Fox renews ‘Gotham,’ ‘Empire’ (after only two episodes!)

20 Jan 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘Empire’ Cast Tackles Diversity, ‘Dynasty’ and Terrence Howard During Presser Victory Lap.

Producers capable of making “big, bold” series such as Fox’s freshman drama “Empire” are key to rescuing the network from its ratings slump, its top executives said Friday. The creator of Fox’s prime-time soap “Empire” said he wants to “blow the lid off homophobia” in the African-American community with a depiction of the show’s lead character’s hostile relationship with his gay son.

The top brass at Fox may not have seemed prepared as I’d expected for my question Saturday about the problematic past of Terrence Howard, the star of their new hit “Empire,” but by the time the actor himself met with reporters late in the day, he appeared more than ready.The move is partly surprising (in that it’s very unusual for a broadcaster to renew a series so fast, though it occasionally happens on cable) and yet not given the show’s stunning ratings this week.

Television audiences are looking for diversity on-screen, if “Empire’s” ratings are any indication. (Along with the success this season of “How to Get Away with Murder” and “Black-ish.”) “Shows with people of color can make money,” said star Taraji P.LOS ANGELES – “Empire” star Terrence Howard said his past arrests for domestic abuse allegations were a byproduct of his rough-and-tumble upbringing and “not knowing how to deal with frustration.” Howard was pressed Saturday during the Television Critics Assn. press tour on his past history of arrests and allegations of violence by his former wife, among other women. Dana Walden and Gary Newman, the longtime CEOs of the 20th Century Fox studio, last year were named co-chairs of the Fox Television Group that includes the studio and network. Lee Daniels, who was also behind the movies “Lee Daniels’ The Butler” and “Precious,” said that his own father’s hostility toward gays frightened him and he knows the same attitudes are being passed on from one generation to another in households around the world. “What we’re trying to do is to give people the opportunity to see that what they’re doing is painful,” Daniels said at a television conference on Saturday. “Empire,” the story of a strong-willed music family whose patriarch, Lucious Lyon, is portrayed by actor Terrence Howard, has gotten off to a strong start this month at the ratings-challenged Fox network. In an era where more and more viewers are moving away from watching live TV in favor of time-shifting or online viewing, Fox’s new hip-hop drama not only debuted strong, it actually grew in its second week.

The series had the unusual feat of growing in viewership from its premiere week to its second, compelling Fox to quickly give the go-ahead to a second season. The second episode then stunned the industry by rising in the ratings — which is a very rare occurrence, especially after a strong debut (Empire is the only drama to rise in Week 2 this season). Murphy’s contribution will be “Scream Queens,” a comic horror anthology with an ensemble cast including Jamie Lee Curtis, Lea Michele of “Glee,” Joe Manganiello, Abigail Breslin and Keke Palmer. During the show’s first episode, Lyon learns he has a fatal disease and is battling with his just-released-from-jail wife over which of their three sons will take over their music empire.

Gotham has averaged a 4.2 rating the demo and 10.6 million viewers when including DVR playback, Empire has averaged a 5.3 in the demo and 11.7 million viewers and Brooklyn Nine-Nine has a 2.7 in the demo. Showrunner Ilene Chaiken, who assembled a diverse writers’ room to help lend authenticity to the storytelling, says she welcomes any changes the show has on the culture. “If ‘Empire’ influences anybody, fabulous,” Chaiken told Variety. “I hope that nobody needs to be influenced — it’s just obvious that this is how we should make television. The cast and production team, which flew in that morning from a late-night shoot in Chicago, was applauded like the music icons they’re playing by Fox brass in the back of the room. Fox has been meeting with another producer known for showmanship, Simon Cowell, said Walden and Newman, but provided no details about what’s under discussion. And this present moment, to have a show that’s being held as a beautiful, breakthrough piece, having a wonderful opportunity to have this cast, I don’t think they took any of that stuff [from his past] into consideration,” said Howard, who’s won good reviews as music mogul Lucious Lyon, a homophobic father of three with a violent streak and a secret illness.

The success of all three shows is much-needed at Fox, which ranked fourth this fall and declined more than any other broadcaster compared to the previous year. Cowell, the music executive, former “American Idol” judge and producer of series including NBC’s “America’s Got Talent” and “The X Factor,” which lasted just three seasons on Fox, is a “talent magnet,” Newman said. Henson, referring to both Empire’s success and the warm reception for other diverse series. “When you can make money, people are interested.” Fox is certainly interested. Drama series “Empire,” about a family struggling for control of a music business, exemplifies the kind of series that Fox needs, Walden said, announcing that it’s been renewed for a sophomore season just two weeks after its debut. “Fox has for a long time had a reputation for big, bold shows that break out but feel broad and appealing,” she said. “I would hope ultimately that the network is recognized for great showmanship.

At a time the movie industry is under fire for its commitment to diversity — only white actors received nominations when last week’s Oscar contenders were announced — “Empire” is seen as making strides in that area. Empire is still at a stage when most industry insiders would say it’s too early to bet the farm on the drama, yet the first two weeks were hugely promising.

He’s been so hard working and he’s just been a great partner to us, so our experience with Terrence has been excellent. “We cast Terrence because our executive producers—Lee Daniels, Danny Strong and Brian Grazer—felt that he was the best actor for that particular role,” she continued. “Our experience with him at that point was being fans of the films he’s done in the past. The Batman prequel “Gotham,” another freshman series, and sophomore comedy “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” also have been renewed, the executives announced. Henson, the actress who plays Lucious’ wife Cookie, said entertainment executives take notice when shows dominated by minority cast members make money. Still to come on Fox this season is cop drama Backstrom starring Rainn Wilson as an irascible detective, the intriguingly high concept one-man sitcom Last Man on Earth starring Will Forte and the limited series thriller Wayward Pines starring Matt Dillon.

As for the fates of some of Fox’s other dramas, the network plans to tweak Sleepy Hollow before making a decision on a third season, while Bones seems likely to return for season 11. “We’re at the end of our deal on Emily [Deschanel] and David [Boreanaz],” Fox Chairman and CEO Dana Walden said at TCA’s winter press tour. “We’re very hopeful Bones will return. It wasn’t part of the conversation when we cast him… The network executives who have interacted with him have had nothing but a great experience, so it just didn’t come into the conversation.” Actually, Howard wasn’t the first choice for the role.

I’ve grown so much from anything that’s happened in the past.” Of course, Howard is far from the only celebrity with headlines in the last decade over various allegations, especially with the recent news about Bill Cosby, even going back to Woody Allen.

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