Swifties may be convinced they are part of an unprecedented phenomenon. But long before Taylor Swift was even born, there was Michael Jackson fever. "Thriller 40," premiering at 7 p.m. Saturday on Showtime, shows how the King of Pop had a similar — if not more significant — influence on pop culture.
Those expecting details on criminal accusations and personal quirks will have to look elsewhere. This 90-minute documentary is all about Jackson's calculated efforts to assure that "Thriller" would be the bestselling album of all time. Big names like Mary J. Blige, Misty Copeland and Minnesota's own Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis look back at details that made a difference: why Paul McCartney was recruited for "The Girl Is Mine," how the "Thriller" video was inspired by "An American Werewolf in Paris," and the importance of recruiting Eddie Van Halen for the "Beat It" guitar solo.
Like Swift, Jackson followed up his recording success with memorable live performances. His TV debut of the moonwalk on "Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever" still induces goosebumps.
"Thriller 40" may not convince Swifties to wig out over "Billie Jean." But it will show them that history only repeats itself.
Also this week ...
'The Artful Dodger'
Charles Dickens loyalists may scoff at the notion that Fagin is alive and well in this eight-part sequel to "Oliver Twist." But it's great fun to watch the rascal, played to the hilt by David Thewlis, as he reunites with Jack Dawkins (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) in 1850s Australia, where he lures his former charge back into the criminal world. Even more delightful is the banter between Dawkins and a headstrong love interest (Maia Mitchell) so spunky and fascinating you'd swear she was invented by Dickens himself. Disney Plus, Hulu
Melissa McCarthy plays an irreverent genie who has a ball adapting to the modern world, from trying pizza for the first time to washing her hair in the toilet. She's the funniest thing to pop out of a bottle since Robin Williams in "Aladdin." Too bad she's been released into a rather bland premise about an overworked New Yorker (Paapa Essiedu) whose marriage is on the rocks for no good reason. One expects slightly better from screenwriter Richard Curtis, who previously penned "Four Weddings and a Funeral" and "Love Actually." What happened to his magic touch? Peacock
'The UnBelievable With Dan Aykroyd'
Each one-hour episode of this new series speeds through at least a dozen bizarre stories, the kind you might find on exhibit at any Ripley's Believe It or Not! museum. The pace is so rapid there's no time for scrutiny. Aside from narrating, Aykroyd's role seems to be doing a Rod Serling impression and reminding viewers that he came up with the idea for "Ghostbusters." 9 p.m. Friday, History Channel
Adam Sandler is back in family-friendly mode in this animated treat about a classroom tuatara who decides to use his final years on Earth inspiring screwed-up fifth-graders. The primary audience is kids, but the script was co-written by the brilliant Robert Smigel ("Late Night With Conan O'Brien"), which means there are plenty of jokes for adults, who will also recognize the voices of Bill Burr, Cecily Strong and Jason Alexander. Netflix