“IS IT FUNNY?” just may be the most subjective question of our times. Comedy, the branch of humor once seen as a refuge from the serious, has itself become embroiled in cultural, gender and generational politics, racial and ethnic sensibilities and an awareness that people may be just too sensitive to laugh, lest they think they may be seen laughing at the wrong thing(s).
Woody Allen and Louis C.K., two smart and innovative comedians, have been all but banished for behavior many see as too odious to endure. Just this week, Todd Phillips, the director of the “Joker” movie, whose credits include “The Hangover,” “Old School” and “Road Trip,” blamed contemporary “woke” culture for his departure from directing “funny” movies.
Before this season began, “SNL” hired and then fired a regular because of a racially charged routine. Again, “Is it funny?” and “What is funny?” are the questions.
This brings us to the stand-up special “Gary Gulman: The Great Depresh” (10 p.m. Saturday, HBO, TV-MA). Gulman pretty much loses the room when he elaborates on the show’s title, an outgrowth of his own mental illness and struggles with depression. Then he rebounds with smart, cerebral observations about the differences between himself and millennials. He focuses on the word “literally,” a term he believes a younger set has hijacked to mean “figuratively.” Then he admits that only younger people have the energy to take a perfectly good word and endow it with “its own antonym.”
So is that funny? I think so. But like I’ve said, humor is subjective.
• Just as humor has become hard to define, comic book franchises have become serious business. With ABC/Disney swallowing up most of the Marvel omniverse, the CW (part of WarnerMedia) stands as a bastion of all things DC. “Batwoman” (8 p.m. Sunday, TV-14) arrives. It picks up in a Gotham City that Batman appears to have abandoned to the usual chaos of masked supervillains and grim paramilitary forces that fail to bring order to the relentless gloom. The main difference here is that Batwoman and her alter ego, Kate Kane (Ruby Rose), has a history of female lovers, including Sophie Moore (Meagan Tandy), a military-trained security agent who becomes a target of Gotham’s larger-than-life bad guys.
For those keeping score, “Supergirl” (9 p.m. Sunday, CW, TV-PG) returns for a fifth season as Kara discovers new changes at the newspaper.Not to be outdone in the adolescent franchise department, Disney debuts the second season of the animated spin-off “Star Wars Resistance” (10 p.m. Sunday, TV-Y7).
• Time was, nobody would launch a new series on the Sunday night of a season opener of “The Walking Dead” (9 p.m., AMC, TV-MA). Now entering its 10th season, the series is no longer the force it once was.
• Speaking of moldy oldies and ageless franchises, “E! True Hollywood Story” (10 p.m. Sunday, TV-14) returns after a considerable hiatus. The cable celebrity/scandal profile series returns with a report on the NXIVM sex cult, a bizarre group, sprinkled with celebrity names, that engaged in degradation and branding in Albany, N.Y., the often snow-bound capital of the Empire State.
A fixture from an earlier age, “True Hollywood Story” began its long (500-plus episode) run way back in 1996, with a report on the murder of young star Rebecca Schaeffer.
Can a return to “Pop-Up Videos” be far behind?
• Longevity-wise, “True Hollywood Story” doesn’t hold a candle to “Kids Say the Darndest Things” (8 p.m. Sunday, ABC, TV-PG). ABC will reboot the gentle series with host Tiffany Haddish.
The origins of the series predate television itself. Art Linkletter used a “Kids” segment on his “House Party” radio show that later became the television series “Art Linkletter’s House Party” in 1952 and ran in various incarnations until 1969. CBS rebooted the “Darndest” franchise with host Bill Cosby. It ran from 1998 to 2000.
• “Get Shorty” (9 p.m. Sunday, Epix, TV-MA) returns for a third seven-episode season. The addictive mob drama “Godfather of Harlem” (10 p.m. Sunday, Epix, TV-MA) follows.
• Returning for a final round, “Mr. Robot” (10 p.m., USA, TV-MA) enters its fourth 13-episode season, set “way back” in the Christmas season of 2015.
• “Madam Secretary” (10 p.m., Sunday, CBS, TV-PG) returns for a sixth season. Now President, Elizabeth (Tea Leoni) must battle manufactured scandals to ensure passage of her first signature piece of legislation.
• College Football action includes Georgia at Tennessee (7 p.m., ESPN), Michigan State at Ohio State (7:30 p.m., ABC) and California at Oregon (8 p.m., Fox).
• A student holds her teacher and her daughter captive in the 2019 shocker “Abducted: The Mary Stauffer Story” (8 p.m., Lifetime, TV-14).
• A matchmaker’s future depends on a magazine profile in the 2019 romance “Over the Moon in Love” (9 p.m., Hallmark, TV-G).
• Emmy winner Phoebe Waller-Bridge (“Fleabag,” “Killing Eve”) hosts “Saturday Night Live” (11:30 p.m., NBC, TV-14), featuring musical guest Taylor Swift.
• Scheduled on “60 Minutes” (7 p.m., CBS): reports on impeachment developments; Land O’Lakes CEO Beth Ford and a profile of a Texas Ranger who got a convict to confess to a career of serial murder.
• The Kansas City Chiefs host the Indianapolis Colts in NFL action (8:15 p.m., NBC).
• From here to paternity on “The Durrells in Corfu” “Masterpiece” (8 p.m., PBS, TV-PG, check local listings).
• Parenting squabbles on “Power” (8 p.m., Starz, TV-MA).
• A whistleblower shakes things up on “Succession” (9 p.m., HBO, TV-MA).
• Wedding plans on “The Affair” (9 p.m., Showtime, TV-MA).
• Nolan gets a new partner on “The Rookie” (10 p.m., ABC, TV-14).
• A suit over baby powder consumes Johnson & Johnson on “The Weekly” (10 p.m., FX, TV-14).
• Judy comes clean with BJ on “The Righteous Gemstones” (10 p.m., HBO, TV-MA).
• One door closes for Krystal on “On Becoming a God in Central Florida” (10 p.m., Showtime, TV-MA).
In 1857, an academic (Mel Gibson) begins compiling the Oxford English Dictionary with submissions from a man (Sean Penn) undergoing psychiatric treatments in the 2019 period drama “The Professor and the Madman” (8 p.m. Saturday, Starz).
An heiress vanishes on “FBI” (8 p.m., CBS, r, TV-14) ... “The Voice” (8 p.m., NBC, r, TV-PG) ... A former patient lashes out on “Bull” (9 p.m., CBS, r, TV-14) ... “Dateline” (9 p.m., NBC) ... “48 Hours” (10 p.m., CBS) ... A vintage helping of “Saturday Night Live” (10 p.m., NBC, r, TV-14).
“Football Night in America” (7 p.m., NBC, TV-14) ... We’ll always have Paris on “God Friended Me” (8 p.m., CBS, TV-PG) ... Hero worship on “The Simpsons” (8 p.m., Fox, TV-14) ... Making ends meet on “Bless the Harts” (8:30 p.m., Fox, TV-14).
Crises spread the team thin on “NCIS: Los Angeles” (9 p.m., CBS, TV-14) ... Mushroom hunting on “Bob’s Burgers” (9 p.m., Fox, TV-PG) ... Very portable oxygen tanks on “Shark Tank” (9 p.m., ABC, TV-PG) ... High-tech memory aids on “Family Guy” (9:30 p.m., Fox, TV-14).