What Went Right: Empire

Long ago, the network television empire had been doomed to fall. The beasts of cable and streaming had destroyed almost all of its forces, destroying any and all of its social relavance. But on January 7, 2015, a new band of warriors arose, and when they fought, they made the Empire rise again.

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Yes folks, the critically-loved, ratings smash Empire returns for a second season, and I'm sure many readers, whether ratings gurus or casual television fans, are aware of its success. With an American Idol lead-in, the show almost immediately turned into one of the biggest television phenomenons in years. Beginning with a 3.8 in Adults 18-49, the show took the highest premiere for a new show in the 2014-15 season, and managed to grow from it in Episode 2...and then grow again in Episode 3...and then it grew again...and again...and again! It soon wasn't a show that was changed by the industry, but rather the industry was changed by Empire. But how did that even happen? How did such a niche concept become the biggest TV show since Walking Dead? Was it boredom? Is it witchcraft? Well the best way to look at it is to look at the show, and the world around it, and see what Empire did right.

Gotta Love Dat Diversity!
It's been said that the 2014 season was where minorities finally managed to get some more love and attention, whether it be a starring role, or being part of a predominate cast. And while shows like Jane the Virgin and Fresh Off the Boat helped give attention to Hispanic and Asian actors respectively, it was a smash season for black actors. The success of new shows like Blackish and How to Get Away with Murder, along with the veteran Scandal's continued popularity, this helped give more black actors success in our post-Everybody Hates Chris world. I bring this up, because Empire, as expected, is the peak of success in this diversity push. I bring all of this up because the fact of the matter is that having actors of color gives said people of color more interest in the series. Studies had shown that last season, the biggest shows in African-American viewers were Empire, Scandal, How to Get Away with Murder, and Blackish to name a few. By reaching a potential audience that for years was often ignored, its success can arguably be attributed for that. Of course even then that could be considered a stretch; if that's the case, why didn't shows starring Alfre Woodard or Octavia Spencer earn blockbuster success? Well, perhaps another reason for this is because...

In my opinion, the most important part of a show's premiere success is how well you advertise it. Not only heavy promotion, but strong, memorable promotion that would make people say to themselves "oh yeah, I'm definitely going to see that". And in that case, it was rather impressive. I often am wary of the idea of appealing to everyone, as it often leads to being confusing in ads and appealing to no one in the end. However, the marketing team for Empire played it relatively smart. While Empire did get promotion on PPV boxing and football to get males interested in the murder, business espionage, and strong male character elements, as well as promotions in movie theaters, flights, and Fox's sister cable networks, it was aware to give attention mainly to the female demographics. There not only was extensive ads throughout TV, even blurring into places like Bravo and VH1, but even going grassroots, with jewelry, shoes, and even Black Friday shopping bags, all putting the name on the street. Of course it was also helped by extensive promotion throughout November and December, and premiering in a week where television viewers are more likely watching. Add on the starpower of Taraji P. Henson and Terrence Howard, and you're set for a strong premiere. But while this explains its premiere, how do you explain its growth?

You Have a Thing, and You Have a Thing...
Part of Empire's success has been doing something incredibly rare: appeal to everyone. Now I'm not specifically talking about it being equally appealing to both genders. The fact is that Empire does skew female, very female actually. Nor am I talking about it being appealing to multiple races. 62% of its audience is African-American, which is a very heavy skew. More specifically, I feel that overall fans of a certain content were able to get something in return for watching. For those interested in soaps, this series revels in it, with elements of murder, treachery, deceit, family, battles, and more. For those in love with the hip-hop genre, there's plenty of music that is tailor-made to appeal to that demographic, and even others. And of course, with its discussion on marriage, homosexuality, and disorders, it's able to be provocative and bring commentary on the music and black community. All of that together is not only equal in terms of content, but many argue that all three are equal in quality. The provocative moments smart, the soap elements gripping, and the music memorable. Seeing these great moments help gave people more interest to continue watching and share the word with other people. But is there something there that is universally loved? Well...

C is for Cookie, That's Good Enough for Me!
Cookie. In my opinion, the majority of the viewers watching the show came for Cookie Lyon. Played by the lovely and talented Taraji P. Henson, Cookie's one of the rare characters that is almost impossible to hate. Witty, sarcastic, full of energy, and insanely quotable. In the style of Sheldon Cooper, she very much carried the show and became the massive breakout character. Even those who dislike the series will admit Cookie's a great character. And I feel that for many people, this is what made the show stay in the public conscious more. People loved seeing her, her situations, and whatever she had to say, and even when the show was gone, people loved talking about the Cookie Monster. Now it obviously wasn't the only reason why it became so popular, but a character that has exploded in pop culture like her certainly raised a few eyebrows and made people watch the series.

If we look at the future now, the old story is gone, and now we have a Game of Thrones-style epic in modern day. Will it appeal to the general public again? Well, with the popularity of the HBO series, the strong word of mouth, the multiple, highly-talented guest stars, and the Cookie Monster, the Empire looks to be staying strong.

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