Shows You Should Be Watching If You Aren’t Already: Empire

If we made a “Shows You Should Be Watching If You Aren’t Already Bingo” – and Holy Netflix, why haven’t we? – then Empire would have a full board. Empire is a musical drama about the family of music moguls and artists behind Empire Enterprises, a fictional hip-hop label. None of those key words appeal to you? Don’t worry.  Empire has so many of our favorite tv show qualities and characteristics that I can’t think of too many people who wouldn’t like it. It has a classic television series premise (we’ll explain!), family struggles, fancy people – who used to be underdogs, if you’re the sort who hates fancy people, music, few enough episodes that you can catch up in a weekend, and 90s flashbacks. Okay? Okay. Let’s discuss that bingo card.

Classic Pilot Premise
[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dBzu_jKLJek]

Maybe none of your favorite TV series are about hip-hop dynasties, but you don’t have to be into the genre, you just have to like a good television drama. One of the classic tv series premises is the “shake up”: the pilot introduces a shift in circumstances for the characters, and the series progresses as people try to deal with it. I’m going to do this without giving out much info beyond the first episode. Lucious Lyon (Terrence Howard) is the CEO of Empire Entertainment. Two of his sons are artists on the label: singer-songwriter Jamal (Jussie Smollett) and rapper Hakeem (Bryshere Y. Gray). His third son, Andre, is the company CFO. Lucious is diagnosed with ALS, and he has to decide which of his sons will take over the label. Probably not Jamal, because he’s gay and Lucious can’t deal, but who knows? So that’s shake up, Part I. Shake up part II: The boys’ mother, Cookie (Taraji P. Henson), is released from prison after 17 years and wants her piece of the Empire pie.

Biblical Family Struggles

Which child will be favored? Will the fight for their father’s blessing tear the brothers apart? And what happens when one parent chooses one child as a favorite, and the other parent favors a different child? It’s a family dynamic tug-of-war that’s as old as the Bible, and it makes for great television.

Fancy People

I like my television aspirational. Even when a series is about lower or middle-class folks, I want their clothes and house to be nicer than my own. Like, I wasn’t one of those people who was furious that Monica could never have afforded that apartment in Friends. What can I say, if I want to look at mall clothes and Ikea furniture, I can see them anytime I want. The Lyon family is totally loaded, and they’re in Hip Hop, so conspicuous consumption is the name of the game. Palatial estates, fur coats, a gold chain as thick as my hair braid … that’s what television is for. Lucious is partially inspired by Jay-Z, if that gives you an idea.

But maybe you disagree. Maybe you hate “rich people” (hi, Dad, didn’t know you read my blog). The Lyons rose from humble origins, and if the Jay-Z reference meant anything to you, you see where this is going – Lucious is a former drug dealer, which is what landed Cookie in prison.

Hip Hop
[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dtfFF_vYqrs]

I know, I said you didn’t have to like hip hop to like Empire. And you don’t. But if you do like hip hop, you should definitely be watching. Just about every episode has amazing musical performances. Jamal has a gorgeous voice, Hakeem is a solid rapper and most of his songs are collaborations with other great artists, and the original songs are actually good. Since it’s a show about the music industry, the transition to song is pretty seamless. It’s not like a musical where everyone is talking and then decides to rap-battle their family meeting (I would watch that though). It’s not hokey. Think more Nashville, less Smash.

90s Flashbacks

If there’s one thing a tv series needs to be truly zeitgeist-y, it’s 90s stuff. Counterintuitive, but you know it’s true. Cookie was arrested 17 years ago, and there are plenty of flashbacks that take us back into the world of Empire during that time. For those of us who grew up on 90s hip hop and R&B, it’s a dream come true. [We also think you should be watching Fresh Off The Boat, another 2015 series with a fondness for 90s hip hop. What a time to be alive.] All I can do is hope that as the episodes go on, we’ll get to delve into the East Coast/ West Coast feud.

Speaking of the 90s, you may recognize Jamal from the 1990s series On Our Own, where he played an orphan growing up with his J-named siblings (sis Jurnee Smollett is one of those actresses that you definitely know, even if you think you don’t). He was also in Mighty Ducks. 90s royalty, is all I’m saying.

And You Can Watch It All Over A Weekend

There are a lot of shows I know I should be watching if I’m not already, but it’s just too hard. If there’s more than a season or so, you aren’t just deciding to start a show, you’re making a massive time commitment. But Empire just started in January, and as of right now, you can watch all of the back episodes online or on demand. Once you’re all caught up – so, by tonight if you have a free and clear schedule today, and by next week for sure, unless you have a busy weekend – you need to be watching this show. It airs on Wednesdays on Fox. The more people who watch it, the more people we have to discuss it with, so thanks in advance.

 

2014 Unofficial Guide to Your New TV Addictions

May is a big month for television. In addition to all the season finales and unfortunate cancellations (TROPHY WIFE UGHHH), networks also reveal the pilots that have been picked up to series for the upcoming season. Every year, there are trailers that make you think ‘Why da faq did they pick this show up’ but then there’s always the ‘I need this show to come on now because watching the 3 minute preview isn’t enough’. To help you weed through the bramble, I’ve compiled a list of shows I think actually have a shot of making it at least one season. Are any of these your early favorites too?

The Comedies

A to Z

Thursdays, 9:30pm • NBC

If you’re a Mad Men fan, you might recognize the lead male as cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs Michael Ginsberg. If you’re a Mindy Project fan, you might remember him as the pretentious guy Mindy dated who adorably played the ukelele and sang a Katy Perry song. And if you’re a How I Met Your Mother fan, you might recognize the lead female as Tracy ‘I’m Not a Plot Device’ McConnell.

I’m going to be honest with you guys and tell you that I have probably watched this trailer at least 8 times already, which is probably 7 times too many. While Ben Feldman and Cristin Milioti aren’t necessarily big actor names like some of the other shows that got picked up for next season, I hope people still decide to watch it, because it looks super cute… and maybe a little HIMYM-esque? Whatevs, I’m into it.

Bad Judge

Thursdays, 9:00pm • NBC

The great Kate Walsh returns to network TV! Addison Montgomery has switched occupations and is now a judge. A ‘Bad Judge’ if you will. I didn’t really expect much before watching this, but I was delightfully surprised when I literally LOLed a couple times. It’s reminiscent of Bad Teacher, both the Cameron Diaz movie and the TV show which was recently cancelled after just a few episodes (side rant: I only saw the pilot, but it was hilarious. Come ON CBS).

Black-ish

Wednesdays, 9:30pm • ABC

Like Bad Judge, I wasn’t really expecting much, but again I was delightfully surprised. I’m just gonna go ahead and say this about Anthony Anderson: he doesn’t have the greatest track record with his own starring shows. But this show is different from his previous ones, and I think Laurence Fishburne has a lot to do with it. His presence makes you take the show seriously. And ABC did a great job at pairing it after Modern Family, because it has that same sort of tone to it. A sitcom with heart. What’s it about, you ask? Family.

The McCarthys

Thursdays, 9:30pm • CBS

I might be a little biased because I used to live in Boston, but I’m always partial to shows that are set in that great city. Admittedly, not all of those shows are good, but this one has potential. The show is centers on a typical Boston family and the gay son who never really fit in. It’s important to note that Joey McIntyre, Boston’s pride and joy, is also in this show, so that gives you a reason to watch, if you’re into like, NKOTB or the 80s. Also worth noting that this show is super CBS. It’s multicam, shot in front of a live audience, includes corny jokes that your mom laughs at because she also watches Two and a Half Men still, type show.

Tribeca

This is a cop show starring Rashida Jones and created and executive produced by Steve Carell, his wife Nancy, and Conan O’Brien. That is all.

Honorable Mentions

Marry Me: Starring Casey Wilson & Ken Marino, created by a producer of Happy Endings (also Casey’s fiance IRL)

I really want this show to do well, because, RIP Happy Endings, but mehhh I hope the pilot is better than the trailer.

Mulaney : Starring John Mulaney, Martin Short, Nasim Pedrad

This show has taken a really long time to get off the ground, but SNL writer alum John Mulaney is really funny and I’m glad his show is finally getting air time. Except I also really don’t want it to be Seinfeld-esque.

Selfie: Starring John Cho & Karen Gillan

Horrible name and theme for an actually funny trailer. It’s a modern day My Fair Lady, except all the social media references make it outdated already. It’ll be interesting to see if viewers take to it or not.

Midseason Shows

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt {Ellie Kemper, produced by Tina Fey}, Mission Control {Krysten Ritter, produced by Will Ferrell}, Mr. Robinson {The Office’s Craig Robinson},  The Last Man on Earth{Will Forte}, Fresh Off the Boat {Asians}

The Dramas

How to Get Away with Murder

Thursdays, 10:00pm • ABC

Hey, Shondaland loyalists – this show is for you. To everyone else waiting outside the park, get in line, because Shonda Rhimes is LIT’RALLY taking over Thursday nights, and you need to be there or else be left out of watercooler (?) discussions on Friday. Viola Davis stars in this new drama that is on top of my list for new series this fall. And if you’re wondering how you know the tall, black kid – it’s because he played Dean Thomas in the Harry Potter movies. DEAN FRIGGIN THOMAS.

Gracepoint

Thursdays, 9:00pm • Fox

I’m not a Doctor Who fan, but I imagine that you Whovians are probably excited that David Tennant is going to be on American TV. Gracepoint is a crime drama based on U.K.’s Broadchurch, which David also starred in. In fact Broadchurch just won 3 TV BAFTAs including Best Drama on Sunday, which is basically the Emmys of the U.K. Another reason to get excited for this is that Anna Gunn, everyone’s favorite drug lord accomplice is back and on the other side of the coin as a detective, as they try to solve the murder of a young boy. Hopefully this turns out better than The Killing.

Gotham

Mondays, 8:00pm • Fox

The superhero world expands yet again, this time with the focus on Batman’s Gotham City, and more importantly on Comissioner Gordon played by Ryan Atwood Ben McKenzie.

Constantine

Fridays, 10:00pm • NBC

I’m not a big comic book person, but I just think this show’s going to do really well because everyone else seems to be into comic book stuff these days. Also I couldn’t get through the whole trailer because I got grossed out.

State of Affairs

Mondays, 10:00pm • NBC

The ever-polarizing Katherine Heigl is back on TV as a CIA analyst trying to find out who killed her fiance. Her fiance whose mom is the President of the United States of America. And also Alfre Woodard.

Honorable Mentions

Stalker: Maggie Q and Dylan McDermott

This thriller is created by Kevin Williamson, so obviously it’s going to be creepy. Maybe creepy enough to become a hit.

Midseason Shows

Backstrom {Rainn Wilson}, Agent Carter {Another Marvel Universe hit}, Wayward Pines {Twin Peaks like with a lot of Oscar-nominated actors}, Battle Creek {Vince Gilligan proves that he’s a genius and it wasn’t just luck with Breaking BAd} Empire {Terrance Howard and Taraji P. Henson, produced by Lee Daniels, written by Gilmore Girls’ Doyle McMaster/Danny Strong about a hip hop empire}, Galavant (A medevil musical. No really. Just watch the trailer}

 

A Fall TV Guide To Non-Crappy Shows

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! No, I’m not talking about Christmas, it’s the glorious return of television after the fall hiatus! While our favorite shows are returning, lest we forget there is a whole new crop of shows just dying to be kept alive by network execs.

In television history, this time of year determines who will have a job at the end of the season and who will not. Some are bad, some are great, some are bad but go on for multiple seasons (Two and a Half Men), some are great but only live on for half a season (RIP Ben and Kate).

But have no fear. We are here to help guide you to the land of good television. Who knows if these shows will be the last ones standing, but at least you’ll waste your time on good shows instead of the bad ones. Do you have any favorites that are missing from this list?

The Dramas

The Blacklist

Premieres: Monday, September 23rd – NBC – 10pm

Starring: James Spader (Boston Legal, The Office, all around 80s icon), Diego Klattenhoff (Uncle Mike from Homeland, Shane Omen from Mean Girls)

Plot: James Spader plays Red Reddington, one of the FBI’s most wanted. He surprisingly turns himself in and offers to help catch a long-thought-dead terrorist, but he’ll only work with new FBI profiler Liz Keen, played by Megan Boone. This terrorist guy isn’t the only criminal Red can help put behind bars, he has a massive list – a ‘blacklist’ if you will – of other wanted politicians, mobsters, spies and terrorists, but will only help the FBI if Liz continues as his partner.

Why You Should Give It a Shot: Out of all the network shows debuting this fall, The Blacklist tested better than all other 125 NBC drama pilots in the past decade. Better than ER? So this has to be good. Or the pilot, at least.

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D

Premieres: Tuesday, September 24th – ABC – 8pm

Starring: Clark Gregg (duh, Agent Coulson), Ming-Na Wen (ER, the greatest Disney classic Mulan)

Plot: You may remember Agent Coulson from the Marvel superhero movie franchise, and now he’s getting his on show. Coulson puts together a task force to investigate the growing number of people with superpowers, and that’s pretty much it.

Why You Should Give It a Shot: Because it’s supposed to be the biggest new show this season, and you don’t want to be the guy who has nothing to say around the watercooler the following day. Do people still go to watercoolers?

Masters of Sex

Premieres: Sunday, September 29th – Showtime – 10pm

Starring: Michael Sheen (Frost/Nixon, Wesley Snipes on 30 Rock, ex-boyfriend of Rachel McAdams), Lizzy Caplan (Party Down, Cloverfield, ex-costar of Rachel McAdams)

Plot: Set in the 1950s, this drama centers around William Masters (Sheen) and Virginia Johnson (Caplan) as they take on the risque study of researching the medical side of sex.

Why You Should Give It a Shot: This is the only non-network show on the list, but it seems too good to leave it off. Shows that push the button are always poised to be good TV, but with a cast like this and the perfect mix of drama and comedy, this is definitely one to look out for come awards season.

The Comedies

Trophy Wife

Premieres: Tuesday, September 24th – ABC – 9:30pm

Starring: Bradley Whitford (The West Wing, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, often the center of my dreams), Malin Ackerman (Couples Retreat, Rock of Ages), Marcia Gay Harden (Mystic River, season two resident lawyer on The Newsroom), Michaela Watkins (former SNL cast member)

Plot: Bradley Whitford is on his third wife – the young, reformed party girl Kate (Ackerman). She is thrown into an unconventional family, which includes his first ex-wife Diane (Harden), the hardass doctor with whom he has two teenage kids, and second ex-wife Jackie, a granola/hippie mom with whom he adopted a spunky Asian kid.

Why You Should Give It a Shot: Because Bradley Whitford needs to be on a TV series that is successful again. Also it’s funny. Don’t trust me? (rude) You can watch the pilot on Hulu before it comes on the small screen!

Brooklyn Nine Nine
Premieres: Tuesday, September 17th – FOX- 8:30pm

Starring: Andy Samberg (SNL, Celeste and Jesse Forever, often has Dick in a Box), Andre Braugher (Homicide: Life on the Street), Chelsea Peretti (former Parks & Rec writer, stand up comic, Twitter life ruiner)

Plot: A police workplace comedy featuring carefree cop Jake Peralta (Samberg) who has to work under a new no nonsense boss in Captain Ray Holt (Braugher).

Why You Should Give It a Shot: A show created by Parks and Rec mastermind and The Office’s Mose, Michael Schur and another Parks writer Dan Goor, it’s sure to have a few LOL moments. Basically Schur’s TV forte is getting former SNL cast members and making them stars of their own comedies. It helps that he used to write for SNL too.

Super Fun Night
Premieres: Wednesday, October 2nd – ABC – 9:30pm

Starring: Rebel Wilson (Bridesmaids, Pitch Perfect, all-around hilarious lady), Liz Lapira (Crazy Stupid Love, Don’t Trust The B-, Traffic Light aka shows only I watched)

Plot: Kimmie Boubier (Wilson) is a junior attorney who has had a standing date every Friday with her best friends for the past 13 years. Their motto is “Always together! Always inside!”, which makes me feel like we’re soulmates. But now because of a cute British co-worker and networking opportunities, Kimmie feels the need to actually go out and meet people for once.

Why You Should Give It a Shot: Rebel Wilson. Executive produced by Conan O’Brien. Theoretically this show should be a hit.