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TV Smarts

June 18, 1998

Some broadcast and cable programs contain material included in the public school curriculum and on standardized examinations. Here are weekend home-viewing tips:

* Today: "The Face of Russia" (KCET, 10-11 p.m.) This is the first of three programs of a new documentary series describing 1,000 years of Russian history and culture. Beginning in the Middle Ages with religious icons and liturgy, Russian painters and musicians eventually exerted a powerful influence on modern art in the 1900s. James Billington, United States Librarian of Congress, hosts the series, which continues June 25 and July 2.

* Friday. "The Etruscans" (History, 5-6 p.m., repeating 9-10 p.m.) This documentary episode of the series "In Search of History," describes an inventive, forceful and, some scholars say, wicked culture that predated and greatly influenced nearby ancient Rome.

* Saturday. "Black Orpheus" (Bravo, 8-9:30 a.m.) This movie, a vivid updating of the legend of Orpheus and Eurydice set in Rio during Carnival, won an Oscar for best foreign film (Brazilian-French). The music is by Antonio Carlos Jobim. Recommended for taping in connection with the study of South American culture.

Also, "The American Teacher Awards" (Disney, 7-9:30 p.m.). In this special broadcast from the Los Angeles Music Center, viewers will see the Outstanding Teacher of 1998 chosen by 36 teacher-finalists. What these teachers do in the classroom (in 12 subject-matter categories) will be detailed by award-presenters including Jeff Goldblum, Candice Bergen, Scott Hamilton, Tia, Tamera and Tahj Mowry, and Hector Elizondo.

* Sunday. "Alexander Calder" and "Isamu Noguchi" (KCET, noon-2 p.m.) This pair of documentaries in the American Masters series provides valuable art-study background about sculpture ("mobiles") and ceramics (Japanese-influenced work in America). Also, "The Spotlight Awards: A Young Artist's Showcase" on KCET from 5-6:30 p.m., presents 12 Los Angeles high school students in performance during the culmination of the Spotlight Awards competition at Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

--Compiled by Richard Kahlenberg in consultation with Crystal J. Gips, associate dean, College of Education, Cal State Northridge. For references to books, videos and Web sites recommended in the past month's TV Smarts, log on www.calendarlive.com/HOME/CALENDARLIVE/TVENT/TVSMARTS.

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