TV Smarts

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 Adventures of Captain Planet” (KTLA 2:30-3 p.m.) The recent spate of bad air days and record-setting temperatures should add relevance to this daily animated series about a superhero and his young friends who battle forces threatening the environment. Care has been taken to keep scientific aspects of each story accurate and easily understood by young viewers. This episode, “Whoo Gives a Hoot?” shows what individuals can do to help the environment.

Also recommended: “Fahrenheit 451" (Sci-Fi, 6-8:30 p.m., repeating at 10:30 p.m.). This movie is about a future when almost all print material has been banned and burned with the public’s cooperation. Flat-panel video screens delivering the latest entertainment dominate daily life. But a wily and determined “underground” movement preserves the classic works of world literature by memorizing them and clandestinely teaching them to a new generation. Francois Truffaut directs the adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s novel. Julie Christie stars. Also available on video.

* Friday. “Black Holes” (Discovery, 10-11 p.m.) In this science documentary, astronomers and astrophysicists explain “holes” in outer space, characterizing the phenomenon as “the ultimate abyss.” John Hurt narrates.


* Saturday. “Popular Mechanics for Kids” (KCAL, 1:30-2 p.m.) This regular Saturday series explains technical devices in terms youngsters can understand and, in some cases, teaches how to build them. This episode gives instructions for building a remote-controlled model submarine and covers the history of submersible crafts from 1775 to today--including scenes aboard a two-person Catalina Island-based research vessel. A related CD-ROM bearing the name of the series has been released by Simon & Schuster Interactive.

* Sunday. “A Royal Scandal” (KCET 9-10 p.m.) This episode of PBS’s “Masterpiece Theatre” is a dramatization of historical incidents 200 years ago in the life of the Prince and Princess of Wales. Drawing dialogue from actual documents and correspondence relating to the marriage of a deceitful future monarch (George IV) and his strong-willed bride (Princess Caroline), it sticks to the historical facts, which are surprising and uncannily familiar. Richard Grant and Susan Lynch star, and Ian Richardson narrates.

--Compiled and written 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