From the minute Taraji P. Henson and Terrence Howard emerged on our screens as the matriarch and patriarch of the Lyon family in the Fox series, Empire, we were hooked. Debuting in January, the show has had a record-breaking run and it doesn't look like things are slowing down for this ratings giant. With partnerships, social commentary and fashion trends we love--here's how the Lyon dynasty slayed our TVs (and more) and in 2015.
The Ratings Bonanza
The unbelievable ratings on season 1 of Empire made it the highest-rated scripted program in the 2014-2015 television season. Season 2 of the hit series also kicked off with a bang! With 16 million viewers, the premiere episode fell just short of season 1 ratings but proved that Lucious, Cookie and the rest of the Lyon family were still in the lead.
Photo by Fox
Cookie's Style Went on Fifth Avenue
When we grow up we want our closets to look as flawless as Cookie's. Thankfully Saks Fifth Avenue made our wish is their command. The luxury retailer announced in August that they will debut a exclusive design line inspired by the fashions from the Fox series. The collection will feature looks curated from designer brands including Alexis Bittar, Cushnie et Ochs, Jimmy Choo footwear and MCM accessories.
Photo by FOX Image Collection
Guest Stars Galore
Keep 'em coming! Season 2 of Empire brought an all-star roster of guest appearances. Alicia Keys, Chris Rock, Vivica A. Fox, Ludacris, Kelly Rowland and Petey Pablo were just a few of the stars who shined in cameos and multi-episode roles. Supermodel Naomi Campbell even reprised her role as Hakeem's cougar lover, Camilla Mark.
Photo by Chuck Hodes/ Fox
Big Girls Need Love Too!
Who said big girls can't have a steamy sex scene in the middle of primetime TV? When the Internet had something to say about Gabourey Sidibe's character Becky getting her on-screen love scene on, the actress had a eloquent clapback for those who dared to shame her. "I, a plus sized, dark-skinned woman, had a love scene on primetime television. I had the most fun ever filming that scene even though I was nervous. But I felt sexy and beautiful and I felt like I was doing a good job."
You did, Gabby, you did!
Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images
Plenty of Hot Topics
Whether addressing mental illness, like Andre and Lucious' mom's battles with bipolar disorder, or sexuality, there was no topic too hot for Empire. Co-creator Lee Daniels has said he wrote the gay storyline on Empire to "blow the lid off more on homophobia in my community.”
Photo by Chuck Hodes/ Fox
With all the social commentary surrounding #BlackLivesMatter and mass incarceration, one of the most talked about series on TV would be remiss not to say something about it. As Cookie was arrested in an episode on season 2, she shouted, "If I die in police custody, I did not commit suicide!" #IfIDieInPoliceCustody emerged as a trending topic on social media following the death of Sandra Bland who died following her arrest in June. Questions still surround the mysterious circumstances of her premature her death.
Photo by Facebook.com/Sandra.Bland.5070
If the drama of the series wasn’t enough to get your attention, the music surely was. Mega-producer Timbaland and hit-song writer Ne-Yo wrote so many great songs for the show it received a Grammy nomination for Best Compilation Soundtrack for Visual Media for the first season. With gems like “What is Love” from V. Bozeman, Jussie Smollett’s “You’re So Beautiful” and the turn-up track, “Drip Drop” by Yazz the Greatest and Serayah McNeill, we can say that the nod was very well deserved.
The series soundtrack even debut at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart which in and of itself is a rare achievement for a network television drama.
Photo by FOX
Jussie Smollett Annouced as Next Pepsi Artist and the Soda Brand Becomes Show Sponsor
More Pepsi please!
Not only was Jussie Smollett named as the Next Pepsi Artist but the soda brand also became an official $20 million sponsor for the show. In a major tie-in with the series, Smollett and his TV character Jamal Lyon will be the face of the brand in an 3-episode arc that includes a commercial, a song, and a music video. Confusing much? Don't worry, it took us a minute to get it too.
Photo by Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images for Pepsi
Congratulations all around! With the award season just around the corner, the end of the year brought many nominations for the cast and crew. Earlier this year, Taraji P. Henson received an Emmy nod for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama (Vioa Davis would win). Last month, the show earned Grammy, Golden Globes and NAACP Image award nominations.