‘Empire’ suffers second lowest ratings of show’s history

FILE - In this May 14, 2018 file photo, Jussie Smollett, a cast member in the TV series "Empire," attends the Fox Networks Group 2018 programming presentation afterparty in New York. A historically black women’s college in North Carolina that’s one of two such institutions left in the U.S. is trying to raise $5 million to stave off losing accreditation. Bennett College has reported sizeable donations as it closes in on its Friday, Feb. 1, 2019 fundraising deadline, aided by supporters of Smollett. He told police he was attacked in Chicago this week. Just days before, he had appeared on MSNBC alongside university president Phyllis Dawkins to raise awareness of the school’s plight. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File)

“Empire” returned from its winter break on Wednesday. It was also the first episode that aired since co-star Jussie Smollett was charged with felony disorderly conduct, and the show took a significant hit in ratings.

According to Deadline, the hip-hop drama garnered 4.4 million viewers and a 1.3 rating in the 18-49 demographic.

To put those Nielsen numbers into perspective, the last “Empire” episode that aired on Dec. 5 had 5.0 million viewers and a 1.5 rating. And when the show came back from its hiatus last year, it had 6.2 million viewers and a 2.0 rating.

Other reports indicate that Thursday, March 14 dismal numbers represent the second lowest views in the show’s history. The first lowest was an episode that aired on Oct. 31, 2018, because many were presumably out trick or treating for Halloween.

The show that follows “Empire,” “Star,” also took a hit, though not much and was down a tenth from its previous episode.

As for Smollett, he appeared in court on Thursday and pled not guilty to the 16-count indictment that was handed down to him earlier this month.

But before the actor was charged, he was considered a victim after he said two white men attacked him in Chicago while he was on his way to a Subway restaurant. Smollett said the men yelled homophobic and racist slurs at him and placed a noose around his neck.

Later, however, Chicago police said two Nigerian brothers, who were extras on “Empire,” were hired by Smollett, who organized and staged the attack. There was also video footage that showed the brothers buying the items that Smollett said was used on him.

Last month, “Empire” producers released a statement about the actor, who plays the character Jamal Lyon, and said he’d be removed from the final two episodes of the current season.

“The events of the past few weeks have been incredibly emotional for all of us,” a statement read. “Jussie has been an important member of our ‘Empire’ family for the past five years and we care about him deeply.”

“While these allegations are very disturbing, we are placing our trust in the legal system as the process plays out. We are also aware of the effects of this process on the cast and crew members who work on our show and to avoid further disruption on set, we have decided to remove the role of Jamal from the final two episodes of the season.”

Smollett is due back in court next month.