The reign of Empire on Fox is coming to an end next year.
Just two weeks after the Charlie Collier-run Fox Entertainment renewed Lee Daniels and Danny Strong’s hip-hop drama for a sixth season and showed controversy ladened Jussie Smollett towards the exit door, it was announced today on Fox’s Upfront call that the self described “groundbreaking cultural phenomenon” of Empire will be canceled once Season 6 is done.
“We are turning the final season into a large TV event, we are trying to go out guns a blazing,” Collier proclaimed on the call of Empire‘s 20-episode last round “You allow fans to lean in and have the ending they deserve,” the CEO added.
Questioned about the possibility that the legally challenged Smollett could return for the final season, Collier dodged and replied with language reminiscent of last month’s press release. “There’s an option to have Jussie in the series but we have no plans for that,” he said, noting that the writers’ room for Season 6 hasn’t even been opened yet.
Dropped less than a week after the fifth season of Empire wrapped up, with its Casablanca-ish finale, Monday’s news also shifts the Chicago filmed series back to its original Tuesday slot at 9 PM. That’s a primetime team-up with an also moved The Resident for the night for its third season.
The shift to Tuesdays also puts the already ratings bedeviled Empire right up against NBC’s heavy hitter This Is Us.
On the up side for fans of the Taraji P. Henson and Terrence Howard-led series, planning for the resetting sixth season of Empire is still very much in the early stages, as the Fox Entertainment boss essentially said today and showrunner Brett Mahoney told me on May 8, which leaves plenty of time to craft an proper conclusion.
The axing of Empire follows the cancelling of co-creator Daniels’ 20th Century Fox TV produced Star on May 10 after three seasons, which Collier today called “difficult.” The Strong EP’d and also Disney-owned TCFTV produced midseason replacement legal drama Proven Innocent was pink slipped by Fox the network after one season on May 11.
Caught between lower than expected ratings and the costs of doing business with a former corporate sibling, the Star and Proven Innocent cancellations, painful as they were for those concerned, were pretty straightforward.
On the other hand, amidst other long in the tooth issues, Empire was pummeled this year by new ratings lows and the ever spiraling controversy over the January 29 presumed hate crime that the Jamal Lyon portraying Smollett is now alleged by Chicago Police and prosecutors to have perpetrated against himself.
Things were still looking good several weeks ago for a longer run when options for key cast like the once and now once again music moguls the Lyon clan, consisting of matriarch Cookie (Henson), patriarch Lucious (Howard), on-screen sons Bryshere Y. Gray, and Trai Byers, along with Gabourey Sidibe and Nicole Ari Parker were sewed up last month for another season, I hear.
Having portrayed openly gay middle son Jamal Lyon on the series from its early 2015 debut, Fox Entertainment and now Disney-owned 20th Century Fox TV “negotiated an extension to Jussie Smollett’s option for Season 6.”
However, with the Smollett character already written out of the last two episodes of Season 5 months ago as the situation around him became more convoluted and the Chicago police investigation deepened, the network and the studio added on April 30 that “at this time there are no plans for the character of Jamal to return to Empire.”
Now, there are no more plans for Empire to return to Fox pass its next upcoming cycle. A fact that would have seemed absurd just a few years ago.
In its first and second seasons, the blockbuster drew in big numbers from almost every facet of the American television viewing public. In fact, breaking the status quo of steady decline, for a while Empire was on a winning trajectory of growing almost every week in the ratings to new highs.
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SOURCE: Deadline – Dominic Patten