Worth Watching: 'Party of Five' Reimagined, 'Criminal Minds' Final Season, Netflix Brings 'Cheer'
A selective critical checklist of notable Wednesday TV:
Party of Five (9/8c, Freeform): One of TV's all-time great tear-jerkers takes on a topical new form in a moving family drama. Where the original Fox series (1994-2000) featured the middle-class Salingers, orphaned when their parents were killed in a car accident, the new series focuses on the Acostas, four siblings (and baby Rafa) who are left to run a family restaurant and a turbulent household when their parents are arrested by ICE agents and deported to Mexico after 23 years in the U.S. When the judge notes that "Heartbreak is anything but uncommon in these cases," he's not kidding. Life is no party for these scrappy brothers and sisters, but when has a reboot ever felt so relevant?
Criminal Minds (9/8c, CBS): Never a critical favorite for what was seen as an exploitative look at sensational and disturbing crimes (often against women), Criminal Minds was an instant and long-running hit. But everything good — and bad — must come to an end, which brings us to the 15th and final shortened season, kicking off with a two-hour opener. The premiere reintroduces a fiend from last season: "The Chameleon" (Michael Mosley), who's been an obsession of Rossi (Joe Mantegna) ever since he was nearly killed by the malleable monster. In the second hour, Jane Lynch returns as Reid's (Matthew Gray Gubler) mother, Diana, who's having a rare moment of lucidity.
America's Top Dog (9/8c, A&E): These dogs are ninjas in a new competition series that pits professional police K9 teams (including some familiar to fans of Live PD) against civilian teams, as they tackle challenging K9 obstacle courses with tests of speed, agility and scenting ability. Fox NFL Sunday co-host Curt Menefee hosts alongside expert trainer Nick White, with sideline reporting from Jamie Little, known for her motor-sports reporting for Fox NASCAR as well as her advocacy for animal rescue.
Cheer (streaming on Netflix): If the murderous cheerleader drama of USA's Dare Me is too much for you, check out the latest docu-series from the team behind Last Chance U. Over six episodes, Cheer follows the rigorous training and compelling personal stories of the competitive cheerleading squad of Navarro College in Corsicana, Texas. With coach Monica Aldama urging these athletes on, the junior-college team has won 14 national championships since 2000. But not without hard work and sacrifice.
Inside Wednesday TV: CBS's Emmy-winning Undercover Boss (8/7c) is back for a ninth season, with NFL champion Drew Brees trading his Saints jersey for an apron to go undercover in a New Orleans outlet of the southern sports-bar franchise Walk On's Bistreaux & Bar. Brees' partner and company founder/CEO Brandon Landry also goes undercover to find ways to improve operations as the chain plans even more expansion… A turf war could be brewing on NBC's Chicago Fire (9/8c) when Firehouse 51 learns the city's boundaries have been redrawn, and they now overlap with an adjacent station… MTV expands its True Life franchise by entering the true-crime space in True Life Crime (9/8c, also on VH1). MTV News host Dometi Pongo looks into shocking cases involving young-adult victims, including 19-year-old Kenneka Jenkins, who vanished from a Chicago birthday party and was later found in a hotel freezer… ABC's Stumptown (10/9c), one of the fall's best new shows, returns from holiday hiatus with a new story arc teaming Detective Hoffman (Michael Ealy) with ex-con barman Grey (Jake Johnson), who work together to take down a carjacking ring. Meanwhile, Dex (Cobie Smulders) faces competition when hired by a TV judge to look for his absent brother.