PBS tracks 'Seabiscuit' legend

Monday, April 21, 2003

Back during the Great Depression, Americans wanted a hero who was also a "common man." So they fell in love with a homely horse. This, in a nutshell, is the moral of the documentary "Seabiscuit" on "American Experience" (8 p.m., PBS, check local listings).

Based on the best-selling book "Seabiscuit: An American Legend" (Random House, 2001) by Laura Hillenbrand, this one-hour film portrays the Seabiscuit phenomenon as one of the greatest sports stories of the century; as a triumph of media and merchandising; and, most importantly, as a unique friendship between an unlikely equine hero and the hard-luck jockey John "Red" Pollard.

Seabiscuit's odd physique, common looks and ungainly trot were dismissed by racing snobs but embraced by average Joes. When Seabiscuit took on the Triple Crown winner War Admiral in 1938, 40 million listeners -- one out of every three Americans -- tuned in. "Seabiscuit" puts great, and maybe a little too much, emphasis on the horse as a metaphor for the little guy triumphing over the stuffed shirts. Hillenbrand argues that Depression-era Americans loved Seabiscuit because he "was beat up like they were ... He was a proxy for the nation."

Tonight's other highlights

Series notes

Fashion wars on "The Parkers" (7 p.m., UPN) ... Heidi Klum guest stars on "Yes, Dear" (7:30 p.m., CBS) ... On two episodes of "Half and Half" (UPN), Dee Dee's fib (7:30 p.m.), sweet dreams (8:30 p.m.) ...Colin's dark mood worries Ephram on "Everwood" (8 p.m., WB).

Late night

Colin Farrell and Rosanne Cash are on "Late Show with David Letterman" (10:35 p.m., CBS) ... Jay Leno hosts Arsenio Hall and Shantal Kreviazuk on "The Tonight Show" (10:35 p.m., NBC).