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Wednesday: New + Returning Shows

”It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” ”The X Factor,” and more

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The Middle
Returning Comedy, 8 p.m., ABC
The Heck children are growing up. Brick (Atticus Shaffer) is headed to middle school, Sue (Eden Sher) is the lone sibling in the jungle that is high school, and Axl (Charlie McDermott) is off to college. But don’t assume that means we’ll be seeing less of the eldest Heck in season 5, says exec producer Eileen Heisler. ”It won’t be the kind of situation where you see Axl only on Skype,” she says. In fact, the premiere is about the family’s trip to take Axl to college, a mere 42 minutes away. Also hanging around the set these days: Rachel Dratch, who will guest-star as Brick’s new principal and give Frankie (Patricia Heaton) and Mike (Neil Flynn) ”a little bit of a hard time.” Sept. 25

Back In The Game
New Comedy, 8:30 p.m., ABC
Three generations of a baseball family — washed-up Terry ”The Cannon” Gannon (James Caan), his former softball-star daughter Terry Jr. (Maggie Lawson), and her not-quite-athletic son Danny (Griffin Gluck) — collide on the field on this irreverent Little League sitcom from brothers Robb and Mark Cullen. ”We grew up playing Little League, and our dad was such a maniac that they asked him not to coach us anymore,” says Robb. ”So we thought, ‘That’d be a great character.”’ Enter Caan, who the brothers say had the perfect ”bravado and swagger” to play the foulmouthed but secretly sweet Terry Sr. But sports-averse viewers needn’t worry: Caan promises baseball’s just a backdrop. ”It’s a family show,” he explains. And besides, the team sucks. Says Caan, ”They’re never even going to win a game.” Sept. 25

Crazy Cliff-Hanger!
Returning Drama, 8 p.m., NBC
Where We Left Off After the power came back on, the gang watched helplessly as nukes hurled toward Philadelphia and Atlanta.
What’s Next First things first: Those nukes will destroy the East Coast. ”We felt it was time to shake up the chessboard,” says creator Eric Kripke. With the Eastern Seaboard — and the electricity — gone (again), season 2 picks up three months later. ”Rachel [Elizabeth Mitchell] had a complete and total nervous breakdown,” says Kripke, who adds that the rest of the rebels aren’t coping much better. (Tracy Spiridakos’ Charlie runs away, and Billy Burke’s Miles runs to the nearest bottle.) As for that shadowy president we spotted in the finale, he’ll be back as the season’s chief baddie, leading a ”dark and insidious [group] coming up to claim the continent,” warns Kripke. ”They reach their tentacles into all the different story lines.” Sept. 25

Criminal Minds
Returning Drama, 9 p.m., CBS
With section chief Strauss (Jayne Atkinson) killed in the finale, season 9 will introduce Esai Morales’ Matt Cruz, who debuts in the third episode and shares a mmconnectionmm to A.J. Cook’s JJ that will remain secret…for now. mmIn a year that you think you know everything about the team, here’s a little arc we’re going to take you on where you don’t,mm teases exec producer Erica Messer, who adds that there will be a greater focus on personal stories this year. One episode, for example, will shed light on Hotch’s (Thomas Gibson) emotional state, which will tie back to when his ex-wife was killed in episode 100. Says Messer, ”We really owe it to everybody to say this is what he’s been struggling with this whole time.” Sept. 25

Law & Order: SVU
Returning Drama, 9 p.m., NBC
The usually unflappable Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) reached a breaking point last season when she ended up at gunpoint and the screen cut to black. The two-hour season 15 premiere will find Olivia still in the apartment with gunman William Lewis (Pablo Schreiber). ”This is the most harrowing episode we’ve ever done,” says exec producer Warren Leight. ”This will change Olivia and the journey she’s on for this season.” The squad room will continue surfing the headlines, however, when a celebrity chef (played by Cybill Shepherd) shoots a weaponless kid out of presumed self-defense, with an outcome that divided even the writers’ room. ”It was really interesting to see people read that script and have different interpretations about who did what,” says Leight, ”and whether or not they deserved prison for it.” Sept. 25

Modern Family
Returning Comedy, 9 p.m., ABC
Now that Mitch (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) and Cam (Eric Stonestreet) are no longer under the DOMA, all signs point to a Modern wedding. ”The first episode back deals with the day of that Supreme Court decision,” hints exec producer Steven Levitan. ”Their relationship takes a change, and there’s a season-long arc that’ll deal with that.” Adds Ferguson, who recently tied the knot himself, ”Movement towards that seems completely natural.” The one-hour season 5 premiere also has Claire (Julie Bowen) going to work with her dad (Ed O’Neill), Luke (Nolan Gould) and Manny (Rico Rodriguez) entering high school, and Cam taking a substitute-teaching gig. On top of all that, Lily (Aubrey Anderson-Emmons) begins first grade. Says Ferguson, ”She has some of the best lines of this season.” Sept. 25

New Drama, 10 p.m., NBC
This Blair Underwood vehicle about a wheelchair-bound detective may feature a new case every week, but producers avoid the term procedural. Explains showrunner Ken Sanzel, ”It’s a crime show. Procedurals are about process; crime dramas are about the motivations and tolls of crimes on the people involved in them. I think those are more interesting stories.” Based on the Raymond Burr series, this Ironside sees Underwood’s impulsive New York City cop learning to be more intuitive after a shooting that left him handicapped. Says Underwood, ”You’ll see the person he was [before the shooting] and the person he is becoming — the person he’s resisting becoming.” Oct. 2

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
Returning Comedy, 10 p.m., FXX
How does a show in its ninth season stay fresh? Bringing in the Game of Thrones writer-producers is one way: Longtime Sunny fans David Benioff and D.B. Weiss ”wrote an episode with us,” Charlie Day explains. ”It’s called ‘Flowers for Charlie’ — because of this pill that he’s taking, like in the movie Limitless, his intelligence seems to be growing.” Also visiting the bar this season is Seann William Scott. ”He plays my cousin from the country,” Rob McElhenney says. ”I’m City Mac, and he’s Country Mac.” And while the show has found itself on a new network, viewers will recognize plenty of returning characters (Da Maniac and Gail the Snail among them) and callback plots (hint: Lethal Weapon 6). ”We certainly don’t want to alienate any new viewers,” McElhenney says. ”But we love the fact that our audience really craves insider stuff.” Premiered Sept. 4

Returning Drama, 10 p.m., ABC
Just in case you thought the ABC drama might actually kill off its stars — spoiler alert! — country queen Rayna (Connie Britton) and Deacon (Charles Esten) did survive that spectacular car crash, and after a bit of a time jump, season 2 will pick up with them on two different trajectories. He’ll be sober again and struggling with how to handle the news that he’s the father of Rayna’s daughter Maddie (Lennon Stella, who, like her real-life sister Maisy, is now a series regular), and Rayna will be butting heads with a hot new exec at the Edgehill record label (Oliver Hudson). ”It’s kind of a love/mostly hate relationship,” exec producer Dee Johnson explains. With relative peace between Rayna and Juliette (Hayden Panettiere), the pop tart finds a fresh rival in new labelmate Layla (Aubrey Peeples), the runner-up of a reality TV singing competition who, even worse, is from the Northeast. ”It definitely feels like role reversal with Rayna,” Panettiere says. ”What’s great is you can see the same sort of feisty, fiery Juliette but in a much more justifiable way.” Sept. 25

Also on Wednesday
Survivor: Blood Vs. Water
Returning Reality, 8 p.m., CBS
The most intriguing aspect of pitting former Survivor players against their loved ones for season 27, Blood vs. Water, might be the addition of Big Brother winner Hayden Moss to this year’s cast. So which is harder, anyway: Survivor or Big Brother? Says Hayden, ”I will answer that question exactly in about 39 days.” Sept. 18

The X Factor
Returning Reality, 8 p.m., Fox
Simon Cowell has some X regrets. ”The first two seasons were a bit serious, a bit dark,” he says, so as the show enters season 3, Cowell wants to go ”back to the basics.” And back to the drawing board with the judging panel: Joining Cowell at the table are new judges Kelly Rowland (who says that there are ”at least seven superstars” in the competition) and Paulina Rubio and returning judge Demi Lovato. The women, says Cowell, ”bonded immediately and then spent the entire audition run ganging up on me.” Sept. 11

Returning Drama, 10 p.m., CBS
Last season left us with a cliff-hanger — Morgan (Elisabeth Harnois) and Ellie (Nicki Aycox) were being held captive by a Dante-inspired serial killer — and season 14 starts off with a close-up of a casket at a memorial service. Who’s in the casket? ”I think the fans will be shocked by the answer,” says exec producer Don McGill. ”This won’t be a happy ending.” While George Eads’ Nick will be missing for several episodes due to a reported dispute with a showrunner, Marg Helgenberger will be returning for the 300th episode of the series, which takes the CSI family back to a cold case from season 1. McGill says, “Who were they all in the beginning?” Sept. 25