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. "Neanderthal" (History, 9-10 p.m.) The topic of this documentary episode of the "Cavemen" series is part of the curriculum in several schools. VCR+56724. Other documentaries about pre-history airing Friday: "The Missing Link," Discovery, 10-11 p.m. VCR+204361, and Saturday, "Search for the Lost Cave People," KCET, 7-8 p.m. VCR+25220. Recommended for young readers: "The Big Golden Book of Cavemen: And Other Prehistoric People" by R.A. Bell.

* Friday. "The Magic Flute" (KCET, 7-9:15 p.m.) This is a staging of the Mozart opera by Oscar-winning film director Ingmar Bergman. Young viewers will find this live-action musical drama of sorcery and kidnapping as engaging and funny as any animated feature--and an enduring contribution to their cultural literacy. VCR+9420019. Also available in video stores is Peter Gammond's book, "Magic Flute: A Guide to the Opera."

* Saturday. "Mama Africa" (Ovation, 5-6 p.m.) This is a biographical documentary on the social activism and musical career of South African singer Miriam Makeba. Her books include "My Story" and "World of African Song."

* Sunday. "Cold War" (CNN, 5-6 p.m.) CNN begins a weekly series of extensively researched historical documentaries covering events from July 16, 1945 (the A-bomb's birth) to Dec. 25, 1991 (Soviet Union's dissolution), an important era rarely covered in history class. A free teacher's guide on CD-ROM, extensive printed materials from the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, D.C., and an endorsement for classroom use by the National Council for Social Studies Board of Directors may be ordered via or (800) 344-6219. Tonight's episode, "Comrades," reminds viewers that Russia and America cooperated to defeat Hitler. Kenneth Branagh narrates. VCR+657553. Each episode includes film and other documentation from newly available ex-Soviet sources and will be followed by a 30-minute discussion, "Cold War Postscript." A home-viewing guide for parents is available free from

--Compiled by Richard Kahlenberg in consultation with Crystal J. Gips, associate director for teacher education, Cal State University system. For references to books, videos and Web sites recommended in the past month's TV Smarts, log on

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