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UPN’s ‘Beauty’ offers lessons in reality

Kevin McDonough United Feature Syndicate

News flash: The WB network may finally have a hit reality show on its hands. And it only took a Fox star with an MTV pedigree to make it happen.

Producer Ashton Kutcher (“That ‘70s Show,” “Punk’d”) brings his combination of impish charm and thinly veiled sadism to “Beauty and the Geek” (8 p.m., WB), a surprising social experiment disguised as a reality show that trades in obvious cliches and cruelty but is never afraid to show a little heart.

“Beauty” features seven socially maladjusted geniuses and seven shallow and badly educated sorority types. Paired off early in tonight’s show, they are dependent on each other as they compete in alternating challenges that test mental ability and dating skills.

The last couple standing walks away with $250,000. And along the way, the dorky guys get to loosen up and the gals learn that looks aren’t everything.

If reality shows were subject to truth-in-packaging laws, ABC might be busted for consumer fraud. After all, a show called “Dancing with the Stars” (9 p.m., ABC) implies that we’re going to see stars dancing. But the cast list reads like a virtual who’s who of has-beens: Trista Sutter (“The Bachelorette”), Rachel Hunter (“The Real Gilligan’s Island”), Evander Holyfield, Joey McIntyre (now an Old Kid on the Block), John O’Hurley (“Seinfeld”) and Kelly Monaco (“General Hospital”).

The “stars” are teamed up with professional dancers to train and compete in front of a live studio audience. I guess Tonya Harding and Danny Bonaduce had prior engagements.

The Peacock Network airs the two-hour special “The Eagles Farwell Tour” (8 p.m., NBC), featuring Glenn Frey, Don Henley, Joe Walsh, and Timothy B. Schmit performing their hits.

“Steve McQueen: The Essence of Cool” (5 p.m., TCM) celebrates the screen tough guy who died at age 50 in 1980. McQueen’s co-stars, including Richard Attenborough, Eli Wallach, Suzanne Pleshette, Robert Vaughn and Martin Landau, praise his emotional intensity, economy of motion and powerful taciturnity. McQueen was that rare star who insisted on fewer lines.

No movie publicist ever had to invent a romance while promoting a McQueen picture. In fact, “Cool” makes much of his womanizing and his scandalous affair with co-star Ali McGraw (the then-wife of Paramount chief Robert Evans) during the making of “The Getaway.”

While obviously catnip to the ladies, McQueen’s main appeal was to men who admired his dangerous attitude in films like “The Magnificent Seven,” “The Great Escape,” “Bullitt” (6:30 p.m., TCM), “The Sand Pebbles” and “The Thomas Crown Affair.” Completely unique, McQueen combined the macho certainty of older heroes like John Wayne with the Method acting vulnerability of James Dean.

“Tickled Pink” (11 p.m., TV Land) presents a peanut gallery of writers, actors and celebrities discussing the gay themes and subtexts buried in classic television shows including “Bewitched,” “Maude” and “The Golden Girls.” It seems that Paul Lynde was gay! Who knew?

Other highlights

Scheduled on “60 Minutes” (8 p.m., CBS): a wounded GI; a profile of songwriter Billy Joe Shaver.

“American Masters” (8 p.m., KSPS) repeats a 1999 profile of Ella Fitzgerald.

A corpse in a trash bag leads to questions on “CSI: NY” (10 p.m., CBS).

A publicity stunt goes dangerously awry on “Law & Order” (10 p.m., NBC).

Strangers stranded on an island on the pilot episode of “Lost” (10 p.m., ABC).

“Sports Kids Moms & Dads” (10 p.m., Bravo) looks at parents who sacrifice everything for their would-be stars.

Cult choice

A family of vaudeville stars insists the show must go on in the 1954 Irving Berlin vehicle “There’s No Business Like Show Business” (5 p.m., FMC), starring Ethel Merman, Marilyn Monroe, Donald O’Conner, Mitzi Gaynor and Johnnie Ray.

Series notes

On four consecutive episodes of “That ‘70s Show” (Fox), Kelso has a thought (8 p.m.), Fez fizzes (8:30 p.m.), father-son bonding (9 p.m.) and Kitty feels her New Age (9:30 p.m.) … Discipline administered on “Supernanny” (8 p.m., ABC) … Emotional residue on “All of Us” (8 p.m., UPN) … Sorry seems to be the hardest word on “Eve” (8:30 p.m., UPN) … A mental block on “King of Queens” (9 p.m., CBS) … Cosmetic surgery on “Smallville” (9 p.m., WB) … Quitters never win on “Yes, Dear” (9:30 p.m., CBS).

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