Printer Friendly

'EMPIRE' SUCCUMBS TO INEVITABLE DECLINE.

Byline: David Kronke TV Critic

THERE'S A GREAT communications student's dissertation (or a pop- culture critic's Pulitzer) in considering the de-evolution of the broadcast network miniseries, from ``Roots'' to Robert Halmi Sr.'s sundry latest efforts: how high-minded ideals became low art.

ABC's latest effort, ``Empire,'' will be presented as evidence of the gulf between the disparate producers' goals. For while ``Empire'' opens with laudable aims and strong dramaturgy, it ends in turgid melodrama. (Halmi had no hand in this production, but the final episodes reek of his cheese-fest influence.)

The ``Empire'' in question is that of Rome's, circa 44 B.C. Julius Caesar (Colm Feore) owns the known world, but anarchy is afoot. Feore, coincidentally, stole the show as Cassius in Broadway's spring revival of Shakespeare's ``Julius Caesar'' from his more celebrated co-conspirator Denzel Washington, who played Brutus. Here, Feore tastes the blades, somewhat fortuitously, as he escapes the production's eventual descent into camp.

Instead, the burden of nation-building falls upon Caesar's callow nephew Octavius (Santiago Cabrera, more convincing as a wimp than as a warrior). Caesar, in his dying gasp, bequeaths Octavius' future to the delectably brooding beefcake gladiator Tyrannus (Jonathan Cake), who's more at home slicing and dicing competitors in the gladiatorial ring than coping with women who eye him lasciviously.

When Octavius and Tyrannus are abducted for a gladiator school, Tyrannus instructs Octavius to keep a low profile, an edict that, of course, he promptly disobeys, forcing copious bloodletting. And though political conspiracies threaten to bury him, Octavius has his allies, particularly vestal virgin Camane (Emily Blunt), whose cooing narration and grrl-power advocacy both contemporizes the story and lays waste to its credibility.

In its first three hours, ``Empire'' is moderately absorbing. The political chicanery is engaging (Michael Maloney has a patrician oiliness as the sinister Cassius, who's only slow on the uptake when it's necessary to help Octavius' survival).

As the series progresses, alas, and its focus comes upon hunky, callow young Octavius, ``Empire'' transmogrifies into ``Rome 90210.'' By the fourth hour, things have devolved into camp depictions of Roman decadence.

There's Fulvia (Fiona Shaw), whose dismissive rebuke of her husband Marc Antony (Vincent Reagan) produces the first laugh of the series - and reminds you how precious little really good character development has gone before.

There's the appearance of what appears to be the Regis Philbin of ancient Rome, as well as the requisite decadent behavior, neatly polished to appease the chaste demands of network television.

By series' end, the filmmakers ape the current religious catch-phrase ``What would Jesus do?'' with their own, admittedly lamer, ``What would Caesar do?'' The answer, in either case, would clearly be: Find something else to watch.

David Kronke,(818) 713-3638

david.kronke(at)dailynews.com

EMPIRE - Two and one half stars

What: Six hours on ancient Rome - the fall of Julius Caesar, the long rise of Octavius.

Where: ABC (Channel 7).

When: 9 tonight; thereafter, 10 p.m. Tuesdays through July 26.

In a nutshell: Good start, lame finish.

CAPTION(S):

photo

Photo:

Santiago Cabrera as Octavius and Jonathan Cake as Tyrannus learn the way of the gladiator in ABC's ``Empire.''
COPYRIGHT 2005 Daily News
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2005, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jun 28, 2005
Words:522
Previous Article:JUST THROW THIS DIVISION BACK.
Next Article:ANGELS RIGHT AT HOME ON RANGE GUERRERO EXTENDS HITTING STREAK AGAINST TEXAS TO 28 IN ROUT ANGELS 13, TEXAS 3.


Related Articles
BRIEFCASE BACKSTREET BOYS LAWSUIT DISMISSED.
An Institution closes.
The theology of torture.
EDITORIAL UNHEALTHY TREND.
Lessons of Rome: the rise and fall of the Roman Republic provides lessons that hint at flaws in modern political policies.
How immigration destroyed Rome. Oxford historian Peter Heather has reexamined the fall of Rome. His new book, The Fall of the Roman Empire, holds...
The Siege of Vienna.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2018 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters