By David Hiltbrand
Updated November 27, 1995 12:00 PM

TBS (Mon., Nov. 27, 8:05 p.m. ET)


Airing over three nights, this ungainly documentary ostensibly celebrates the century’s great athletes. But this special is a Trojan Horse. After luring you in with the promise of Babe Ruth, Arnold Palmer, Muhammad Ali and Michael Jordan, the program force-feeds you a tedious, empty diet of social commentary—with a few clips thrown in. The first night focuses on racism and athletes like boxer Jack Johnson, the second on sexism, faced by Billie Jean King and others. The third night is a scattered essay on sports scandals like the Black Sox of 1919, commercialism and the impact of TV Even the narration is contrived. Dabney Coleman poses as a sportswriter called the Scribe. The character’s superficial commentary (“The ’50s…it was early afternoon in America”) alternates with surprisingly stale observations from pundits like Bob Costas and Studs Terkel and professional athletes like Frank Thomas and Wayne Gretzky.

Unfocused and long-winded, this sports special spends too much time on the sidelines and not enough on the field.