TV Smarts

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

* Today--"Mayoral Candidate Debate" (KCET 7-8 p.m.) Special edition of "Life & Times Tonight" presents highlights from the Wednesday night debate among six candidates for Los Angeles mayor. Jess Marlow and Val Zavala anchor. Also "Risky Business: The Day Traders" (A&E; 10-11 p.m.) Profiles home and office computer-users who trade on the stock market, including one so addicted to the activity he entered a 12-step program, a woman driven to financial ruin and a former milkman struggling through day-trader boot camp.

* Friday--"Reading Rainbow: My America" (KCET 1:30-2 p.m.) Based on "My America--a Poetry Atlas of the United States," a group of 50 poems selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins and illustrated by Stephen Alcorn, this program profiles young people in our diverse geographic and cultural regions. LeVar Burton hosts. Also, "Inside the World's Mightiest Bank" (DISC 9-10 p.m.) Documentary about America's central bank, Federal Reserve, explains its influence on global money markets, regulation of other U.S. banks, recent redesign of our money as an effort to deter counterfeiters and plans for paperless money transactions.

* Saturday--"Dear America: Dreams in the Golden Country" (HBO 5-5:30 p.m.) In this historical drama, a 12-year-old Russian-Jewish immigrant and her family struggle to adjust to their new lives in early-1900s New York. Also, "History Channel International St. Patrick's Day Preview" (HIST 8 p.m.-midnight) This marathon of documentaries celebrates Ireland's world-famous holiday and is intended to present a sampling of upcoming programs on the new History Channel International. Tonight: "A Short History of Ireland," "The History of St. Patrick's Day" and "The Great Irish Famine."

* Sunday--"Africa Extreme" (CNBC 8-9 p.m.) This National Geographic Explorer documentary follows ecologist J.M. Fay and photographer Michael Nichols from northern Congo to Gabon, 1,200 miles on foot, battling malaria, leeches and tsetse flies, to catalog environmentally endangered species. Also, "Neanderthal" (DISC 8-10 p.m.) Combines expert descriptions, dramatizations and computer graphics to show that Neanderthal cave dwellers were not dull-witted but extremely adaptive and successful in surviving their harsh ice-age environment.

* Monday--"Secrets of San Simeon With Patricia Hearst" (TRAV 9-11 p.m.) This documentary miniseries about media tycoon William Randolph Hearst's mountaintop estate in central California, now a state park, is hosted by his granddaughter, Patricia. Part I looks at the art collection, architecture and furnishings. Part II looks at the political, literary and artistic house guests. Also, "Biography: Vera Wang" (A&E; 8-9 p.m.) Traces the famous fashion designer's career, including her days as an ice skater, the youngest fashion editor at Vogue magazine and the creator of bridal gowns for top movie stars.

* Tuesday--"Maternity Ward" (TLC 9-10 p.m.) Follows three obstetricians on their rounds at UC San Francisco Medical Center--Patty Robertson, a specialist in high-risk births; Jennifer Wells, in her first year of residency; and Alyson Read, on loan from the Air Force to gain new experience.

* Wednesday--"The Sun Also Rises" (AMC 7-9:15 p.m.) 1957 movie based on Ernest Hemingway's classic novel about American expatriates in Europe during the 1920s. Available on video.

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

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