What's Worth Watching: American Idol on Fox, Mike & Molly on CBS and The Middle on ABC
American Idol (8/7c, Fox): It may just be a shadow of its former pop-phenom self, but as the 15th and final season of Idol gets underway—with an eerie flashback to that first season, when Ryan Seacrest was shadowed by a certain Brian Dunkleman—you can still sense a bit of the euphoria that once greeted this blockbuster singing competition's audition rounds. With Jennifer Lopez, Harry Connick, Jr. and Keith Urban at the judges' table, it's a kinder, gentler—and at times funnier and looser—process. And unlike in the Simon Cowell era, Idol emphasizes the upbeat and talented hopefuls over the hopelessly deluded (although they still exist). The crew starts its search for a superstar in Atlanta and Denver, with glimpses of past winners and contestants (Taylor Hicks, Ruben Studdard, Clay Aiken) hinting at more comebacks along the way. And as if to demonstrate that Idol's relevance isn't entirely a thing of the past, a celebrity cameo in the final reel makes you wonder who else might turn up before this victory lap is over.
Mike & Molly (8:30/7:30c, CBS): Melissa McCarthy's big-screen stardom notwithstanding, the delayed and shortened sixth season of the durable sitcom is reported to be its last. The focus of the season opener isn't on the relationship in the title, but on the troubled partnership of cops Mike (Billy Gardell) and Carl (Reno Wilson), which requires couples counseling. Molly is being paired with fellow Monday refugee 2 Broke Girls, moved from Thursdays to form a new hour comedy block. Now if there were ever a show screaming (literally) to be canceled …
The Middle (8/7c, ABC): Leading off an all-new night of TV's best family comedies, The Middle returns from holiday break with Poor Sue (the delightful Eden Sher) as delusional as ever, as she prepares for Sorority Rush. Did she learn nothing from all those high-school rejections? Still, bless her heart. … And stick around for black-ish (9:30/8:30c), with guest star Tyra Banks as Dre's (Anthony Anderson) childhood BFF Gigi, a pop star who leaves Bow (Tracee Ellis Ross) feeling like a third wheel.
INSIDE WEDNESDAY TV: The three-way Chicago Med-Fire-PD crossover that began Tuesday wraps on Chicago P.D. (10/9c, NBC) with an investigation into a doctor with personal ties to Voight (Jason Beghe). … Jane Lynch hosts CBS's People's Choice Awards (9/8c), conveniently timed on the eve of her Angel From Hell sitcom premiere Thursday. … Twisted laughs abound on FXX with It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia beginning its 11th, and next-to-last, season (10/9c), followed by year 2 of Man Seeking Woman (10:30/9:30c). … CNBC's Restaurant Startup is back for a new season (10/9c), with potential investors checking out two unpretentious steakhouses: one in Glendale, NY, the other in Stockton, CA. … If you haven't followed through on this year's diet resolutions, you might want to avoid this TLC twosome: the fourth-season premiere of My 600-LB Life (9/8c), which follows morbidly obese patients through the process of gastric bypass surgery; and the new Skin Tight (10/9c), all about the follow-through of reconstructive skin-removal surgery. No snacking, please.