical accolades for his TV movies Game Change and Recount—which aired on HBO, where viewership is more of a novelty than a necessity—he was kind of clueless about the whole thing.
“I called and said, ‘So what’s good?’” he says, laughing hysterically at the silliness of the question now.
After all, Empire’s unprecedented ratings success has become the stuff of TV legend. The wildly popular, outlandishly bold, and irresistibly addictive soap opera about a hip-hop mogul and his epically flawed family was the first drama in 21 years to score higher ratings in each of its first three weeks. And then it kept growing for every single one of its nine episodes, all leading up to its hotly anticipated season finale airing Wednesday night.
Empire debuted in January to a 3.8 rating and a coronation by critics as the heir to Dynasty, a riveting and ridiculous primetime soap opera worthy of our infatuation. Last week’s episode drew a spectacular 5.8 rating and cemented its status as a bona fide pop culture phenomenon—one that deals with race and homosexuality in ways both nuanced and loud, and, for once, has people of all races and demographics watching at the same time.
Don’t miss tonight’s Season Finale of EMPIRE on Fox and find out Lucious Lyon Big Secret! Special Guest tonight Jennifer Hudson, Snoop Dog, Rita Ora, Patti LaBelle.
‘Empire’ Co-Creator: ‘Attacking Homophobia’ Was My Agenda
It’s been decades since a TV show has been as addictive as Empire. Ahead of its finale, co-creator Danny Strong discusses the show’s record rise, controversies, backlash, and more.