Worth Watching: Oscar-Winning ‘Free Solo,’ Controversial ‘Leaving Neverland,’ ‘American Idol’ Returns

American Idol - Luke Bryan, Lionel Richie, Ryan Seacrest, Katy Perry
ABC/Craig Sjodin

A selective checklist of notable weekend TV:

Leaving Neverland (Sunday, 8/7c, HBO): In shattering, graphic detail, this controversial documentary (which prompted Michael Jackson‘s estate to sue HBO) reveals through dual confessionals — by James Safechuck, now 37, and choreographer Wade Robson, now 41 — the sexual abuse they allegedly experienced as preteens during sleepovers with the musical superstar. The interviews with the men, each now a father, are chilling, and the testimonials of their own mothers (who come off as especially clueless for putting their children at risk) are exasperating. The two-part special continues Monday.

Free Solo (Sunday, 9/8c, National Geographic Channel): Winner of 2019’s documentary feature Oscar, this visually thrilling film follows celebrated mountain climber Alex Honnold on his quest to scale the 3,000-foot sheer wall of granite known as Yosemite’s El Capitan — without benefit of ropes or other safety equipment. Like the camera crew, you sometimes can’t bear to watch, but it’s impossible to turn away from this riveting spectacle.

American Idol (Sunday, March 3, 8/7c, ABC): The performances of Jennifer Hudson and especially Adam Lambert (with Queen) at the Oscars was a potent reminder of the power this singing competition once had to create true musical superstars. Can magic happen again? We’ll find out as judges Katy Perry, Luke Bryan and Lionel Richie, with Ryan Seacrest as host, hit the road from NYC to LA (with Louisville, Denver and Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, in between) to audition new hopefuls angling for that golden ticket to Hollywood.

Good Girls (Sunday, 10/9c, NBC): Last year’s seriocomic midseason caper returns for a second season, resolving the cliffhanger involving Beth (Christina Hendricks) realizing her plan to have gangster Rio (Manny Montana) had backfired, putting her family in danger. It looked like she was about to shoot him — and whatever happens next, she and her partners in crime, Ruby (Retta) and Annie (Mae Whitman) are in trouble when new evidence surfaces that puts Agent Turner (James Lesure) on their trail.

Inside Weekend TV: Hallmark’s latest rom-com movie, Just Add Romance (Saturday, 8/7c), stars The Bold Types Meghann Fahy and Killjoys Luke Macfarlane as culinary-school mates who cook up some serious chemistry when pitted against each other on a Kitchen Showdown competition show… The very funny John Mulaney returns for a second gig as guest host on NBC’s Saturday Night Live (11:30/10:30c), with country star Thomas Rhett making his first appearance as musical guest… As if weren’t extreme enough already, Discovery’s Naked and Afraid (Sunday, 8/7c) launches a new season by dropping its unclothed survivalists onto a frozen Alaskan glacier. In the second hour, another twosome endures scorching temps on a Brazilian island. (Given the choice, I’d go for the latter)… CNN chronicles a political dynasty in the six-part The Bush Years (Sunday, 9/8c), narrated by Ed Harris. The first chapter takes us back to the start of George H.W. Bush’s family and early career… The third season of Victoria on PBS’s Masterpiece (Sunday, 9/8c, check local listings at pbs.org) ends with the 1851 Great Exhibition, and all eyes are on the royal couple of Victoria (Jenna Coleman) and Albert (Tom Hughes).