"Can You Ever Forgive Me?"

HBO’s new true-life movie “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” premieres tonight at 8.

A “small” movie with a major star, the 2018 true-life drama “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” (8 p.m. Saturday, 7:05 p.m. Sunday, HBO) was both acclaimed and ignored.

Neither a “date” movie nor an action thriller based on a comic book, it barely earned back its modest-to-miniscule $10 million budget. In many ways, it’s the kind of film whose natural audience waits for it to appear on Netflix — or HBO, where it premieres this weekend.

Melissa McCarthy (“Bridesmaids”) stars as real-life author Lee Israel. A down-on-her-luck writer of celebrity biographies, her life and career took a turn for the worse when she began forging, fabricating and selling “found” letters from celebrated literary figures with the help of her shady, druggy friend (Richard E. Grant).

The film earned Oscar nominations for both McCarthy and Grant. In many ways, its best aspect is its re-creation of a lost world. Set in 1991, it recalls a time when bookstores and typewriters still loomed large in people’s lives, and characters like Israel could survive on freelance salaries and low rents.

“Forgive” also joins a spate of popular and acclaimed TV series that harken back to our pre-digital past. ABC has three comedies — “The Goldbergs,” “Schooled” and “Fresh Off the Boat” — set in a world before smartphones and social media. Netflix’s “GLOW” and “Stranger Things” make the most of their Reagan-era settings. Part of the success of NBC’s “This Is Us” is its link to the Vietnam era.

FX’s “The Americans” made good use of 1980s cars, clothes and decor, not to mention the Cold War. At least two iterations of “Fargo” were set well before digital technology. And FX’s “Pose” has yet to enter the Bill Clinton era. Two-thirds of CBS All Access’ “Why Women Kill” is set before 1985. Showtime’s new entry “On Becoming a God in Central Florida” takes place in 1992. HBO wraps up the 1970s-set “The Deuce,” beginning Sept. 9. AMC’s “Halt and Catch Fire” spent years trying to interest us in an era when “PC” stood for “personal computer” and not “politically correct.” Do you wonder why that streaming outfit spent a fortune to retain the rights to “Friends” episodes?

In addition to a depiction of a less frantic and connected world, a possible explanation for the appeal of the recent past is the fact that it’s hard to create drama and comedy when contemporary characters spend so much of their time staring at their phones and are as likely to have social media “friends” as the kind of friends they had on “Friends.”

It always takes a while to incorporate new, disruptive habits into our storytelling. It’s been said that novelists didn’t get the hang of working with telephone dialogue until the 1920s, long after the phone’s invention.

Television had been around for decades before “The Simpsons” and “Married With Children” depicted characters who spent most of their time in front of the glowing appliance. And when they did, some viewers were offended. You didn’t watch television to watch characters watching television! Then “Itchy & Scratchy” came along.

• Fans of detective series and period costume dramas should not miss “Maigret” (7 p.m. Saturday, Ovation, TV-14) adapted from some 75 mystery novels written by Georges Simenon. Set in Paris in the 1950s, “Maigret” stars Rowan Atkinson (“Bean”) in the title role. He’s a pipe-smoking, deep-thinking man of few words.

The detective’s lack of candor sets the city on edge in the opening story, “Maigret Sets a Trap,” after five women fall to the same slayer. Or is that Ripper?

A handsome production with a game cast including Fiona Shaw (“Killing Eve”), “Maigret” takes some getting used to. It spends the first 10 minutes creating a jazzy Paris atmosphere. But when cops and victims open their mouths, their accents tend to be more Cockney than Parisian. C’est la vie.

• For what it’s worth, this is the last weekend of the year before NBC returns to its ratings behemoth, the Sunday night broadcast of NFL games. Professional football remains America’s most popular sport and by far the most popular programming in a changing television landscape.

Football also has problems that transcend television. Longtime fans have a hard time ignoring the spate of NFL legends dying from football-related brain injuries and dementia. Nick Buoniconti, who died on July 30, is only the latest.

Younger fans have to be shocked by the sudden departure of Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, who decided to retire at 29 rather than face such ravages.

Football has problems that big ratings can mask but cannot hide.

Saturday’s highlights

• Third-round U.S. Open Tennis Action (7 p.m., ESPN2).

• Auburn plays Oregon in college football action (7:30 p.m., ABC).

• A college student is alarmed when her widowed mother falls for an online “catch” in the 2019 shocker “My Evil Stepdad” (8 p.m., Lifetime, TV-14).

• A contestant on a reality dating show falls for a hunky guy on the crew in the 2019 romance “My One & Only” (9 p.m., Hallmark, TV-G).

• “How It Really Happened” (9 p.m., HLN, R) recalls the story of Susan Smith.

Sunday’s highlights

“Great Performances” presents Poulenc’s classic “Dialogues des Carmelites” (Noon Sunday, PBS).

• Scheduled on “60 Minutes” (7 p.m., CBS): Diplomats serving in Cuba and China who have complained of brain injuries; a new approach to medical school costs; a Portuguese surfing mecca.

• Oklahoma hosts Houston in college football action (7 p.m., ABC).

• U.S. Open Tennis action (7 p.m., ESPN2).

• A watering hole becomes a mixed blessing during drought season on “Serengeti” (8 p.m., Discovery, TV-PG).

• Charlie consults a rabbi on “Fear the Walking Dead” (9 p.m., AMC, TV-14).

• Roman takes a crash course in management on “Succession” (9 p.m., HBO, TV-MA).

• Baby Billy returns to the fold on “The Righteous Gemstones” (10 p.m., HBO, TV-MA).

• Krystal and Cody host a rally on “On Becoming a God in Central Florida” (10 p.m., Showtime, TV-MA).

Cult choice

• Kirk Douglas, Tony Curtis and Ernest Borgnine star in the very popular 1958 adventure “The Vikings” (11:30 p.m. Saturday, TCM, TV-PG). Like History’s “Vikings,” it was loosely based on the sagas of Ragnar Lodbrok.

Saturday series

Danny has an off-duty altercation on “Blue Bloods” (8 p.m., CBS, R, TV-14) ... “America’s Got Talent” (8 p.m., NBC, R, TV-PG) ... Professional boxing (8 p.m., Fox) ... “48 Hours” (9 p.m., CBS, R) ... “Dateline” (9 p.m., NBC, R).

Sunday series

Auditions continue on “America’s Got Talent” (7 p.m. and 9 p.m., NBC, R, TV-PG) ... “Big Brother” (8 p.m., CBS, TV-PG) ... Krusty lashes out on “The Simpsons” (8 p.m., Fox, R, TV-PG) ... Illusionists audition on “Penn & Teller: Fool Us” (8 p.m., CW, R, TV-PG) ... Louise acts out on “Bob’s Burgers” (8:30 p.m., Fox, R, TV-PG).

An old beau becomes a foreign agent on “NCIS: Los Angeles” (9 p.m., CBS, R, TV-PG) ... Mandy Moore guest-voices on “Family Guy” (9 p.m., Fox, R, TV-14) ... Dean Cain hosts “Masters of Illusion” (9 p.m., CW, R, TV-PG) ... A favorite show faces the ax on “What Just Happened??!” (9:30 p.m., Fox, TV-14).

A bomb rocks the quarter on “NCIS: New Orleans” (10 p.m., CBS, R, TV-14) ... “Bring the Funny” (10 p.m., NBC, R, TV-14).