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George Carlin is one of the performers focused on in “The History of Comedy.”

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Photofest, via CNN

CNN examines what makes us laugh — and who has made us laugh — in its latest documentary series, “The History of Comedy.” And ShondaLand dominates the ABC prime-time lineup with new episodes of “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Scandal” and “How to Get Away With Murder.”

What’s on TV

THE HISTORY OF COMEDY 10 p.m. on CNN. The latest in CNN’s nostalgia-fueled documentaries — an eight-part look at what makes people laugh, and what role comedy plays in social trends and politics — has its premiere with a focus on pioneering comedians George Carlin and Lenny Bruce. Interviews in the series include those with Judd Apatow, Sarah Silverman and Patton Oswalt, as well as talk-show hosts like Samantha Bee, Conan O’Brien and Jimmy Kimmel. Even Al Franken, the “Saturday Night Live” alumnus turned Democratic senator from Minnesota, appears.

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Elizabeth Taylor and James Dean in “Giant,” on TCM.

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Warner Bros.

GIANT (1956) 4:30 p.m. on TCM. This epic drama starred Rock Hudson and Elizabeth Taylor as a rancher and his wife. Also at the top of the billing was James Dean, in his final, Oscar-nominated lead role. (He was killed in a car crash before the film was released.) “It is the late James Dean who makes the malignant role of the surly ranch hand who becomes an oil baron the most tangy and corrosive in the film,” Bosley Crowther wrote in The New York Times. “Mr. Dean plays this curious villain with a stylized spookiness — a sly sort of offbeat languor and slur of language — that concentrates spite. This is a haunting capstone to the brief career of Mr. Dean.”

GREY’S ANATOMY 8 p.m. on ABC. ShondaLand’s Thursday night programming kicks off with Shonda Rhimes’s flagship drama, in which Dr. Bailey deals with an attending physician who refuses to work with Eliza. In “Scandal,” at 9, Olivia Pope’s team is all hands on deck in its search for the truth. And in the pulpy melodrama “How to Get Away With Murder,” at 10, things heat up in court when the prosecution tries to bring a new charge against Annalise Keating.

What’s Streaming

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Jessica Chastain in Guillermo del Toro’s “Crimson Peak.”

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Universal Pictures

CRIMSON PEAK (2015) on HBO Go and HBO Now. Guillermo del Toro, a master of modern genre films, indulges in the gothic with this bloody film that stars Mia Wasikowska and Jessica Chastain. “If you know what you’re getting into and you’re in the mood for blood, velvet and a director’s sincere commitment to excess, then this might be just the ticket,” A. O. Scott wrote in The Times. Still, he added, “Mr. del Toro overdoes it, as is his habit, overselling his own enthusiasm for the material in a way that compromises the audience’s delight.”

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