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Fox’s ‘Empire’ Stirs Memories of UPN’s ‘Platinum’

Longtime participants in the Television Critics Assn. press tour often get hit with a sense of deja vu while covering the twice-yearly marathon of TV gabbery.

NBC Entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt had that I’ve-been-here-before feeling as reporters were yakking about the strong debut of Fox’s “Empire.” The show reminded Greenblatt of the drama “Platinum” that he and former producing partner David Janollari shepherded for UPN back in 2003.

The show’s original title was “Empire,” but they couldn’t clear it. And “Empire” star Terrence Howard auditioned for one of the lead roles, Greenblatt recalled.

“Who know our show was so ahead of its time?” he joked.

Like “Empire,” “Platinum” revolved around the drama of the hip-hop music business and a family trying to hold their empire together, and the two shows also came from notable auspices: Lee Daniels and Danny Strong for “Empire,” John Ridley, Sofia Coppola and Francis Ford Coppola for “Platinum.”

“Platinum” focused on a battle between two brothers. Jason George (pictured) played the business-minded one who leads a prominent but financially strapped record company while Sticky Fingaz was the behaviorally challenged rapper whose success made the label.

Ridley, who in the intervening years picked up an Oscar for “12 Years a Slave,” is back running a drama series again with ABC’s “American Crime,” which bows March 5.

“Platinum” lasted only 13 episodes, but it was seen as a win for then-UPN chief Dawn Ostroff. The show proved that she could draw some name talent to the network, and it was generally well received by critics. And that was not something said about many UPN shows at the time.

 

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