Empire: The Complete First Season Blu-ray Review

Ralph Potts reviews this engaging TV drama that follows the head of a music empire whose three sons and ex-wife all battle for his throne.

The Review at a Glance:
(max score: 5 )

Film:

Extras:

Audio/Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )

91

Details:

Studio and Year: 20th Century Fox – 2015
MPAA Rating: NR
Feature running time: 528 minutes
Genre: TV Drama

Disc Format: BD-50
Encoding: AVC
Video Aspect: 1.78:1
Resolution: 1080p/24

Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio, Spanish Dolby Surround
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
Starring: Terrence Howard, Taraji P. Hensen, Bryshere Y. Gray, Jussie Smollett, Trai Byers, Grace Gealy, Kaitlin Doubleday, Gabourey Sidibe, Malik Yoba, Derek Luke, Naomi Campbell
Directed by: Various
Music by: Fil Eisler
Written by: Lee Daniels & Danny Strong
Region Code: A

Blu-ray Disc release Date: September 15, 2015

“Music. Family. Power”

My Take:

Set within a world of music, glamour, danger and power, EMPIRE is about a family dynasty that follows the head of a music empire whose three sons and ex-wife all battle for his throne. After music mogul Lucious Lyon (Oscar® Nominee Terrence Howard*) is diagnosed with a potentially fatal disease, he must choose which of his three sons will succeed him at the legendary Empire Entertainment. The game changes when his ex-wife Cookie (Oscar® Nominee Taraji P. Henson**) returns from prison where she’s been for almost two decades. Brash and fearless, she sees herself as the sacrificial lamb who built an empire with Lucious and then took the fall for running the drugs that financed Lucious’ early career. As the Lyons slug it out, a battle begins that will either cause the family’s destruction or redemption.

With the plethora of primetime TV dramas on the air and those making their way it’s so difficult to keep up let alone decide which ones are worth watching. I only caught glimpses of Empireduring its inaugural season and while it looked interesting nothing about what I saw leapt out at me so I passed. Watching it now on Blu-ray the experience isn’t what I recalled and the show most definitely has something viable to offer.

Empire doesn’t break the TV drama/melodrama mold and feels much like another TV drama series that my wife and I have been watching called “Nashville”. The show revolves around a series of characters and subplots comingled with the music industry and in turn the incorporation of interwoven musical performances done by the cast in their respective roles. The vibe here is distinctly different than “Nashville” of course and is set in an urban environment with Hip Hop being the primary music genre.

The writing is solid as the character base is awash with a variety of archetypes and stimulating narrative subtext that fuels the show’s thematic underpinnings which are built upon the type of subject matter that perpetuates its systemic melodrama, interpersonal relationship drama and dark, double dealing storyline. I found season one to be quite engaging at times and enjoyed the season long progression as the show’s elements assimilate, building toward the two part finale. The music is really very good and aptly supports the show’s thematic tone. The cast is strong as an ensemble but I must commend Taraji P. Hensen and Terrence Howard who are terrific both separately and together.

Empire The Complete First Season features iconic music performances from an all-star cast which includes Terrence Howard (BET Award winner for Best Actor), Taraji P. Henson (Critics’ Choice Television Award winner for Best Actress in a Drama Series, BET Award winner for Best Actress), Jussie Smollett, Byshere Y. Gray, Kaitlin Doubleday, Malik Yoba, Trai Byers and Grace Gealey. The series included an impressive roster of guest star appearances from the likes of Courtney Love, Jennifer Hudson, Gabourey Sidibe, Gladys Knight, Cuba Gooding Jr., Estelle, Mary J. Blige, Naomi Campbell Snoop Dog, Rita Ora, and Patti LaBelle, among others!

Empire is an entertaining and well-executed TV drama series that has now been added to my watch list. I look forward to seeing how things play out in season two which airs this month on FOX.

Parental Guide:

The series contains thematic material, violence, sexuality and language.

AUDIO/VIDEO – By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100/EXCELLENT = 83-91/GOOD = 74-82/AVERAGE = 65-73/BELOW AVERAGE = under 65

**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**

Audio: 90
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

 

  • Dynamics:
  • Low frequency effects:
  • Surround Sound presentation:
  • Clarity/Detail:
  • Dialogue Reproduction:
  • Low frequency extension * (non-rated element): NA
  • DSU Rating * (non-rated element):

 

Video: 92
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

 

  • Resolution/Clarity:
  • Black Level/Shadow Detail:
  • Color Reproduction:
  • Fleshtones:
  • Compression:

 

Empire: The Complete First Season comes to Blu-ray Disc from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 25 Mbps and lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio sound that has an average bitrate of 3.4 Mbps.

Reminiscent of the show’s primetime high definition rendering, this is an excellent video presentation. Images are notably dimensional, exquisitely detailed, and at times provides a glossy, looking through a window perspective. Where called for colors are visually stimulating with rich, vivid highlights and natural rendering that looks superb. Fleshtones are delineated with enriching complexional structure and lifelike depiction. Contrast is strong without being distractingly overstated and blacks are dynamic, with deep, gradational quality and revealing detail in low lighting and shadowy backgrounds. This is a pristine and rewarding video presentation that looks great regardless of the size of your display.

The DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio offers excellent lossless sound quality. Dynamics are robust without being ostentatious. Dialogue is rendered with clear intonation and noteworthy room penetration through the center channel speaker. The front soundstage is nicely diffused with excellent separation and clearly articulated detail. The soundtrack doesn’t contain lots of discrete surround activity but there are moments that make great use of the platform via rewarding soundstage breadth and well-integrated spatial dimension/ambience through the rear channels. Bass response isn’t consistently room shaking however it appropriately supports the show’s Hip Hop/R&B rhythms, providing a tight, punchy low end.

Bonus Features:

  • (HD)No Apologies – Jussie Smollett (Jamal Lyon) Uncut Music Performance
  • (HD)I Wanna Love You –Jussie Smollett (Jamal Lyon) Uncut Music Performance
  • (HD)Come Away With Me – Video Medley – Jussie Smollett (Jamal Lyon)
  • (HD)Whatever Makes You Happy (feat. Jennifer Hudson & Juicy J) Uncut Music Performance
  • (HD)Keep it Movin – Byshere Y. Gray (Hakeem Lyon) and Serayah McNei (Tiana) Uncut Music Performance
  • (HD)Tell the Truth – Jussie Smollett (Jamal Lyon) Uncut Music Performance
  • (HD)Nothing to Lose – Jussie Smollett (Jamal Lyon) Uncut Music Performance
  • (HD)Power of The Empire Video Medley – Byshere Y. Gray (Hakeem Lyon)
  • (HD)For My God – Jennifer Hudson (Michelle) Uncut Music Performance
  • (HD) Good Enough – Jussie Smollett (Jamal Lyon) Uncut Music Performance
  • (HD)You’re So Beautiful – Estelle, Terrence Howard (Lucious Lyon), Taraji P. Henson (Cookie Lyon), Jussie Smollett (Jamal Lyon), Byshere Y. Gray (Hakeem Lyon) feat. Serayah McNeill (Tiana) Uncut Music Performance
  • (HD)You’re So Beautiful – Jussie Smollett (Jamal Lyon) Uncut Music Performance
  • (HD)Drip Drop (DIRTY i-Tunes) – Byshere Y. Gray (Hakeem Lyon) feat. Serayah McNeill (Tiana) Uncut Music Performance
  • (HD)What is Love Video Medley – featuring Veronika Bozeman
  • (HD)Featurette: Empire: It’s in the Music
  • (HD)Featurette: The Empire of Style
  • (HD)Feature: Commentary on the “Pilot”

Final Thoughts:

Empire: The Complete First Season is an entertaining and well-executed TV drama that features strong writing, solid casting and complimentary production elements. It comes to Blu-ray from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment featuring excellent high definition audio/video and a fan friendly supplement package that include format exclusives. Empire has now been added to my watch list. If you’re a fan this Blu-ray offering is well worth considering for inclusion in your video collection.

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Ralph Potts
AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews

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