Sometimes a really good story is not enough to find an audience.
HBO premieres the 2017 period piece "Battle of the Sexes" (8 p.m.).
Based on true and very publicized events, it stars Emma Stone as American tennis star Billie Jean King and Steve Carell as the aging tennis player Bobby Riggs.
Playing the media buffoon and "male chauvinist pig," Riggs challenged King to a 1973 tennis match in an effort to show that even the best female star could not beat an over-the-hill man.
Touching on many of the social and political hot buttons of the era, their tennis match transcended mere sport and attracted a huge television audience.
"Battle of the Sexes" received good reviews, with some critics praising Carell for one of the best performances of his career. Despite such accolades, the film was a box office disappointment.
Way back in 2001, ABC aired a made-for-TV movie (remember them?) called "When Billie Beat Bobby."
It featured Holly Hunter as King and Ron Silver as Riggs. It was a terrific, brilliantly cast movie - smart, fun and historically resonant.
Nevertheless, it received record-low ratings for an ABC TV movie at the time.
These two admirable efforts show how difficult it is to interest viewers in sports history, no matter how relevant.
The story may seem too over-the-top to appeal to history buffs and lacks the overt sentimentality that is the hallmark of successful sports movies.
- Benedict Cumberbatch ("Sherlock") lends his voice to "Planet Earth: South Pacific" (9 p.m., BBC America), a six-episode series.
- Regional coverage of Major League Baseball (7 p.m., Fox).
- A soon-to-be imprisoned mother must give up her baby to the sister she despises in the 2017 shocker "A Mother's Crime" (8 p.m., Lifetime, TV-14).
- Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth and the songs of ABBA star in the 2008 musical "Mamma Mia!" (8:30 p.m., NBC). A sequel arrives in theaters on July 20.
- "Truth and Lies: The Family Manson" (9 p.m., ABC) features the last interview with Charles Manson.
On two helpings of "Me, Myself & I" (CBS, TV-PG), a blind date (8 p.m.), investing in the future (8:30 p.m.) ... Snappy banter on "Will & Grace" (8 p.m., NBC, r, TV-14) ... Halloween frights on "America's Funniest Home Videos" (8 p.m., ABC, r, TV-PG) ... On two helpings of "Living Biblically" (CBS, TV-PG), competition and guilt (9 p.m.), habitats for humanity (9:30 p.m.) ... "48 Hours" (10 p.m., CBS).