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Alert: Tonight’s ‘Empire’ Goes Full NPR&B


Any unemployed A- to B-list celebrity you can think of either has been on Empire, is asking to be on Empire, or will be on Empire. So far, in just two seasons, guests have included Courtney Love, Naomi Campbell, Rosie O’Donnell, Chris Rock, Alicia Keys, Jennifer Hudson, Marisa Tomei, Cuba Gooding Jr., Gladys Knight, Snoop Dogg, Juicy J, and Judd Nelson. Even President Obama made a cameo. (OK, Terrence Howard just pretended to make a personal call to Obama in Season 1, but you know POTUS won’t stop bringing it up with Malia and Sasha.)

Frankly, I didn’t think it was possible to top Tomei’s turn as the “lesbian bitch in the red suit,” but tonight’s cameo manages to outdo even that. This one might be an all-time, hall-of-fame great. It is certainly the best moment from tonight’s episode (except for that thing with the cat, but let’s talk about that tomorrow). Can you handle this? The very special, back-from-winter-hiatus guest star is … NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert, the yuppie-beloved series in which artists such as Ben Folds, Wilco, and Adele record intimate sessions right at the desk of All Songs Considered host Bob Boilen.

A character (I won’t say which one) has a very dramatic story arc (I won’t say what happens) that ends with a pivotal scene in what looks like Boilen’s office. (Boilen himself does not appear in the episode. It also might not even be his actual office.) Too much has been said already, but just know that the iconic NPR tote bag figures prominently into the scene, and you may feel a sudden urge to call in and donate.

This piece originally appeared in the March 30, 2016, edition of the Ringer newsletter.