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Could hip-hop soap 'Empire' become TV's No. 1 show?

Fox's 'Empire' could become America's No. 1 show

"Empire" could well be rapping its way to becoming America's No. 1 show.

Fox's hip-hop soap -- with Terrence Howard as an ailing record mogul struggling with family intrigue -- keeps climbing higher in the ratings. Wednesday's episode drew 14.2 million total viewers, again crushing all competition as the night's most-watched program, according to Nielsen.

"Empire" has scored eight straight weeks of ratings growth since it premiered in January -- an almost unheard-of feat in television.

Like many dramas, the series also scores well in delayed viewing. People who watch within a week of the original air date boost the already-high rating among adults ages 18 to 49 by another 42%.

And the best may be yet to come. "Empire" has already been picked up for a second season, and if past patterns hold, it will grow even more. Primetime soaps tend to accumulate their audiences for the first two seasons and peak before slowly burning out. Ratings for the original "Dallas" on CBS peaked in Season 4; ABC's "Dynasty" hit the high point in Season 5.

Of course, those shows date from the 1980s, when the TV landscape was much less competitive than it is today.

But "Empire" has a good shot at toppling "NCIS," which has occupied the top spot for months. Last week, "Empire" ranked No. 6 on the list of most-watched shows, within striking distance of not only "NCIS" (17.4 million) but also "The Walking Dead" (14.4 million) and "The Voice" (14.1 million).

The big question is what all this will mean for Fox next season. Network executives are currently pondering how many episodes to order and when to schedule the show.

A full order of 22 episodes is considered unlikely because the original musical numbers that dot the show take so long to produce. Fox also doesn't want to burn out viewers on a show that could help prop up its schedule for years. 

Stay tuned, as the network will unveil its fall schedule in May.

What do you think of "Empire"?

Twitter: @scottcollinsLAT

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