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First Look: EMPIRE Starring Taraj P Henson and Terrance Howard

Empire,” a series that begins Wednesday on Fox, is a classic ’80s-era nighttime soap opera retrofitted for the age of Jay Z and Beyoncé. 

There is glitz, bling, skulduggery and family feuding, played out to the pounding rhythm of hip-hop and rap. The story is not surprising — almost every turn seems obvious and a little hackneyed — but it is surprisingly enjoyable. Lee Daniels (“Precious,” “Lee Daniels’ The Butler”), a co-creator of the series, also directed the pilot and gives it some big-screen pizazz.A stellar cast helps. Mr. Howard (“Hustle & Flow”) is silky and understated as a rapper and drug dealer turned celebrity mogul. Gabourey Sidibe
(“Precious”) plays the assistant struggling to keep up with Lucious’s cascade of A-list invitations. The series really lights up when Taraji P. Henson (“Person of Interest”) appears as Lucious’s ex-wife, Cookie, freshly released after serving time for the family’s starter business — drug dealing. 

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