Just like ‘Star,’ Lee Daniels’ ‘Empire’ is getting canceled.
The show will end after its sixth season.
The decision comes just months after Jussie Smollett, one of the show’s stars, was at the center of a national controversy over whether he staged an attack that he had described as a hate crime.
Fox made the announcement as it unveiled its upcoming lineup for the 2019-20 television schedule. “Empire” is heading into its sixth season and has seen declining ratings in recent years, pushing the former hit show out of the top 10 network entertainment series.
Fox executives declined to say if the decision to end “Empire” had anything to do with Smollett’s recent imbroglio.
“We’re excited to see to this show go out with a bang,” Fox Entertainment’s chief executive, Charlie Collier, said in a conference call with the news media, adding that six seasons “is a pretty remarkable run for a drama series.”
But Smollett’s status on the next season of the series had become the source of a disagreement between the stars of the show and its producers and executives.
In April, much of the cast of “Empire,” including its two lead actors, Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson, signed a letter of support asking for Smollett to return.
Producers and executives declined, saying there were “no plans” for him to come back, even as they negotiated an extension on his option, leaving the door open for a return later in the season.
Taraji P. Henson and Terrence Howard, the two lead actors on “Empire,” at the show’s Season 5 premiere in September. They and other cast members had signed a letter of support for Smollett.
“Empire” became the subject of intense national focus after Smollett said he was attacked by two men shouting homophobic slurs in the middle of the night in Chicago in late January.
Within weeks, the Chicago police accused Mr. Smollett of staging the attack, in part because he was upset about his salary on the Fox drama.
Prosecutors later dropped all charges against Smollett, angering both the police and Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
Smollett was written out of the final two episodes of the most recent “Empire” season, and producers were reluctant to commit to ever having him come back.
After Smollett’s option was extended, a representative for the actor said late last month that he appreciated that producers had left his “future open.” Now with the show down to its final season, his possible return could represent less of a threat to the series if executives were concerned about a backlash.
There were certainly other complicating factors involving the show’s future. “Empire” was going to be more expensive to the Fox broadcast network this upcoming season than in years past. With the Walt Disney Company now owning most of Fox’s entertainment properties, including its TV studio, the network has to pay a hefty license fee to air the show.
The series has also shed viewers in recent years. In its latest season, it dropped 23 percent in the ratings and is currently in a tie for 17th place among network entertainment shows, along with the ABC drama “A Million Little Things.”
“Empire” came on the air in January 2015 and became an instant hit. The soapy hip-hop drama gained in viewers every week in its first season, and was a source of celebration among all network executives, pointing to it as evidence that the broadcast networks were still capable of generating huge hits. (Few new shows have been able to replicate its success since, with the exception of NBC’s “This Is Us,” which debuted in 2016, and Fox’s “The Masked Singer,” which came on the air earlier this year.)
As part of Monday’s announcement, Fox also said that “Empire” would change time slots, moving from Wednesdays at 8 p.m. to Tuesday nights at 9. That would pit “Empire” against “This Is Us.”
We know a lot of you love muffins were upset at ‘Star’ getting canceled, but we here at lovebscott.com heard from our sources that the network planned to cancel both ‘Empire’ AND ‘Star’ this season.
Producers were fighting to keep them both, but ultimately decided to sacrifice ‘Star’ to give ‘Empire’ a final season.