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This guide is designed to alert readers to the scope and variety of programming coming up. Listing is not meant to represent blanket endorsement. Viewers are urged to be selective. FRIDAY Gian Carlo Menotti: The Musical Magician (PBS, 9-10:30 p.m.): ``Great Performances'' presents a unique portrait on his 75th birthday. SATURDAY

Houston: The Legend of Texas (CBS, 8-11 p.m.): Fact-based dramatization of Sam Houston's struggle to free Texas from Mexico, starring Sam Elliott as the other Sam. SUNDAY

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The Thanksgiving Promise (ABC, 7-9 p.m.): ``The Disney Sunday Movie'' presents a sensitive heartwarmer about a boy, his goose, and growing up. Just about all of the Lloyd Bridges family takes part in this super Sunday entertainment for the whole family.

Pantanal: Prairie of Great Waters (PBS, 8-9 p.m.): ``Nature'' examines this marsh in southwestern Brazil.

Nazi Hunter: The Beate Klarsfeld Story (ABC, 9-11 p.m.): An extraordinary tale about an extraordinary woman who is devoting her life to rooting out Nazi war criminals. An outstanding performance, too, by Farrah Fawcett.

Women of Valor (CBS, 9-11 p.m.): Drama about the bravery of US Army nurses in captivity in the Philippines in 1942.

Virgil Thomson at 90 (PBS, 10-11 p.m.): Friends and colleagues of this prolific composer celebrate his 90th birthday. MONDAY

Assignment Africa: An Inside Story Special Edition (PBS, 10-11 p.m.): Hodding Carter travels with journalists in Africa, as he examines American press coverage of that continent's diverse stories.

The Ted Kennedy Jr. Story (NBC, 9-11 p.m.): Fact-based drama about the struggle of the son of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy to overcome disability. TUESDAY

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The Mystery of the Animal Pathfinders (PBS, 8-9 p.m.): ``Nova'' explores how animals such as the trumpeter swan and the monarch butterfly navigate over huge territories.

That Secret Sunday (CBS, 9-11 p.m.): Crime thriller with an extra dimension of reportorial ethics. WEDNESDAY

A Day in the Life of America (PBS, 8-9 p.m.): The spirit of America on May 2, 1986, is captured on film by 220 photographers and 23 cinematographers.

John Lennon: A Journey in the Life (PBS, 9-10 p.m.): Dramatized scenes, animation, and film footage depict the childhood and early career of this most enigmatic Beatle.

A Windham Hill Evening on Stage at Wolf Trap (PBS, 10-11 p.m.): A fusion of classical, folk, rock, and jazz. Listings are in Eastern Time; other zones may vary. Please check listings for all PBS programs, since local option often results in differing days and times.

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