"Empire," Fox's Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson-starring drama about a music dynasty, got off to a strong start Wednesday, in what may well be the first break in those clouds that have gathered over this network the last couple of years.
Or to put this in a simple declarative question: Does Fox have a new hit?
Answering that in the affirmative may be a bit premature, but "Empire" held on to most of its "American Idol' lead-in (10.9 million), for a total of 9.8 million viewers. That's excellent retention and an indication viewers liked what they saw. Even better from Fox's point of view, "Idol's" open was down from last season's open, which means "Empire" was largely unaffected by the decline fortunes of the franchise.
Newcomer "Gotham" also did well last fall -- 8.3 million -- but obviously not this well, although "Gotham" did turn out to be a big success when video-on-demand ratings were incorporated. On that point, Fox a little while ago noted that "Empire's so-called "live-plus seven day" rating among 18-49 year-old-aged viewers (where the VOD action is) should grow by 51 percent when those numbers are added in a week from now.
Meanwhile, Fox says it hasn't scored this well among young viewers in a new drama in three years, or when "Touch" launched.
That naturally leads to a note of caution: "Touch" also started off well, then dropped off. Nevertheless, this was a good start under far more difficult circumstances than those faced by "Touch" three years ago. Fox has to be pleased.