At the TCAs, Fox network renewed Empire, Gotham, and Brooklyn Nine Nine while Bones and Sleepy Hollow remain a bit of a mystery. And Lee Daniels discusses why homophobia remains a huge part of Empire's growth.
Amid the Television Critics Association's winter preview, TV Guide is reporting that Fox has renewed Empire, Gotham, and Brooklyn Nine-Nine while leaving questions on the future of Bones and Sleepy Hollow.
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Empire is the king of Fox. Renewed after only two episodes and labeled as a nighttime soap opera about a hip-hop mogul, the show runners are looking to add more to the storylines. And to dig deeper into the culture surrounding the world of Empire.
Lee Daniels told the critics at the preview that "homophobia is rampant in the African-American community, and men are on the DL." In the show, Lucious Lyon (Terrance Howard) has an abusive and antagonist relationship with gay son Jamal (Jussie Smollett). Daniels added, "They don't come out [and] they're killing our women."
He admitted that Lyons is somewhat based on his own father.
Howard described the scene where Lucious throws Jamal in the trash for wearing his mother's shoes.
"When Lee had me take that kid down the stairs and put him in the trash can, it was with no apologies associated with it, because that's what happened to him. ... The fact that he survived that is a beautiful thing." In the show, Jamal's mother Cookie (Taraji P. Henson) supports her son completely, but the abuse from Lucious is very real to many fans.
And that's the idea. Smollett recognizes that many black Americans are looking for more inclusion in mainstream media. "They want to see a representation of our world on television, and our world is not one color." Nor is the world necessarily a throwback to The Cosby Show.
And he admits that homophobia is something that needs to be addressed within the community. "To children and young people that are questioning their sexuality or know for certain their sexuality, if they can look at someone and see themselves in Jamal, that's incredible. I embrace that fully."
Empire is looking to dominant Fox and the world at large.
Meanwhile, Gotham centers on the life of Bruce Wayne, just after his parents died, and the rise of the city's uncorruptable cop. Fans of The OC might recognize Ben Mackenzie as future Commissioner James ‘Jim’ Gordon while Jada Pinkett Smith stars as villainess Fish Mooney. And Whovians may recognize Jon Pertwee's son Sean as Alfred Pennyworth. Firefly's Morena Baccarin plays Dr. Leslie Thompkins. Diehard Batman fan reception of the show seems to be split, but the ratings are climbing and Gotham’s becoming a standout among fall debuts.
Variety feels the renewal of Brooklyn Nine Nine was an unexpected decision since the second season’s ratings haven’t been quite as high as the first season or comparative to Empire and Gotham. However, it would be hard to compete against Empire’s average 10.3 million viewers and 5.3 live-plus-7 rating among adults 18-49 in just two episodes. Gotham averages 10.6 million viewers and a 4.2 rating.
So what about the prospect of some fan favorites?
The future of Bones remains up in the air as the network discusses future seasons with stars Emily Deschanel (Temperance Brennan) and David Boreanaz (Seeley Booth). Dana Walden told the critics, “Nothing would make us happier than to do another year.” So the question is up in the air on will another season happen after negotiations.
As for last fall’s major hit Sleepy Hollow, the paranormal show set around Washington Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”? The answers remain ambiguous.
Walden and Gary Newman admitted to creative changes would create a more week-to-week feel and less serialized. More monster of the week versus seasonal overarching theme. Walden said that the midseason review required a deeper look into what was losing the audience’s attention and hopefully the overhaul will “return the fun back to it.”
Walden and Newman also opened up how The Red Band Society simply didn’t find the expected audience, even offering to create more episodes for the summer at a lower licensing fee to ABC but the other network declined. Fans will be disappointed.
Fox seems willing to stick to reality television, too. Calling the program style a network strength, critics must admit the production costs allow the network to try more creative projects, like the upcoming sci-fi series Minority Report and M. Night Shymalan’s mystery series Wayward Pines (also starring Terrance Howard).
The TV chiefs want shows to succeed and for Fox to grow. As Walden pointed out, “We’re producers at heart.”
Finally, they did a shout-out to the end of Glee, Ryan Murphy’s teenage musical. Newman said, “‘Glee’ is probably one of the most important shows and one of the most amazing experiences that either one of us has had running the studio.”
Continuing on, he discussed the outcome of Glee in a wider audience. “It’s rare you find a show that explodes the way ‘Glee’ did and so impacts the culture.” Anyone who remembers the summer concert series several years ago can definitely see the impact. Gleeks were everywhere.
Fox seems to be on a path for more diverse, deeper stories of the world around—be it real, fiction, or somewhere between—and willing to take more risks in the future. Maybe the reality television bubble will end if more networks can follow along.
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