What's Worth Watching: Empire, Designated Survivor, Speechless, Lethal Weapon and more for Monday, September 21

Matt Roush
EMPIRE
Chuck Hodes/FOX

Empire (9/8c, Fox): "Lord, this family, I swear!" proclaims Cookie Lyon (Taraji P. Henson) in a rare moment of understatement. Because from the opening moments of this third season of rap-fueled melodrama, things are so out of control you wonder how anyone can get through a single scene without breaking up. (Oh, how I wish In Living Color was still around to do a parody, although come to think of it, how do you parody a parody?) The literal cliffhanger, with Rhonda (Kaitlin Doubleday) and a pregnant Anika (Grace Byers) catfighting against a balcony railing to someone's presumed death, is resolved quickly, with no shortage of absurdity in the (what's the word) fallout. Before long, we're back watching the Lyons rip into each other as Lucious (Terrence Howard) plots a comeback of his streaming service, while a sullen Hakeem (Bryshere "Yazz" Gray) and a fragile Jamal (Jussie Smollett) take turns distracting us with their rap and R&B stylings. Along the way, we get this pearl of wisdom from Lucious: "21st law of power: Always play a sucker to catch a sucker." Are we sure P.T. Barnum isn't secretly producing this show now?

NEW THIS FALL: In descending order of must-see status, Kiefer Sutherland is the accidental president in ABC's gripping political thriller Designated Survivor (10/9c); Minnie Driver is a comic force of nature as a ferocious mom paving the way for her son, who has cerebral palsy, in ABC's latest addition to its great family-comedy lineup, Speechless (8:30/7:30c); Damon Wayans and Clayne Crawford take over the iconic Danny Glover-Mel Gibson roles in a TV-series remake of Lethal Weapon (8/7c) that's more entertaining and satisfying than you might expect.

THE ABC FAMILY WAY: The Middle has moved to Tuesdays this fall, but the rest of the comedy lineup is intact, starting with The Goldbergs (8/7c) opening its fourth season with an homage to the ’80s classic The Breakfast Club, which means someone's getting detention. … Modern Family once again anchors the night (9/8c), back for its eighth year with the various branches of the clan reuniting after taking separate trips to New York, the Midwest and Mexico. … Meanwhile, the deservedly Emmy-nominated black-ish (9:30/8:30c) takes a VIP trip to Walt Disney World like so many sitcom families (including those on Disney-owned ABC) have done before.

Survivor (8/7c, CBS): The 33rd cycle of this undying reality-TV pioneer, kicking off with a 90-minute opener, mines a different sort of generation gap, pitting a tribe of Millennials against a tribe representing Generation X. Boomers? Maybe next time.