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Brian Grazer on ‘Empire’ Premiere: Fox ‘Actualized’ the Hype

Nobody was more jazzed by Wednesday’s boffo debut of Fox’s “Empire” than Brian Grazer, whose Imagine TV banner producers the hip-hop sudser with 20th Century Fox TV.

“We were hoping for half of that rating,” Grazer told Variety.

Grazer was quick to credit the marketing muscle that Fox put behind the show for driving the big turnout. He cited the attention to detail on promo spots, off-air marketing and careful seeding of Internet video clips to whet the appetite of the show’s multicultural target audience.

“We delivered a good show, but they brought it to another level,” Grazer said. “They more than supported it — they created it. They actualized the hype.”

Grazer said he and Fox TV Group chiefs Dana Walden and Gary Newman exchanged exuberant emails with exec producers Lee Daniels, Danny Strong and showrunner Ilene Chaiken on Thursday morning. He also cited the TLC given to the show by Fox TV chief operating officer and marketing guru Joe Earley.

Empire” was a high priority for Fox as the network is in desperate need of new tentpole hits amid declining ratings across the schedule.

“This was such an underdog situation,” Grazer said. “Who knows what people are going to respond to? The network made it a sexy sell.”

Grazer promised that the ensuing episodes of the show, which revolves around a music biz mogul and his personal and professional struggles, bring plenty of sizzle to the screen. Fox is clearly hoping that “Empire” will be a social-media-friendly show that draws viewers to chatter along through second-screen activity.

“Every episode has this ‘Oh my god’ twist to it that’s very shocking and unpredictable that will blow you out,” Grazer said. “I read the scripts, and then when I see it materialized by the actors, I just can’t believe it.”

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