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Highlights | TURN ON, TUNE IN OR MISS OUT

The real lifeguards; 'Remember WENN' and art of Alexander Calder; AFl's 100 best films list

June 14, 1998|BEN ELDER | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Sunday

"L.A. Lifeguards" / 6 p.m. TBS

"Baywatch" star Mike Newman narrates this look at the real-life inspiration for the long-running series. Among L.A. County's elite corps of 600 seasonal lifeguards are eager rookies and 32-year veteran Mel Solberg, as well as husband-and-wife lifeguards and lifeguards with second jobs: an ER physician, a history teacher and a performance artist. Contrary to popular notions, the work is anything but sedentary (more than 14,000 rescues in 1997--4,000 more than recent averages).

****

"America's Great Parks" / 8 p.m. Discovery Channel

James Brolin hosts this two-hour scientific survey of the Big Three of America's national parks: The Grand Canyon, Yellowstone and Yosemite. While 10 million tourists visit these parks annually and even more people recognize their distinctive landmarks, this program delves into the specialized ecosystems and dynamic geologic forces that sculpted their dazzling natural beauty. Three individuals whose vision helped shape these parks are profiled: John Wesley Powell, who made the first Colorado River trip through the Grand Canyon in 1869; conservationist, poet and explorer John Muir; and President Teddy Roosevelt, who set aside lands for America's national parks.

****

"Comic Relief 8" / 8 p.m. HBO

Continuing a legacy of $40 million distributed to Health Care for the Homeless Projects across the country, this comedy superstar special returns for its eighth edition, again hosted by Billy Crystal, Whoopi Goldberg and Robin Williams. Among the stars lending their stand-up, ensemble and musical talents to the occasion: Dave Chappelle, the "King of the Hill" cast, Dennis Miller, Liam Neeson, Conan O'Brien, Sarah Jessica Parker, Rosie Perez, Paula Poundstone, Chris Rock, Paul Rodriguez, Ray Romano, Max Weinberg (musical director), Robert Wuhl and many more. A toll-free phone number [(800) 528-1000] will be prominently displayed to facilitate viewer contributions.

Tuesday

"AFI's 100 Years ... 100 Movies" / 8 p.m. CBS

Here's a special sure to spark Wednesday-morning debates around the water cooler. The Top 100 films of all time, as chosen by an elite panel of 1,500 film-industry professionals, historians, scholars, critics, studio executives and politicians under the auspices of the American Film Institute, will be revealed in a three-hour presentation hosted by Jodie Foster, Richard Gere and Sally Field. Another less formal survey is seen in several vignettes as celebrities talk about how their favorite films enlightened and inspired them.

****

"Alexander Calder" / 9:30 p.m. KCET

On the 100th anniversary of the prolific artist's birth, this "American Masters" special traces Calder's life and career, which briefly included jobs as a lumberjack, seaman and insurance detective and which led to more than 16,000 works and invented art forms recogizable as his own. Among these are the mobile--or sculpture in motion; the stabile--massive, fixed sculptures that nevertheless appear ready to take flight; and his distinctive portraits, rendered from a single strand of wire into three-dimensional likenesses.

Thursday

"The Face of Russia" / 10 p.m. KCET

This three-part series surveys the art, architecture, music and culture of Russia to show how it reflects its people and dramatic history. The opening hour examines Russian art, which helped keep its religious traditions from passing into oblivion, despite culturally terroristic assaults like Stalin's attempt to destroy ancient churches. Series host and writer Janes H. Billington notes, "Russian culture has not developed gradually over the years, but rather in unexpected leaps after periods of suffering and silence."

Friday

"Remember WENN" / 7 and 10:30 p.m. AMC

A channel called American Movie Classics might not be the first place you'd look for a period comedy series about radio. Nevetheless, the witty and stylish show about a World War II-era Pittsburgh station signs on for its fourth season, resolving the mystery about who fired the gunshot heard at the end of last season's cliffhanger. Look for guest stars John Ratzenberger ("Cheers"), Daniel Benzali ("Murder One") and John Henson ("Talk Soup") in upcoming episodes.

Saturday

"Elton John and Billy Joel: Face to Face: Live in Vienna" / 9 p.m. HBO

Dueling pianos? Not exactly--the pop superstars perform individual sets with their own bands, then team up for some musical collaborations in a three-hour-plus concert extravaganza.

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