TIME Television

Review: How Empire Changed the Game

A blood-spilling, plot-twisting, hair-pulling finale proves that this phenomenon has no intention of slowing down.

Spoilers for the Empire season finale below:

The season finale of Empire was the equivalent of an entire season of most other shows. In other words, it was like every other night of Empire, but twice as much. Since January, the addictive music-biz drama has shot to number one with a bullet–several bullets, really–and it’s rocketed up there by burning a tank of 100% high-octane plot, trying on stories and throwing them off like a performer changing outfits at a video shoot.

So if watching one hour of Empire can be dizzying, two of them back to back, throwing out twists to set up a second season, is like an all-nighter at the club: I hope you stayed hydrated. Blood was spilled, weaves were pulled, alliances were changed, and Lucious Lyon went from dying man to ALS-free jailbird all in one night. That’s why it doesn’t matter so much that it’s hard to keep up with the subplots twists on Empire. Chances are, they’ll change by the next commercial break anyway.

The way Empire constantly keeps the gas pedal of its Maybach floored is what makes the ride so fun, of course; it’s like a show for people who find themselves checking their watches during Scandal. I don’t want to oversell the similarities with Shonda Rhimes’ serials, because in some ways Empire is more old-fashioned, calling back to family sagas like Dallas and Dynasty. But like Shondaland’s shows, it has an aesthetic of acceleration: it doesn’t just go fast, it always feels like it’s getting faster. (Only on Empire is it not enough that Rhonda kill Vernon; she must announce she’s pregnant at the same time.)

It works so well not just because Empire is ridiculously, swaggeringly fun, but because its speed fits its subject: not just the hip-hop business, but the worlds of fashion and pop culture generally. The Lyon family is in the Next Thing business; why shouldn’t their story always be restlessly moving on? (Take Cookie and Malcolm, who consummated their flirtation, then ended it parenthetically, as he announced he was off to Washington to work in the Department of High-Level Government Job.)

The risk for any story moving at this speed that that the characters disintegrate under the G-forces of constant change. They swerve and shift, becoming whatever they need to be to keep us off-balance–as often happened on another one-time Fox phenom, Glee, which ends its run on Friday. There was some of this in the season finale; much as I pretty much bought Jamal realizing he craved Lucious’ approval, for instance, I didn’t buy him suddenly becoming a guy who would suddenly hold Sleazy Judd Nelson over a balcony.

But then the show delivers something like the terrific songwriting scene between Jamal and Lucious. Much as Jamal has stood up to his father all season, he’s still a son. And even if there’s a pure plot reason for this–setting up the reversal of making Jamal Lucious’ heir–it makes sense that there’s a part of him that still wants his dad to pull him out of that garbage can and take him back. It’ not easy, though, and their duet is charged with conflicting emotion–hostility and respect, regret and anger.

Empire is about hyperbole and excess and escapism; like the scepter Lucious passes on to Jamal, it’s a gold lion with a diamond in its teeth. But it also gets that music is about transmuting pain into beauty, and that’s what the Lyon family fortune is really based on. Lucious is terrifying and despicable, yet every awful choice he’s made is inseparable from what he’s accomplished, because it fueled his art.

Likewise Cookie’s music producing, Hakeem and Jamal’s recording, even André’s converting his feelings of musical inadequacy into his business drive. The Lyon family business is about taking bad memories and raw emotions and turning them into art. (The memories especially; the finale had so many flashback montages, it was like the show’s life was flashing before its eyes.) That’s the story of the blues, that’s the story of hip-hop. Now it’s the story of Empire.

Like many a new pop sensation, Empire is living fast. In three months’ time, the show has proven that an African American focused drama can be a mass hit (without running from its identity, as with the finale’s shout-out to Black Lives Matter). It’s revived the primetime soap and TV musical genre at the same time. And it’s established legitimacy in the very music business it depicts; it must have requests for cameos in season 2 stacked up like planes approaching JFK airport. As Hakeem would say, the show changed the game.

There’s definitely room for improvement, though. Cookie instantly became one of TV’s standout characters, but the show could use other multidimensional female characters. And you have to wonder, like any fast phenom, if Empire can sustain its heat and its burn rate over the long run.

But in the first season ender, which essentially reversed the positions of nearly every major character from where they began, it’s showing no signs of holding back or saving story for later. At one point, Lucious uses a soap villain’s favorite metaphor to explain turning on Cookie: “Sometimes you have to sacrifice your queen to win the game.” Why stop there? Empire would just as soon flip over the whole board.

Read next: Empire Showrunner: We Always Planned That Would Happen to Lucious

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TIME Television

James Corden Wants to Make the World of Late-Night TV More Diverse

"The Late Late Show with James Corden" -  James Corden takes over as host of THE LATE LATE SHOW on Monday, March 23 (12:37 - 1:37 AM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Photo: Art Streiber/CBS ©2015 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Art Streiber—CBS The Late Late Show with James Corden

The new host of The Late Late Show talks to TIME about his vision for late-night

James Corden admits he’s terrified of taking over CBS’ The Late Late Show from Craig Ferguson on March 23, but the 36-year-old Brit is ready to leave his mark on late-night TV. “I have no idea if it’s going to work,” says Corden, who unlike many of his hosting peers is more known for acting than stand-up (the Tony-winner recently starred in Into the Woods.) “You can’t make a show that feels fresh and exciting without leaving elements of it to chance.”

TIME caught up with Corden to talk about his vision for late-night, courting the Internet and the invaluable advice of Jimmy Kimmel.

TIME: Your big debut is in just a few days. What can viewers expect?

James Corden: Well, I hope that people won’t know what they can expect from the show because the greatest thing I can hope people say is they don’t know what it will be tonight. I hope we can create something that’s fresh and new and in many ways organic. I really hope we can make a show that is worthy of people’s time.

How do you strike a balance between respecting the history of the show and the format with wanting to put your own spin on it?

Those things all happen over time. These shows are only good if they’re given time to grow. It’s kind of odd that they would be reviewed or scrutinized that early in their run. We could try and prep this show for a year, but we would learn more doing it for two weeks. It’s only in the doing of it that you learn what it is. We have some ideas for the show, but whether they’re any good or not? We just have to wait and see.

I can’t wait for Stephen Colbert to start, because I feel like that’s when our show can be judged — when it’s been on after that, then you can see it as a whole. Because for the summer, we just follow nothing. When Letterman finishes, we have the whole summer of, I think, following NCIS repeats. So it’s going to be a bleak summer for us!

After you got the job, how did you come up with your vision for the show?

We tended to talk more in terms of an atmosphere we wanted to create, both in the studio and at home. We decided fairly early on in the process that we would be a show that would bring all of our guests out together at the same time. We just thought, “Well, we’re on after a talk show, we have to do something that make it try and look and feel a little bit different.” It’s going to feel a bit more intimate. We’ve brought the audience closer. They’re sort of cinema seats with lamps. [Bandleader] Reggie [Watts] has got a really cool performance area with his band. In many ways it will just look and feel like another talk show. It’s up to us to try in content to give it a reason to exist.

Do you have a firm sense of the show’s identity at this point, or are you still experimenting in the final days?

It is going to be on the fly. You can’t make a show that feels fresh and exciting without leaving elements of it to chance. Like, I have no idea if it’s going to work. But if it doesn’t work, it’s not going to be because we didn’t work really really hard at it.

What’s your favorite idea that’s been rejected so far?

We had a sketch that we wanted to do with two big stars, but they said no. It would be childish and wrong to tell you who they are and what it was, but I was quite disappointed by that. I hope that in time we’ll be able to navigate them and that people would see what our show is. So much of it is about [publicists] and time and all those things. We just have to hope that guests will respond to the show and want to have some fun.

Diversity in the world of late-night TV has been a hot topic with the turnover in hosts. Is that something you pay attention to as you put together your show and your staff?

Yeah, very much so. You never want to hire someone just because they’re a woman or just because of what their ethnicity is, but at the same time, you want to feel like everybody is represented, and I feel very confident [in that]. We have a very small writing team — I feel like we have the smallest staff in late-night — but I feel like there is a great representation in terms of class and culture and background and everything.

The Internet has become a big part of the late-night landscape: Jimmy Fallon is great at going viral, Chelsea Handler is headed to Netflix, YouTube star Grace Helbig is getting a show on E!. Many viewers experience late-night only through morning-after clips. How do you take the Internet into account as you conceive a new show?

There is a very definite correlation between the things that are shared virally the next day and the things that work on the show. What you have to do is try and make a great show on TV and hope that there are bits that people would choose to share with their friends. All we can do is try and make a great show. Of course we hope there are things people would want to consume the next day that could be fragmented into segments that you would be able watch easily. But those things, if we have stuff that works virally, it’s going to be because it worked on the show. It’s very, very rare that someone would go, “Oh, it didn’t work on the show, but my God it was brilliant the next day online.”

Who gave you the most helpful advice who wasn’t Craig Ferguson?

Seth [Meyers] has been very forthcoming. He’s lovely. Jimmy Fallon was great. Jimmy Kimmel particularly has sent me some lovely emails: “Don’t fret, it won’t be ready straight away.” He sent me an email saying, “My first two years were awful, so don’t fret when your first two months aren’t received well.” He gave me his email straightaway and said, “Get in touch if you need anything.” And the same with Jimmy Fallon and Stephen Colbert — everyone’s been great.

A version of this story appears in the March 30 issue of TIME.

TIME Television

Watch Jon Stewart Slam Israel’s Leader for Stealing America’s Racist Political Tactics

"That's our thing!"

Jon Stewart has a few choice words for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: “How dare you?”

On The Daily Show Wednesday night, Stewart attacked Netanyahu, whose party won a bitter election this week, for anti-Arab rhetoric in the closing days of the campaign.

“How dare you gin up racist fears of minority turnout for short-term political gain?” Stewart said of Netanyahu’s warning that Israeli-Arabs would show up to the ballot box to vote against him. “That’s our thing! You know what? Now you’ve got a copyright infringement suit on your hands, pal!”

Watch the full clip below.

Read next: Netanyahu Divides as He Conquers in Israeli Election

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Watch Every Celebrity You Love Get Down in Jimmy Fallon’s Lip Sync Battle Trailer

It was only a matter of time before Jimmy Fallon’s famous lip sync battles got their own TV show. And now the trailer is here, and the show looks as awesome as we had all hoped it would be.

Lip Sync Battle, hosted by LL Cool J, premieres April 2 on Spike TV, and according to this trailer it definitely kicks the routines up a notch from the Tonight Show sketches. Backup dancers? John Krasinski in a sparkly dress? Anna Kendrick performing Jennifer Lopez’s Booty with J. Lo herself?

Count us in.

Read next: Watch Kelly Clarkson and Jimmy Fallon Sing the History of Duets

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TIME Television

The Game of Thrones Iron Throne Makes a Grand Entrance in London

Fans wait for guests to arrive at the world premiere of the television fantasy drama "Game of Thrones" series 5, at The Tower of London, March 18, 2015.
Toby Melville—Reuters Fans wait for guests to arrive at the world premiere of the television fantasy drama "Game of Thrones" series 5, at The Tower of London, March 18, 2015.

Maybe now the Queen of England will finally sit in it?

Now that’s a kingly entrance.

The Iron Throne was lowered via crane at the Tower of London for the Game of Thrones season 5 premiere. The HBO series will have its world premiere screening in London on Wednesday night. Zai Bennett, director of the U.K. television channel Sky Atlantic,reportedly told viewers: “Throughout its 1,000-year history, the Tower of London has been an iconic seat of power for English monarchs. As we lower the Iron Throne into the moat, ahead of Sky Atlantic’s world premiere of Game of Thrones, I’m proud that we can add our own seat of power to the Tower’s long and rich history.”

Maybe now the Queen of England will finally sit in it?

MORE: 3 Things We Learned From These New Game of Thrones Clips

This article originally appeared on EW.com

TIME Television

Empire Showrunner: We Always Planned That Would Happen to Lucious

Chuck Hodes—Fox EMPIRE: Lucious (Terrence Howard, R) and Jamal (Jussie Smollett, L) form a music-centered relationship in the special two-hour “Die But Once/Who I Am” Season Finale episode of Empire

Writer Ilene Chaiken says Terrence Howard improvised the final line of the season

Contains spoilers for the finale of Empire that aired on March 18, 2015.

Empire, the most-watched new series in a decade with 15 million viewers, aired its final two episodes of the first season Wednesday night on Fox. TIME spoke with showrunner Ilene Chaiken about the final episodes’ three big twists, the show’s Billboard-topping soundtrack, and Lucious’ final line (which Terrence Howard improvised).

TIME: Let’s start with the fact that Lucious was misdiagnosed with ALS. In a way, you’re changing the whole premise of the show.

I would say we’re not changing the premise, but we are changing the whole dynamic. We’re changing every character’s drive.

When we started, the big thing everyone was talking about was that Terrence Howard was the star, but Terrence’s character had ALS. What’s going to happen? Is he going to die? Are you going to be able to keep him alive for five years? In my first meeting with [creators] Lee Daniels and Danny Strong, Danny was Skyping in from New York. He was on this huge screen in front of the room, so he was very God-like. And he said, “Well I think he was misdiagnosed.” And I said, “Really? You’re going to do that?” And he said, “I’m open to other ideas, but that’s what I think.” And that’s what we did.

Danny was right. And I think we did it in a cool way. We researched it thoroughly and made sure that it was credible. And it’s great because now everything changes. Everybody was operating on this premise that he’s not going to be around much longer, and then here he is and he’s not going away.

Well, except to jail.

Right. He’s arrested. He doesn’t know who set him up. Any number of his family members and associates might have betrayed him. That obviously is another—I’d guess I’d have to call it a cliffhanger.

The other major twist was Lucious choosing Jamal to inherit Empire. Are you happy with his choice?

Well, the writers and Lee and Danny always knew it was going to be Jamal. We wanted to honor the mythology of the King Lear story, and I hope we did.

But what we discovered was that in order to become his father’s heir, Jamal has to actually become a gangster. We talked about Michael Corleone. He starts out as the most moral of the three sons, and in order to be his father’s successor, he has to gangster up a bit. Lee Daniels was especially excited to see a gay character behave in that way and fulfill all of those tropes and show that kind of strength—almost criminal strength.

But it’s not definitive. Even though Jamal stepped up, we’re not sure that he’s ready. He might still be a little tender. That wasn’t our intention necessarily in the beginning, but I’m excited that it happened because it leaves us with a lot of unanswered questions.

MORE Empire’s Prime Timing

A lot of people have drawn comparisons between some of the characters on the show and real-life artists, like Tiana and Rihanna or Jamal and Frank Ocean. Is that intentional?

Not explicitly intentional. People suggest Lucious might be Jay Z. There’s no once celebrity he’s based on. But there are definitely reference points for us, and there were references for Lee and Danny when they started the show. We look at people in the real world, and while we don’t replicate them in any way, they give us affirmation about the story we are telling.

It can feel very real—the music especially. Empire’s soundtrack debuted at #1 on Billboard Wednesday, and songs like “Drip Drop” are real hits. How do the writers work together with the music producers to create hits to incorporate into the story?

It’s a whole other layer of storytelling, every bit as meticulously conceived and executed as script, production and post. Sometimes they just bring us a song, and we drop it in. But most of the music starts in the writers’ room with a concept. We give them as much information as we can about the story we’re telling, and then they go to work. They write a song, demo it and bring it back to us. A great number people listen to it and respond based on all the considerations—story, sound, so on.

So for “Drip Drop” we knew we needed a song for Hakeem’s video. It was going to be a big, featured song, so we just said, “Give us a hit.” Timbaland and his team, led by producer and songwriter Jim Beanz, gave us “Drip Drop,” and we loved it.

Sometimes they’re more plot-specific, like “You’re So Beautiful,” Jamal’s coming out song. Jesse Smollett, who plays Jamal, had done a lot of ballads. And he said, “I want to do something more upbeat.” So we co-wrote that song with Jim Beanz, I think. And we loved it, but we hadn’t placed it yet. We knew we were going to tell a story where Jamal comes out by singing a song publicly and changing the gender pronoun, and we decided it would be one of his father’s old hit songs. So then we went back to the songwriters and said, “We need another version that Lucious cut 20 years ago and that he sings to Cookie.”

Daniels and Strong have said the show is, in part, inspired by the high drama of Dallas. Do you ever put something on paper in the writers’ room that then becomes even more outsized when you see it onscreen?

Absolutely. It happens a lot, and I attribute it to the incredible cast. We do a lot of improvisation on our show, and sometimes the best lines are written by the actors.

Any that would surprise the audience?

The very last words of the finale, spoken by Lucious, that was Terrence Howard improvising.

You created The L Word, and when you saw Lee Daniels and Danny Strong’s pilot for Empire, you obviously knew Lucious’ homophobia was going to be a major plot line on the show. Were you ever worried that it would be difficult to make a homophobic character sympathetic?

No. This is Lee and Danny’s story, and one of the first things that they told me when I met with them was: “This is the most important storyline. It’s central. We want to continue to play it, and play it with authenticity and roughness. We don’t want to soften it in any way.”

We all believe we’re in a world and a time where we can put forward characters that are deeply flawed, not always likable, and sometimes even despicable and still relatable and human. And Lucious is such a perfect example of that.

MORE Lee Daniels on Empire: The Show Has Already Changed Homophobes’ Minds

The show is a ratings juggernaut, in part because it’s tapping into this underserved, diverse audience. It seems like with Empire, Black-ish, Fresh Off the Boat or How to Get Away With Murder, network TV is finally starting to catch up with what America actually looks like. Why do you think that’s happening now and what took so long?

Obviously, it should have happened a long time ago, and I don’t think you can identify any single event. But I think a cultural moment occurred, and it’s spontaneously generated into a couple of terrific shows that prove that the conventional wisdom was wrong and proved that this was the right thing—and the smart thing—to do.

Are you hoping Empire will change network and even studio executives’ minds about what people want to see onscreen?

I think that network and studio executives’ minds have already changed. But we have to get comfortable with the idea that success isn’t something that gets repeated or replicated based on analysis. It comes from inspiration. It comes from artists and creators and storytellers who have something that they passionately want to say.

Cookie has become a fan favorite, but I think it’s in part because she’s one strong woman playing in what seems to still be a boy’s world. Can we expect to see more strong female characters like her next season?

That gives us somewhere to go. I think we all know that we still have quite a long way to go for any type of parity, and there are a lot of ceilings we haven’t shattered yet. So that is something that I would venture that the show will crash up against and take on.

Read next: Review: How Empire Changed the Game

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TIME Television

3 Things We Learned From These New Game of Thrones Season 5 Clips

Watch new scenes from the first episode

1. War is coming…again

At the end of season four, Varys (at Jaime Lannister’s request) helped Tyrion escape from Kings’ Landing and avoid execution—but not before Tyrion put a few arrows through his dad. Now, it seems, the Spider and the Imp are safe. But where will they go next? Judging from the last trailer and this clip, Varys suspects a war is coming and wants to enlist the Mother of Dragons.

2. Tyrion will have some important role in that war

In the first clip, Varys claims he saved Tyrion for the sake of the Seven Kingdoms. He says that he believes “men of talent have a part to play in the war to come.” And Tyrion Lannister, despite being a drunk, is certainly talented.

3. Jon Snow wants the Wildlings to fight for Stannis Baratheon

No surprise here, but Jon Snow will try to unite Stannis Baratheon and Mance Rayder against the White Walkers. In the second scene, Jon Snow tries to convince Mance that his army of united free folks and Wildlings will not survive North of the Wall. Instead, he suggests, they should join Stannis’ army—which is quickly growing to be a formidable force that could yet capture the North from Roose Bolton.

Game of Thrones returns to HBO on April 12.

TIME Music

Empire Soundtrack Debuts at No. 1 on Billboard

Cover image of the original soundtrack from Season 1 of "Empire."
Columbia Records—AP Cover image of the original soundtrack from Season 1 of "Empire."

The Lyon clan scores a surprising win against the Queen of Pop

Big news for the biggest TV hit of the season: Empire’s soundtrack debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Top 200 charts, beating out Madonna’s Rebel Heart, which came out at No. 2.

Industry forecasters were watching the throne closely, with King Lear Lucious and the Queen of Pop battling for the top spot—even though Empire wasn’t even a contender until the last minute. As Billboard reports, a week before the TV soundtrack’s release, experts predicted sales of around 25,000. But after the release, that prediction rose 500 percent to 125,000 units—the same number predicted for Rebel Heart.

Empire (Columbia Records) has sold 130,000 units as of March 15, while Rebel Heart (The Live Nation/Interscope) underperformed slightly with 121,000. Billboard’s metrics take into account album sales, streaming equivalent albums (SEA) and track equivalent albums (TEA).

The Empire soundtrack is the first TV soundtrack to have a No. 1 debut since 2010, when Glee put three albums at the top. Rebel Heart is Madonna’s 21st top 10 album. The Lyons may have beat Her Madgesty in the short term, but only time (and 20 more soundtrack albums) will tell who ultimately prevails.

This article originally appeared on EW.com.

TIME Television

Here’s What’s Coming to Netflix in April

Netflix Marvel's Daredevil

The Netflix original Daredevil TV show and The Babadook will be available next month

Here are the movies and TV shows that are new to Netflix next month—and what you should watch before it leaves the streaming service.

Netflix Originals

Marvel’s Daredevil (April 10)

All Hail King Julien, Season 1 (April 3)

Derek: Special (April 3)

Chris D’Elia: Incorrigible (April 17)


The Babadook (April 14)

Hot Fuzz (April 16)

Crank (April 9)

National Treasure (April 27)

Noah (April 18)

They Came Together (April 17)

The Quiet Ones (April 3)

TV Shows

Sons of Anarchy, Season 7 (April 25)

Halt and Catch Fire, Season 1 (April 8)

Last Chance to Watch before April 1



The Karate Kid


Friday the 13th

Mystic Pizza

Get Shorty

Gentleman Prefer Blondes

Sense and Sensibility

Read next: Sony’s New TV Streaming Service Is Way Easier to Use Than Your Cable Box

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TIME Television

Sharknado 3 Gets an Official Title and Premiere Date

Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No! will premiere July 22 at 9 p.m on Syfy

The third Sharknado film officially has a title, and it’s thankfully more original than Sharknado 2: The Second One. (But just barely.)

Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No!, which sums up most people’s reactions to news of another sequel, will premiere July 22 at 9 p.m. on Syfy, the network announced.

“We wanted this third title to boldly go where no shark movie has gone before,” said Chris Regina, Syfy’s senior vice president of programming, in a statement. “Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No! embraces the larger-than-life irreverence that has made these movies so popular and entertaining.”

After tackling Los Angeles and New York City in the first two films, the Sharknado series is now headed to the Eastern Seaboard, where it will work its way down from Washington, D.C., to Orlando, Fla. Naturally, in a series known for its oddball celebrity cameos, there will be some special political guests — like Michele Bachmann, playing herself.

Read next: Sharknado 3 Gets 2 New Cast Members

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