Worth Watching: Beginning of the End for 'Modern Family,' 'Survivor,' 'Chicago' Premieres, 'Suits' Series Finale
A selective critical checklist of notable Wednesday TV:
Modern Family (9/8c, ABC): Of all the shows that will be signing off in the season to come, few are more significant than this game-changing extended-family comedy, an Emmy darling through its first few seasons. While far past its prime in its 11th year, the final misadventures of the Dunphy-Pritchett clan will be worth keeping an eye on. The final run begins with a focus on Haley (Sarah Hyland), new mother of twins, as she clashes with grandpa Phil (Ty Burrell) and grandma Claire (Julie Bowen) over whose parenting methods are better.
Survivor (8/7c, CBS): This pioneer of prime-time reality competition, entering its 39th season, can't get enough of its idols. Not just immunity idols, but the superstar personalities the show must consider to be Survivor idols — which explains why two of the most high-profile former champs, "Boston Rob" Mariano and Sandra Diaz-Twine are returning. They won't be playing the "outwit-outplay-outlast" game, merely serving as mentors to the 20 new castaways, who if tradition holds will bow to the majesty of their predecessors. Among the eclectic cast playing in Fiji for the ultimate $1 million prize: an Olympic medalist, a professional poker player (though not "Jeopardy! James" Holzhauer), a former NHL player, two personal injury lawyers, a nanny, a lifeguard and a 4th grade teacher.
Chicago Med-Fire-P.D. (8/7c, 9/8c, 10/9c, NBC): So many lives and careers in peril as Dick Wolf's Chicago triumvirate returns in a procedural all-nighter. The Med premiere marks the final appearance of Colin Donnell as Dr. Rhodes, but the real news is the fallout of the car accident involving Dr. Manning (Torrey DeVitto) and former fiancé Dr. Halstead (Nick Gehlfuss). On Fire, the Firehouse 51 squad faces potential disaster as they continue to battle a mattress factory blaze with a boiler that could blow at any moment. And P.D. once again puts Det. Sgt. Voight (Jason Beghe) under the spotlight when corrupt mayor-elect Kelton (John C. McGinley) is found murdered. Also: Antonio (departing cast member Jon Seda) is nowhere to be seen.
Suits (9/8c, USA): "You and I conned the world for years," Mike (Patrick J. Adams) reminds Harvey (Gabriel Macht). "I think it's time for one last con." Hey, whatever will save the firm from horrible Faye (Denise Crosby) in the legal drama's very last episode after nine entertaining seasons. The series finale also promises at least one more happy ending, with the wedding of Louis (Rick Hoffman) and Sheila (Rachael Harris).
Cable Premieres: Almost too many to mention on a night that pretty much defined the "peak TV" era. Two long-running fan favorites are back: Comedy Central's animated South Park (10/9c) for its 23rd season, with an ICE raid on Kyle's family one of the targets for satire. Followed by the return of the puppet prank show Crank Yankers (10:30/9:30c). And FXX launches It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia (10/9c) for its 14th season, making it the longest-running live-action comedy series in TV history — although at episode 144, it's going to take many more years to match The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet's 435-episode total. In the premiere, the gang concocts schemes to attract single women and European coeds, which inevitably backfire. Sunny is followed by the series premiere of Cake (10:30/9:30c), an experimental showcase for short-form comedy in live-action and animated form.
Inside Wednesday TV: Some striking new costumes for the second season of Fox's surprise hit The Masked Singer (8/7c), but sadly, the witless "celebrity" panel returns… Another season, another movie homage to kick off the seventh season of ABC's The Goldbergs (8/7c), this time saluting National Lampoon's Vacation as the family takes a cross-country road trip to Disneyland… PBS's epic Country Music (8/7c, check local listings at pbs.org) airs its final installment, tracking the genre's growth in the '80s and '90s with the rise of Reba McEntire, the Judds, Dwight Yoakum, Vince Gill, Garth Brooks and many more. Stay to the end for a heart-rending account of Rosanne Cash's reconciliation with her legendary father, Johnny Cash.