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TV Smarts

August 31, 2000

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

* Today--"Everglades" (KCET 8-9 p.m.) Documentary on endangered wetlands in Florida. Also, "City on the Brink" (KOCE 9:30-10:30 p.m.) Documentary about Chung Qing, formerly Chungking, shows the shift to capitalism in modern China, creating a few new rich and more new poor.

* Friday--"Dateline NBC" (KNBC 9-10 p.m.) Labor Day-themed documentary about the courageous workers who recently cleaned up a corrupt union in Chicago. Victoria Corderi reports. Also, "Kidz in the Woods" (DIS 9:30-10:30 p.m.) Movie about a group of unruly city children who learn a lot on a two-week history trip along the Oregon Trail when their teacher gets lost.

* Saturday--"Lassie" (KPXN 6-8 p.m.) New movie based on the classic novel "Lassie Come Home" is set in the 1990s. Director Dan Petrie captures the charm and values of the original book. Thomas Guiry stars as the young city boy acclimating to rural conditions.

* Sunday--"It Happened Here" (TCM 7-9 p.m.) Although it looks like a documentary about life in England after it was conquered by Germany in World War II, this movie is a fictional and psychologically accurate portrayal of people under pressure. Directed by premier film historian Kevin Brownlow, the movie is considered a masterpiece of independent filmmaking. Also, "Joe Hill" (KCET 10:30 p.m.-midnight) Labor Day-themed documentary about the 1914 Utah trial of the hero of the International Workers of the World movement.

* Monday--"Venice's Grand Canal" (KCET 9-10 p.m.) Documentary about the famous Italian city is hosted by Nathan Lane.

* Tuesday--"Swahili Sinbads" (TRAV 8-9 p.m.) Documentary about the East African island of Zanzibar explains its millennium-long role as the terminus for sailors going to fabled, but real, destinations, such as Cathay, Persia and Malabar. Also, "Australia: Beyond the Fatal Shore" (KCET 9-11 p.m.) First two in a six-part documentary series on the country playing host to the 2000 Summer Olympics. Written and hosted by author and art critic Robert Hughes, it traces the 40,000-year history of Australia's aboriginal people, including the story of European settlement, which began with the establishment of penal colonies after the American Revolution ended England's practice of sending criminals to Georgia. Third and fourth parts air Wednesday, parts five and six Thursday.

* Wednesday--"The Piano Lesson" (ODSY 9-1 p.m.) Based on a Pulitzer Prize-winning play by August Wilson, this movie tells the story of a family's plan to sell an antique piano to buy the Mississippi land their ancestors worked as slaves. Alfre Woodard, Charles Dutton and Carl Gordon star.

*

Compiled by Richard Kahlenberg in consultation with Crystal J. Gips, dean of the School of Education, College of St. Rose, Albany, N.Y. Columns at http://www.latimes.com/tvsmarts.

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