Don't say neigh to Animal Planet horse tale

Men can be beasts, and sometimes only a critter's love can return us to our humanity. This simple theme has animated dozens of movies over the years. And it returns with the 2003 cable movie "Big Spender" (7 p.m., Animal Planet). Casper Van Dien ("Starship Troopers," "Titans") stars as Eddie Burton, an improbably handsome small-time criminal who has spent much of his life behind bars. Life changes for Eddie when he's assigned to a prison work detail job at a horse farm. There, he catches the attention of the farm's stern ranch hand, Jake (Graham Greene), who puts him in charge of Big Spender, an abandoned and abused thoroughbred.

A subplot about a custody battle over Eddie's estranged son and the arrival of Big Spender's pretty jockey round out this tale of man-meets-horse. The basic cable network clearly put some money on the screen for "Big Spender." The acting and the production values of the film are a vast improvement over earlier Animal Planet movies.

  • Singers used to bring down the house. Now they open their own theaters. Several years ago, the Quebecois chanteuse Celine Dion retired from touring. Tonight marks a new stage in her performing career. "Celine in Las Vegas: Opening Night Live" (8 p.m., CBS) kicks off her three-year-long stint at a 4000-seat venue at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas. Justin Timberlake hosts.
  • With all programming in flux, NBC has scrambled its Tuesday night schedule to air repeats of "Friends" (7 p.m.), "Scrubs" (7:30 p.m.), "Will & Grace" (8 p.m.) and "Good Morning, Miami" (8:30 p.m.). "Dateline" (9 p.m.) will recap war news from Iraq.

Tonight's other highlights

  • And then there were 10, on "American Idol" (7 p.m., Fox).
  • Bo Diddley guest stars on "According to Jim" (7:30 p.m., ABC).
  • The President prepares retaliation against the nations behind the attempted bombing on "24" (8 p.m., Fox).
  • Bill Moyers is host of "Becoming American: The Chinese Experience" (8 p.m., PBS, check local listings), a three-part examination of immigration, discrimination and assimilation.

Series notes

Dating woes on "8 Simple Rules" (7 p.m., ABC) ... A look back on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" (7 p.m., UPN).

Time travel on "The Twilight Zone" (8 p.m., UPN) ... Clark's new girlfriend seems to know the secrets of his past on "Smallville" (8 p.m., WB).

Amy doles out tough justice to a child victim on "Judging Amy" (9 p.m., CBS) ... George Hamilton is host of "The Family" (9 p.m., ABC).

Late night

John Travolta and D4 appear on "Late Show with David Letterman" (10:35 p.m., CBS) ... Jay Leno welcomes Chris Rock, Hilary Swank and Sean Paul on "The Tonight Show" (10:35 p.m., NBC).

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