Some broadcast and cable programs contain material in the public school curriculum and on standardized examinations. Here are viewing tips:
* Today--"Wishbone" (KCET, 3-4 p.m.) In this episode of the popular PBS live-action literature series, the star--a terrier--introduces young viewers to the Mark Twain classic "Tom Sawyer." Also, "Vanished" (KABC, 10-11 p.m.) This is a documentary about the kidnapping of Charles and Anne Lindbergh's infant son and the subsequent media coverage, which turned the 1932 tragedy into what many consider the crime of the century. Interviewees include A. Scott Berg, author of the recent Pulitzer Prize-winning biography of Charles Lindbergh.
* Friday--"The Red Pony" (AMC, 5:15-7 p.m.) This movie version of John Steinbeck's classic story about a boy and his horse, often taught in English classes, was scripted by Steinbeck, with a musical score by Aaron Copland. Also, "Of Mice and Men" (AMC, 7:30-9 p.m.) This is the best movie version of the classic Steinbeck novel--also frequently taught in school--about society's response to the handicapped, in this case mental retardation. Burgess Meredith stars in an unforgettable role.
* Saturday--"Without Pity: A Film About Abilities" (HBO, 2:30-3:30 p.m.) This is a documentary about several people dealing with daunting conditions--paraplegia, cerebral palsy, brain damage, polio and blindness--with the help of families and friends. Narrated by Christopher Reeve. Also, "The Running of the Bulls--From Pamplona Spain" (ESPN2, 7:30-8:30 p.m.) This sports special also serves as a geography lesson about Spain, describing an annual event popularized by Ernest Hemingway. Also, "My Family, Mi Familia" (KABC, 8:30-11 p.m.) This movie follows an East Los Angeles family from the 1920s to the present, combining humor and dramatic portrayals of intergenerational struggles. Written by Gregory Nava and Anna Thomas and directed by Nava, the film stars Jimmy Smits and Edward James Olmos. The film is R-rated for strong language.
* Sunday--"Dateline NBC" (KNBC, 8-9 p.m.) This episode includes information about the U.S. legislative process, focusing on the struggle between lobbyists and legislators over the loopholes in a law that permits the marketing and sales of autos rebuilt after serious accidents.
Compiled by Richard Kahlenberg in consultation with Crystal J. Gips, associate director for teacher education, Cal State University. Columns available at http://latimes.com/tvsmarts.