On the busiest night yet of Premiere Week, ABC revives The Wonder Years from a Black family’s perspective. The Goldbergs pays tribute to their beloved Pops, the late George Segal. The Conners opens its fourth season with a live call-in episode. After a long break, Survivor kicks off its 41st season with a two-hour premiere. All three of NBC’s Chicago shows launch new seasons. Fox pairs its guilty pleasure The Masked Singer with another high-concept singing contest where contestants perform behind elaborate avatars. In late night, all the hosts have agreed to use their platform to address climate change in their own way.
The beloved coming-of-age classic (1988-93) returns with a new look but a similarly warm tone, telling its story from the perspective of 12-year-old Dean Williams (Elisha “EJ” Williams), a Black youth from Birmingham, Alabama, growing up in the late 1960s amid the turbulence of the civil-rights movement. The world is changing, but Dean’s universe (introduced by narrator Don Cheadle as the adult Dean) is focused on his middle-class family, his diverse group of friends and his “safe” suburban neighborhood, “united by pride, self-determination and the right to spank any kid caught outside after the streetlights come on.” Dulé Hill is terrific as his dad Bill, a musician and professor who tempers discipline with coolness. In the opener, young Dean plays uniter, organizing a baseball game that would let Black and white teams compete, until history casts a shadow over the day.
The long-running family comedy lost a treasured member when George Segal passed away in March, and the cast pays homage to their Pops in the ninth season premiere. The Goldbergs have been grieving for several months, unable to move on, until they embark on a quest to discover Pops’ favorite spot to scatter his ashes. Naturally, Adam (Sean Giambrone) films it all on camera, in the style of Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. And yes, there is banjo playing involved.
Few sitcom families feel as real as the Connors of Lanford, Illinois, with their personal and economic struggles, and in the fourth-season opener—presented live on both coasts—they’ll take calls from fans (chosen in a recent sweepstakes) for a real-time conversation about how they’re all coping. Possible topics include the pandemic, sobriety and relationships: Darlene’s (Sara Gilbert) rejected proposal and Dan’s (John Goodman) impending wedding.
After sitting out last season because of the pandemic, the venerable reality competition is back in Fiji for a 41st round of adventure, alliances and heated tribal councils. Filmed over 26 instead of the usual 39 days, the accelerated journey is even more challenging than usual, when the initial three tribes start off with minimal supplies and no rice. No one ever said it would be easy. That’s why they’re there. And why we watch.
For many, the Windy City will continue to be the place to be on Wednesdays. Chicago Med (8/7c) opens its seventh season with the staff still getting used to interim Emergency chief Archer (Steven Weber), who handles a wild case involving identical twins. Chicago Fire’s (9/8c) 10th season begins in the immediate aftermath of the capsized boat crisis, with multiple lives hanging (or drowning) in the balance. Chicago P.D. (10/9c) starts its ninth season with a kidnapped and shot Officer Kim Burgess (Marina Squerciati) fighting for her life at Med, while the team looks for the killer of a P.D. informant.
Because masking celebrity singers in outrageous costumes isn’t enough, Fox introduces a new companion piece to its guilty pleasure The Masked Singer (the sixth season starts at 8/7c). The visual high concept of Alter Ego finds 20 would-be music stars performing behind a virtual shield of an elaborate avatar, illustrating their movements with motion-capture technology. Rocsi Diaz is the host, with Alanis Morissette, Nick Lachey, Grimes and will.i.am as the judges.
Climate Night in Late Night:
- In a rare cooperative effort, all of TV’s prominent late-night hosts across multiple networks will tackle the subject of climate change through their own brand of humor. Participants include TBS’ Full Frontal with Samantha Bee (10:30/9:30c), Comedy Central’s The Daily Show with Trevor Noah (11/10c), in the 11:30/10:30 hour ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live!, CBS’ The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and NBC’s The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, and in the 12:30/11:30c hour CBS’ The Late Late Show with James Corden and NBC’s Late Night with Seth Meyers.
On the Stream:
- Nine Perfect Strangers (streaming on Hulu): The trippy drama ends with Masha (Nicole Kidman) joining her clients on a hallucinogenic journey to face their many demons. Are there even any adults left in charge at this bizarre retreat from reality?
- Dear White People (streaming on Netflix): Since there’s not enough TV happening today, the streaming giant launches the fourth and final season of the acclaimed dramedy about Black life at a fictional Ivy-like university. To chronicle senior year, creator Justin Simien has conceived these last episodes as a ’90s-inspired musical.
- Star Wars: Visions (streaming on Disney+): Seven Japanese anime studios put their stylized spin on the Star Wars universe in a series of animated shorts inspired by the blockbuster franchise. The English dubbed voice cast includes Lucy Liu, George Takei, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bobby Moynihan, Neil Patrick Harris, Alison Brie, Kyle Chandler, David Harbour and Henry Golding.
- Last Chance Transplant (streaming on discovery+): Robin Roberts, who received a life-changing bone marrow transplant in 2012, is executive producer of a moving docuseries that follows six patients at Nashville’s Vanderbilt University Medical Center as they wait for a donor who could supply an organ before time runs out.
- Monsters Inside: The 24 Faces of Billy Milligan (streaming on Netflix): A four-part true-crime docuseries unpacks the fascinating case of Billy Milligan, arrested in 1977 as a serial rapist and later diagnosed with dissociative identity (multiple personality) disorder, which was used in his legal defense.
Inside Wednesday TV:
- Dr. Mercy (9/8c, TLC): Joining the network’s roster of docs with bizarre caseloads is dermatologist Dr. Mercy Odueyungbo, who brings relief to clients with extraordinary skin conditions.
- Home Economics (9:30/8:30c, ABC): The midseason sleeper returns for a second season with the economically diverse Hayworths heading to a San Francisco 49ers game at Levi’s Stadium, with cameos by Super Bowl champ Jerry Rice, sportscaster Scott Van Pelt and Bay Area rapper 24kGoldn.
- A Million Little Things (10/9c): Nothing comes easy to the Boston buds of this tear-jerking melodrama, but as the fourth season commences, Regina (Christina Moses) and Rome (Romany Malco) forge ahead after her restaurant closes and they take on foster teen Tyrell (Adam Swain) following his mother’s deportation.
- Jay Leno’s Garage (10/9c, CNBC): Among the celebs dropping by to launch the sixth season of the former late-night host’s auto-centric show: Drew Carey, James Corden and Gary Sinise.