How Fox’s “Empire” Is Basically “Dallas” With Hip-Hop And Gay People


Empire, Fox’s sexy and powerful new drama about an ailing hip-hop mogul and the three sons and ex-wife battling for control of his company, has been getting a ton of attention since it debuted of Fox last week.

The show has garnered attention for its first-class cast (including Oscar winners Terrance Howard and Taraji P. Henson), over-the-top melodrama and the inclusion of a major gay character, middle child Jamal. (In the pilot, Jamal’s bad-ass ex-convict mother, Cookie, delivers the campiest line of 2015: “I’m gonna show you a faggot really can run this company.”)


With three children vying for a father’s throne, the has drawn comparisons to King Lear. Of course, as some have pointed out, it’s also eerily like one of the greatest nighttime soaps of all time: Dallas. Honestly, substitute rednecks and oil with people of color and hip-hop, and you might as well be at Southfork Ranch.

Below, we do a side-by-side comparisons between the Ewings of Dallas and the Lyons of Empire.

Empire returns January 14 at 9pm on Fox.

Lucious Lyon (Terrence Howard) is Jock Ewing

jock ewing

Like Ewing patriarch Jock, Lucious Lyon is essential a good man who bent some rules to make his fortune—and he knows his time is running out. His alternating shades of kindness, devotion and ruthlessness are reflected in his kids. And like Jock Ewing (and King Lear, for that matter,) Luscious stages an epic showdown among his children for ultimate control of his company.

 Andre Lyon (Trai Byers) is JR Ewing

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A slick, handsome, and rarely sincere ladies man. Trai is all tailored suits, hot girls and Machiavellian schemes. He pits his brothers against each other because a little thing like family is a small price to pay for fame and fortune. Don’t turn your back on him—and don’t be surprised if someone shoots him in the back, either.

Jamal Lyon (Jussie Smollett) is Bobby Ewing


Empire’s first episode fairly well set up Jamal as the show’s moral center: He’s earnest, talented, loves his family and seems poised to wrest control of Empire Entertainment. All that stands in his way a lack of ambition—oh, and the fact that he’s gay.


Hakeem Lyon (Bryshere Gray) is Gary Ewing

gary ewing.jpg

Hakeem is the  Lyons’ ne’er-do-well youngest son who, like Gary Ewing, could be hiding substance-abuse issues. (He shows up too hung over to deliver in the recording studio.)  Not an altogether bad guy, he can produce when given enough support but his chances of inheriting the crown look remote. Maybe he’ll get a spinoff like Knot’s Landing?


Cookie Lyon (Taraji P. Henson) is Cliff Barnes


The inconvenient gadfly that emerges from the past to upset the perfect balance of the present. While both Cliff and Cookie are way outclassed when it comes to money and power, you’d do well not to underestimate them. Tenacity, desperation and strategic alliances can get you pretty far in a nighttime soap.

Who are Pam, Sue Ellen and Lucy? Aside from Cookie, there wasn’t a lot of room for female characters to make an impression in Empire. That’s sure to change when Naomi Campbell pops up tonight in Episode Two. Let’s just hope that impression doesn’t come from a cellphone flying across the room.

h/t: Memeographs