HOW OFTEN does a documentary about public television become a theatrical hit? A profile of Fred Rogers, the popular 2018 film “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” (8 p.m. Saturday, HBO) reveals some of the spiritual and intellectual depth and substance behind the gentle sweater-wearing television host and puppeteer.
Rogers, who inspired, educated and consoled a generation of young children, was preparing for the ministry when he discovered the power of television. While he saw children’s programming as his calling and his series “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” as his pulpit, he never preached. The stop-motion children’s series “Davey and Goliath” spoke about God and discussed biblical elements, but Rogers tweaked the script, replacing “love thy neighbor as thyself” with “won’t you be my neighbor?”
Watching this film made me reflect on how series like “Mister Rogers” and “Sesame Street” invite everybody, while others succeed by exclusivity.
Some such shows suggest a clubhouse. The price of admission to the old “Mickey Mouse Club” was being subjected to a bombardment of advertising for Disney movies, theme parks and toys. Rogers recoiled from the notion of children as easy targets for marketers.
Late-night television adapted elements of a nightclub — the jazz band, the comedy monologue, repeated refrains and inside jokes — to create an exclusive atmosphere. Viewers were invited to personally identify with Johnny, Dave, Jay or Conan and slip into slumber safe in the assumption that you were in on the joke(s) that others simply didn’t get.
The rise of cable news also encouraged a form of tribal identity. “The O’Reilly Factor” offered its fans a chance to enter the “No Spin Zone,” a familiar, safe space where viewers’ beliefs were buttressed. Often, Rachel Maddow’s MSNBC show has had the air of an exclusive classroom where she instructs her doting students in the manner of Miss Jean Brodie. Glenn Beck and Alex Jones, fringe masters of disinformation and cockamamie cabals, project a tinfoil-hat outsider vibe, offering “truths” that set one apart from mere “sheeple.”
Back in 2007, the hosts of the clubby morning show “Fox and Friends” found fault with Rogers, arguing that his emphasis on offering unquestioning love and emotional support to every child had resulted in a generation of snowflakes and wimps. One even called Rogers, a lifelong registered Republican and ordained Presbyterian minister, “evil.” That speaks volumes about the exclusivity of that club.
Since its premiere last year, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” has become the highest-grossing biographic documentary of all time.
• Alicia Keys hosts the 61st Annual Grammy Awards (8 p.m. Sunday, CBS). A performance by Diana Ross commemorates her 75th birthday.
• Fans wanting to get an idea of Oscar odds might check out the EE British Academy Film Awards (9 p.m. Sunday, BBC America).
• Netflix’s “The Crown” returns for a third season sometime this year with Olivia Colman (“The Favourite”) assuming the role of Queen Elizabeth II. Given its wonderfully intelligent scripts, gorgeous photography, seemingly limitless production budget and access to stunning settings, “The Crown” makes other series seem decidedly second-rate. “Victoria” on “Masterpiece” (9 p.m. Sunday, PBS, TV-PG, check local listings) comes to mind. At best, it serves as a placeholder until the real thing comes along.
PBS continues its “Victoria” promotion with the two-part documentary “Margaret: The Rebel Princess” (10 p.m. Sunday, TV-PG, check local listings). Over two successive Sundays, it chronicles the life of Elizabeth’s overshadowed sister, who broke with royal protocol and fell in love with a married man, wed a philandering photographer and spent the 1960s and ’70s consorting with a louche crowd.
As longtime friends, journalists and biographers interviewed here recall, Margaret was a rebel only up to a point. She might have partied with Mick Jagger, but she still insisted on being called Her Majesty, a duality that struck some as spoiled and insufferable.
• The Houston Rockets host the Oklahoma City Thunder in NBA action (8:30 p.m., ABC).
• A sensitive child can’t escape her father’s shadow in the 2019 drama “Victoria Gotti: My Father’s Daughter” (8 p.m., Lifetime, TV-14).
• A bookstore owner tangles with a developer in the 2019 romance “The Story of Us” (8 p.m., Hallmark, TV-G).
• “Planet Earth: Dynasties” (9 p.m., BBC America, Sundance, TV-PG) spotlights the painted wolf.
• Tales of murder and emotional betrayal unfold on the premiere of the six-part series “Heart of Darkness” (9 p.m., ID).
• Musical guest Halsey hosts “Saturday Night Live” (11:30 p.m., NBC, TV-14).
• “60 Minutes” is pre-empted for coverage of the red carpet arrivals (7 p.m., CBS) to the Grammy Awards.
• Eddie Redmayne stars in the 2016 adaptation of J.K. Rowling’s fantasy “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” (7 p.m., NBC), a spin-off from the “Harry Potter” universe.
• James’ undercover work consumes him on “Supergirl” (8 p.m., CW, r, TV-14).
• Management makes a decision on “Counterpart” (8 p.m., Starz, TV-MA).
• A demon for the books on “Charmed” (9 p.m., CW, r, TV-14).
• A tragedy brings the gang together on “The Walking Dead” (9 p.m., AMC, TV-MA).
• Wayne and Roland revisit loose ends on “True Detective” (9 p.m., HBO, TV-MA).
• Experts offer advice to small businesses on the new series “Hustle” (9 p.m., Viceland, TV-14).
• “America’s Lost Vikings” (10 p.m., Science) sifts through evidence that Norse explorers stumbled upon North America well before Columbus.
Roddy McDowall stars in 1943’s “Lassie Come Home” (8 p.m., Sunday, TCM), a sentimental tale about a boy’s collie that inspired six other “Lassie” movies through the early 1950s and the popular TV series “Lassie,” which ran from 1954 to 1973.
“NBA Countdown” (8 p.m., ABC) ... Fan favorites appear on “America’s Got Talent” (8 p.m., NBC, r, TV-PG) ... Naughty and nice on “9-1-1” (8 p.m., Fox, r, TV-14) ... Fanning’s authority grows on “The Passage” (9 p.m., Fox, r, TV-14) ... A vintage helping of “Saturday Night Live” (10 p.m., NBC, TV-14).
Unfaithfully yours on “The Simpsons” (8 p.m., Fox, TV-PG) ... Candid camera work on “America’s Funniest Home Videos” (8 p.m., ABC, r, TV-PG) ... A Valentine’s Day row on “Bob’s Burgers” (8:30 p.m., Fox, TV-PG).
Stewie builds a robot on “Family Guy” (9 p.m., Fox, TV-14) ... Two hours of “Shark Tank” (9 p.m. and 10 p.m., ABC, r, TV-PG) ... Closed-circuit celebrity on “The Cool Kids” (9:30 p.m., Fox, r, TV-14) ... “Dateline” (10 p.m., NBC).