What to Watch on Sunday: HBO debuts ‘Leaving Neverland,’ Nat Geo has Oscar-winning ‘Free Solo’

Michael Jackson with Wade Robson.
Michael Jackson with Wade Robson. HBO

Leaving Neverland (8 p.m., HBO) - This highly anticipated and controversial two-part documentary explores the accusations of child molestation against pop icon Michael Jackson. Director Dan Reed tells the stories of James Safechuck and Wade Robson, who in the 1980s, at the ages of 10 and seven, respectively, were befriended by Jackson. The boys and their families spent time at Jackson’s Neverland ranch, denied that Jackson abused them and defended Jackson when he was accused of sexual abuse in 1993 by 13-year-old Jordan Chandler. As adults, Safechuck and Robson tell a very different story of their time with Jackson. They give interviews detailing sustained sexual abuse and as a result, the film has been described by Rolling Stone as “hard to watch, tougher to ignore, impossible to forget.” The documentary, which premiered in January at the Sundance Film Festival, has been strongly criticized by Jackson’s family, who were not interviewed. Part 2 airs at 8 p.m. Monday, March 4. It is also available on HBO Now, HBO Go and HBO On Demand.

American Idol (8 p.m., ABC) - Season 17 premieres with the first night of auditions from Louisville, Ky., Los Angeles, New York, Denver and Coeur d’Alene, Idaho (for some reason). We’ll be watching for North Carolina contestants.

Free Solo (9 p.m., National Geographic) - This amazing film just won the Academy Award for best documentary feature, so if you haven’t already, now’s your chance to see it on TV (although for full effect, a big screen is highly recommended). It’s directed by Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin, and it follows free soloist climber Alex Honnold as he climbs the face of the world’s most famous rock: the 3,200-foot El Capitan in Yosemite National Park.

Shark Tank (10 p.m., ABC) - Justin Miller and Tom Simon of the Raleigh company Zookies Cookies, which offers a bake-at-home dog treats, make their pitch to the sharks.

Good Girls (10 p.m., NBC) - In the Season 2 premiere, the women’s crimes finally catch up with them.

Uncensored (10 p.m., TV One) - Season 2 starts with a profile of North Carolina native and “American Idol” winner (2004) Fantasia Barrino. Fantasia talks about how the pursuit of stardom can drive people to unhappiness, and how friendships with Patti LaBelle and Aretha Franklin helped guide her personal and professional life.

Some programming descriptions are provided by networks.

Brooke Cain is a North Carolina native who has worked at The News & Observer for more than 20 years. She writes about TV and local media for the Happiness is a Warm TV blog, and answers CuriousNC questions for readers.