Anybody who reads this column knows that I’m rather cool to superhero movies and shows. Call me a snob. I’d rather watch something based on a book than a comic book.
I believe there are superheroes in our midst. They just happen to be real young people asking questions, speaking up to the powerful, testifying before Congress and running for office. Let’s hear their stories. Put down the comic books and become your own superhero!
That said, I was particularly struck by “Batwoman” (8 p.m. Sunday, CW, TV-14), now in its second week. Rarely does a show fail on every level. Humorless, shallow, grim and formulaic, it undercuts its obvious messaging at every turn.
Why does a show celebrating a woman’s power make her dependent almost entirely on her male cousin’s costumes, toys and man cave? Not to mince words, “Batwoman” makes a big deal of the fact that Kate Kane (Ruby Rose) is gay. Does she also have to be so damaged and dreary? Not to mention so desperate for Daddy’s approval?
I’m not the only one confused by all of this. According to the Rotten Tomatoes website, the show has a 72% favorable rating amongst professional reviewers, but a ghastly 8% approval rating from more than 2,300 individual viewers, many of them diehard DC fans.
The professionals seem to be rooting for what “Batwoman” might stand for — or become. Mere fans were appalled by a show so muddled and boring. In this case, I’ve got to go with the voice of the people.
• Blending science, psychology and all-too-grim current events, the documentary miniseries “Why We Hate” (10 p.m. Sunday, Discovery) explores one of life’s and history’s most vexing paradoxes. How can humans, capable of reaching for the stars and creating unmatched beauty, also treat their fellows with such barbarity? In the 20th century, people watched in horror as the culture that created Beethoven and Brahms turned to the Third Reich.
Produced by Steven Spielberg and Alex Gibney, “Hate” does a good job of letting researchers explain their work at length. In the opening episode, Yale professor and cognitive scientist Laurie Santos discusses research among isolated island monkeys. Without language or culture, they still seem to pair off in distinct tribes and fight violently over resources and territory. How and where is that tribalism learned?
We also visit British football (soccer) fans who have turned their devotion to their team and its colors into a life-and-death allegiance that appears to surpass even that of religion, race or nationalism. What need does that fill?
Over six episodes, “Hate” will examine how such tribal identity and loathing for the “other” has been weaponized.
It shows how domestic terrorists touting white identity share many of the same tactics as ISIS to dehumanize others, glorify violence and blind recruits to the consequences of their beliefs and actions.
• As television audiences fracture and shrink, networks appear to be raiding the pantry for comfort food. Last week, we saw the return of “E! True Hollywood Story” (10 p.m. Sunday, TV-14) and “Kids Say the Darndest Things” (8 p.m. Sunday, ABC, TV-PG).
This weekend, “Inside the Actors Studio” (10 p.m. Sunday, Ovation) returns. As you can see, it’s moved from Bravo. Gone, too, is James Lipton. The new “Studio” will be hosted by a tag team of Jane Lynch and Alec Baldwin. Look for interviews with Henry Winkler, David Oyelowo and others.
• Lifetime continues its tear through recent headlines. “The College Admissions Scandal” (8 p.m. Saturday, TV-14) follows Caroline (Penelope Ann Miller) and Bethany (Mia Kirshner), who hope to helicopter their kids into higher education with the help of shady admissions consultant Rick Singer (Michael Shanks, “Stargate: Atlantis”), who later turns them in to the FBI.
Following the movie, Gretchen Carlson hosts “Beyond the Headlines: The College Admissions Scandal” (10 p.m., Saturday, Lifetime, TV-14).
We’ll just have to wait for a TV movie about Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin. The one we all want to see. If only for the casting.
• The New York Yankees meet team TBA in game one of the American League Championship Series (8 p.m., Fox).
• Game two of the National League Championship Series (8 p.m., TBS).
• College football action includes USC and Notre Dame (7:30 p.m., NBC), Penn State and Iowa (7:30 p.m., ABC) and Florida and LSU (8 p.m., ESPN).
• A pumpkin farmer’s daughter finds love among the gourds in the 2019 romance “Love, Fall & Order” (9 p.m., Hallmark, TV-G).
• David Harbour hosts “Saturday Night Live” (11:30 p.m., NBC, TV-14), featuring musical guest Camila Cabello.
• Scheduled on “60 Minutes” (7:30 p.m., CBS): Hong Kong’s revolt; ISIS victim and Nobel Peace prize recipient Nadia Murad; treating depression, anxiety and addiction with hallucinogens.
• The Chargers and Steelers meet in NFL Football action (8:15 p.m., NBC).
• Kate is still scarred from her mother’s and sister’s deaths on “Batwoman” (8 p.m., CW, TV-14).
• Tommy feels squeezed on “Power” (8 p.m., Starz, TV-MA).
• An alien attack is the least of Kara’s worries on “Supergirl” (9 p.m., CW, TV-PG).
• A glance back on “The Walking Dead” (9 p.m., AMC TV-MA).
• Logan doesn’t know where he stands on the season finale of “Succession” (9 p.m., HBO, TV-MA).
• “Castle” vets Seamus Dever and Jon Huertas guest-star on “The Rookie” (10 p.m., ABC, TV-14)
• Racial segregation in New York City schools on “The Weekly” (10 p.m., FX, TV-14).
• Jesse’s marriage unravels on the season finale of “The Righteous Gemstones” (10 p.m., HBO, TV-MA).
• The FAM family passes a milestone on “On Becoming a God in Central Florida” (10 p.m., Showtime, TV-MA).
• Drama surrounds an opening-day pitch on “Madam Secretary” (10:30 p.m., CBS, TV-PG).
• AMC launches a six-part documentary series “Hip Hop: The Songs that Shook America” (midnight, TV-14).
• The remake of a beloved children’s television show becomes a bloody hunting ground for ax-wielding maniacs in the 2019 shocker “The Banana Splits Movie” (9 p.m., Saturday, Syfy, TV-14.)
A wrongly accused Marine on “NCIS” (8 p.m., CBS, r, TV-14) ... Soul on ICE on “All Rise” (9 p.m., CBS, r, TV-14) ... “48 Hours” (10 p.m., CBS).
“Football Night in America” (7 p.m., NBC, TV-14) recaps the day’s action ... Pickpockets strike on “The Simpsons” (8 p.m., Fox, TV-PG) ... Taylor Swift fans appear on “Kids Say the Darndest Things” (8 p.m., ABC, TV-PG) ... A Paris reunion on “God Friended Me” (8:30 p.m., CBS, TV-PG) ... Ashtray madness on “Bless the Harts” (8:30 p.m., Fox, TV-14).
Building a bigger boat on “Bob’s Burgers” (9 p.m., Fox, TV-14) ... Entrepreneurs pitch the darndest things on “Shark Tank” (9 p.m., ABC, TV-PG) ... Naval intelligence on “NCIS: Los Angeles” (9:30 p.m., CBS, TV-14) ... A token trophy rattles Stewie on “Family Guy” (9:30 p.m., Fox, TV-14).