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TV Smarts

May 18, 2000

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

* Today--"Mount St. Helens' Fury" (TLC, 10-11 p.m.). In this documentary, scientists and survivors of the massive 1980 volcanic eruption of Mt. St. Helens in Washington state describe its effect on an area of America geologically similar to California.

* Friday--"Pins and Noodles" (KLCS, 10-11 p.m.) Broadcast during Asian Pacific Heritage Month, this documentary by Paul Kwan filmed in Taiwan, the People's Republic and San Francisco describes how traditional Chinese medicine is reinventing itself with the aid of computers, technology and modern methods of health care. Repeats May 28 at 10 a.m.

* Saturday--"The Bataan Death March" (HIST, 3-4 p.m.). This documentary, despite its grim title, is primarily about the survivors of Japanese treatment of Filipino and American prisoners during World War II. Present-day U.S. congressional investigations, led by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) on the issue of whether Japan should pay them reparations, also the subject of current U.S. court cases and California Assembly debates, are covered. Also, "Cheaters" (HBO, 9-11 p.m.). This is a movie based on a 1995 cheating incident at a Chicago high school. Jeff Daniels stars as a teacher under pressure to improve student academic performance.

* Sunday--"History Center" (HIST, 10:30-11 a.m.). Using a talk-show format, this weekly program takes up controversial issues in the news that have their roots in historical conflicts. Regularly participating are historian-authors David Frum, Gerald Posner, James Horton and host Steve Gillon. In this installment, they take sides on the current Confederate flag-display and racial-violence photo exhibits. Also, "India: the Land of the Tiger" (KCET, noon-6 p.m.). This is a broadcast of all six hours of PBS' "Nature" series on the diverse wildlife and geography of the Indian subcontinent.

* Monday--"Springs Eternal: Florida's Fountain of Youth" (KLCS, 8-9 p.m.). Filmed in underwater Florida caves where visibility is incredibly clear, this "Nature" documentary describes the habits of manatees--thought to have inspired the original myths about mermaids--and alligators. For further details, log on to http://www.wnet.org/nature/springs.

* Tuesday--"The Price of Perfection" (TLC, 9-10 p.m.). This documentary describes the effects of society's pressure on people to have a "perfect" body. Anorexia, bulimia, psychological disorders and near-death experience are recounted by young women and men overcome by an obsession with perfection.

* Wednesday--"Sahara" (KCET, 9-11 p.m.). This documentary was filmed in a special 35mm process for broadcast in high-definition TV format (an extra treat for viewers with the new type of receivers). Cameras traverse 3,000 miles of wildly diverse and often gorgeous terrain, showing nomadic inhabitants, flora and fauna, and even torrential rainstorms.

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

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