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'Modern Family' return sets record; 'Undercovers' slumps, 'Whole Truth' tanks

modern family 1UPDATED: The return of ABC's Emmy-winning "Modern Family" set a ratings record, but a couple new series failed to impress.

"Modern Family" (12.7 million viewers, 5.1 adults 18-49 rating) returned 21% higher than last fall and easily ranked as the evening's top-rated show. This is the hit comedy's biggest rating ever.

Among freshman premieres, CBS' legal drama "The Defenders" (12.2 million, 2.9) starring Jim Belushi opened with the best numbers. Still, "Defenders" dropped 28% from both its "Criminal Minds" (14.1 million, 4.0) lead-in and from the debut of "CSI: NY" in the slot last fall. While "Minds" was off 9% from last year.

The series premiere of J.J. Abrams' spy dramedy "Undercovers" (8.7 million, 2.0) underwhelmed on NBC. "Undercovers" was down 13% from "Mercy" opening in that same slot and placed last at 8 p.m. among the major networks.

Jerry Bruckheimer's latest legal procedural "The Whole Truth" (4.8 million, 1.5) couldn't make its case at 10 p.m. The ABC drama was down 50% from "Eastwick" debuting in the hour last fall, and fell 55% from its "Cougar Town" lead-in (8.3 million, 3.4).

"Cougar Town" was off 23% despite its "Modern Family" lead-in rising -- and even with Jennifer Aniston guest starring. ABC's new comedy block addition "Better With You" (7.8 million, 2.5) performed about the same as "The Middle" in the time period last year. "The Middle" (8.8 million, 2.7), now at 8 p.m., improved a bit despite its earlier time period.

whole truthOverall: CBS won Wednesday with "Survivor" (12.6 million, 4.0) staying rock steady, followed by its procedurals.

Fox placed second with the two-hour premiere of "Hell's Kitchen" (6.6 million, 2.9), rising a notch from last year.

ABC and NBC tied for third, with NBC airing a two-hour "Law & Order: SVU" premiere (10.1 million, 3.2), up 28% from last year.

The CW aired "America's Next Top Model" (2.8 million, 1.3), steady with last week, and "Hellcats" (2.3 million, 1.0), down in the demo, but up slightly among The CW's women 18-34 target.

THR reviews: "Undercovers," "The Defenders," Better With You."