A&E; TRAVELS THE WORLD WHILE RIVALS HIT THE HOT SPOTS FOR ARTS AND HISTORY NEAR AND FAR

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Cable has lots of razzle-dazzle up its sleeve this fall--from a four-hour look at the world of magic to amazing natural phenomena to the splendor of travel's most illustrious destinations to a history of California, which encompasses these things and more.

Other cable fare includes live music and theater, a history of American industry and documentaries about the 1950s and some less happy days: the Third Reich and nuclear brinkmanship during the Cold War.

Here's are some of the highlights:

A&E;

"The Grand Tour": In the style of "America's Castles," this new series looks inside the destinations favored by the elite few, emphasizing the appearance and atmosphere of such places as St. Moritz, Africa and Miami. Already premiered.

"The New Explorers": The former PBS series hosted by Bill Kurtis moves its base camp to A&E; and, along with repeats, will feature eight new episodes. Oct. 5.

"Open Book": The world of books is the subject of this weekly series, which will include interviews with authors, reports on the publishing industry, reading recommendations and profiles of movies that have been based on books. Oct. 5.

"Jane Eyre": The premiere of this new adaptation of Charlotte Bronte's classic novel coincides almost exactly with the 150th anniversary of its publication. Samantha Jones ("Emma"), Ciaran Hinds ("Ivanhoe") and Gemma Jones ("Sense and Sensibility") star in the 2 1/2-hour tale of a woman who overcomes a wretched childhood to become a governess. Oct. 19.

"The Story of Magic": Not exactly "now you see it" (you'll have to wait a couple of months): Illusionist, author and film star Ricky Jay hosts a two-part, four-hour look at the mysterious art, from the Egyptians to Houdini. Dec. 7.

"California and the Dream Seekers": Edward James Olmos narrates this two-part tribute to the Golden State on its 150th anniversary, chronicling California's growth through the eyes of Native Americans, European explorers, gold seekers, oil boomers, land-grabbers, industry-promoters and wide-eyed dreamers. January.

"Empire of Their Own": A two-hour documentary about the founders of the Hollywood movie studios, based on the book of the same title by Neal Gabler. Early 1998.

AMC

"Frank Capra's American Dream": A 90-minute documentary paying tribute to the director of such classic films as "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington," "It's a Wonderful Life" and "Meet John Doe." December.

ANIMAL PLANET

"Once Upon a Tree": For children, this series features music and puppets to "introduce the network's youngest viewers to the wonders of nature and animals." Sept. 29.

"E.S.P.U.": This 13-part series takes viewers to southern Africa to follow the work of the Endangered Species Protection Unit, which battles the poachers in search of prized animal pelts, tusks and horns. Oct. 19.

"The Pet Shop": A talk show with a twist: Celebrities appear with their pets. Really. Andy Kindler hosts. Oct. 1.

THE DISCOVERY CHANNEL

"Gimme Shelter": For do-it-yourself builders who can't get enough of PBS' "This Old House," here's another series filled with advice on how to build a skylight, install a garbage disposal and tackle other household jobs. Sept. 29.

"Into the Unknown": Explores the legends of monsters, from sea serpents to giant squid and thunderbirds. Oct. 2.

"Storm Warning!": Examines survivor stories behind natural disasters. Oct. 3.

"A.R.K.: Animal Rescue Kids": This series, joining the channel's block of Sunday morning children's programming, is about youngsters who travel the globe each week to help animals in trouble. Oct. 5.

"Raging Planet": A 10-part series examines the scientific causes behind nature's most furious forces and offers the one-two punch of "Lightning" and "Avalanche" (with "Tidal Wave" following in December). Nov. 23.

DISNEY

"Muppets Tonight": This series had an erratic run on ABC and never really took hold. Now it gets a fixed spot on Saturday night for optimal family viewing. There are 22 episodes in all--only 10 of which were seen on ABC. Already premiered.

THE HISTORY CHANNEL

"Empires of Industry": This weeklong series of documentaries traces the transformation of America from an agrarian to industrial society. The five installments: "Carnegie and the Age of Steel"; "Legacy of King Coal"; "Victory at Sea: Mass Shipbuilding"; "Brewed in America" and "Textiles: Birth of an Industry." Oct. 12-16.

"Hitler's Henchmen": This series of six documentaries demonstrates that Goering, Himmler, Goebbels, Hess, Speer and Donitz--far from "just following orders"--were aware of and responsible for the many atrocities of the Third Reich. Oct. 19-23.

"The Fifties": The eight-hour miniseries based on David Halberstam's book shows that this decade was more than nostalgically remembered "happy days": It was also a time defined by the threats of nuclear annihilation and racial inequality. Nov. 30-Dec. 5.

"In Search of History": This new series seeks to answer the questions that have baffled historians throughout the ages--the Black Death, the Holy Grail and the Hope Diamond, among others--while separating fact from fiction. Already premiered.

HBO

"Rachel's Daughters: Searching for the Cause of Breast Cancer": Case studies of breast-cancer patients that are intended to bring perspective to the disease's causes and treatments. Oct. 1.

"Calling Dr. Kevorkian: A Date With Dr. Death": The controversial assisted-suicide advocate shares his case files. The "America Undercover" special includes videos of patients seeking his assistance in dying and interviews with family members and law-enforcement officials. November.

THE LEARNING CHANNEL

"Windsor Restored": Five years after a devastating fire swept through Windsor Castle, the monument of British royalty since its construction by William the Conqueror, this documentary chronicles the restoration of the home of English sovereigns since 1070. Nov. 24.

"On the Brink: Doomsday": We never knew how close we were ... until this two-hour documentary, which recounts several Cold War incidents that almost resulted in nuclear engagement. Nov. 16.

LIFETIME

"Say It, Fight It, Cure It": The 90-minute documentary, directed by Lee Grant, presents stories of breast-cancer survivors, leading off a month of programming dedicated to the fight against the disease. Oct. 5.

"Voices of Hope": Jaclyn Smith hosts a one-hour special focusing on the latest in scientific research against breast cancer and featuring appearances by Pierce Brosnan, Rosie O'Donnell, Helen Hunt, Olivia Newton-John, Halle Berry and Angela Lansbury. Oct. 16.

MTV

"Live From the 10 Spot": MTV's first weekly live performance series will kick off with the Rolling Stones. And Counting Crows will follow soon thereafter. Oct. 14.

Mike Myers Specials: The star of "Wayne's World" and "Saturday Night Live" will star (as his Austin Powers persona) in a series of variety specials that will include comedy, dance and live performances by musical guests. TBA.

"Austin Stories": Billed as the channel's first "fully scripted comedy series," it's about three friends going about their lives in Austin, Tex. Already premiered.

NASHVILLE NETWORK

"TNN Special Request": It's worked for A&E; with Tony Bennett, Barry Manilow and James Taylor "By Request" ... Willie Nelson performs songs requested by phone, fax or e-mail--live from his namesake theater in Luck, Tex. Oct. 20.

NICKELODEON

"The Journey of Allen Strange": From Tommy Lynch, the creator of "The Secret World of Alex Mack," comes a new live-action series for children that sounds a bit like the movie "E.T." Allen (Arjay Smith) is an alien who gets stranded on Earth and is befriended by two humans--a 15-year-old girl and her younger brother (Erin Dean, Shane Sweet). Nov. 8.

TBS

"Twin Stories": A one-hour documentary about what it's like to be a twin. Includes footage from an event in New York City where 150 pairs of identical twins gathered for dinner. Oct. 19.

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