Things aren’t looking so good for Fox’s hit-show “Empire,” which premiered on Wednesday after a winter break and still amid Jussie Smollett’s alleged hoax crime scandal. The show returned to find its viewership had dipped.
According to TV by the Numbers, Wednesday night’s “Empire” episode had a 1.2 demo rating/6 share among adults 18-49 and 4.412 million total viewers. This is down from a 1.3 rating earlier in the season.
While we don’t know exactly why the ratings took a dip, it doesn’t help that Smollett’s controversy has been at the height of nationwide talk for the last two months.
Compared to last year, the Dec. 5 episode of “Empire” was up and had a 1.5 rating and 5.043 million total viewers. During midseason episode last year, it had a 2.0 rating and reported 6.217 million viewers, according to The Wrap.
“Empire’s” showing on Wednesday was the program’s second-worst demo rating ever. The lowest was on Halloween 2018, a night when most people are out and about and with their kids.
According to the showrunners at “Empire,” there are no immediate plans to dismiss Smollett anytime soon. Earlier this week, Smollett was in court pleading not guilty to 16 counts of disorderly conduct as a result of the alleged hate crime hoax.
“It’s a matter of trusting the process and allowing the legal process to play out and see where it goes from there,” executive producer and showrunner Brett Mahoney told Entertainment Weekly.
“And it’s too early to think about what we would have to do if we didn’t have Jussie,” he told EW. “We have such a strong ensemble and we have so many stories to tell for all of these fascinating characters that it’s bigger than one character, but it’s too early to think about the show without him.”
While the Empire brass hasn’t decided whether to cancel Smollett’s character altogether, earlier this month, they did clip his scenes. The show co-created by film industry giant Lee Daniels already announced that Smollett was cut from the final two episodes of the current season.