The new Fox musical series, which stars Trace Adkins, Anna Friel, and Susan Sarandon, introduces dynastic drama in the vein of Empire to the world of country music. A few years ago, TV and movie producer Gail Berman and author Melissa London Hilfers were having lunch together. Fox was considering producing a dramatic series with a country music theme, according to Berman.
Helpers Fired Up. She was raised in a large Maryland family that enjoyed jam sessions in the living room with friends, with her father providing the guitar-playing direction. In a flash, she thought, What if we imagined the Romanov dynasty as a family of country music artists in Austin, Texas? she recounted this in a recent video interview. The pitch appealed to Berman.
Since then, Hilfers’ concept has developed into the new Fox drama “Monarch,” which debuts on Sunday. (Hilgers is the writer and executive producer alongside Berman.) The Roman family, a squabbling, vengeful group that clings to its status as the original family of country music and leaves a trail of bodies in its wake, has replaced the Romanov dynasty.
Monarch functions as Fox’s hip-hop hit “Empire” in a Stetson. It is a hybrid of King Lear and a prime-time soap drama. Messy love competes with bad behavior at every turn. Nothing else would satisfy Hilgers. She screamed, Lie upon lie upon lie. Death, sex, and betrayal. I adore that material.
The matriarch of the Roman family is Dottie (Susan Sarandon), an emotionally manipulative celebrity whose health is deteriorating. The series’ narrative center, Nicky (Anna Friel), is Dottie’s eldest daughter, and she wants her to succeed her. But Nicky’s younger sister, Gigi (Beth Ditto), who has long been kept in the background by her mother, is ready to make a move. The Monarch label is handled by their brother Luke (Joshua Sasse), who is also having an affair with Kayla, Gigi’s wife (Meagan Holder).
Albie, the father, is portrayed by the tall, baritone-voiced country artist Trace Adkins, and he simply wants to drink whiskey, record vintage outlaw country songs, browbeat his corporate-minded son, and cover up the apparent murder that he or a close friend or relative may have committed.