History presents 'Star Wars' 101

History presents 'Star Wars' 101

Thirty years ago, in an entertainment galaxy far, far away, nobody had ever heard of "Star Wars," and that's what made the movie's smash success all the more fresh and surprising. "Star Wars: The Legacy Revealed" (9 p.m., History) celebrates and discusses the film franchise and its use of myth and allegory. Folks from media, politics and academia weigh in on the ways "Star Wars" hearkens back to Buck Rogers and Greek fables and how it has assimilated Western mythology and made it fun, swashbuckling and as irresistible as popcorn.

While you have to admire any program that can unite Camille Paglia, Nancy Pelosi, Dan Rather and Newt Gingrich, "Legacy" often unfolds like a college literature survey course. In making the case for the deep cultural importance of the series, it overlooks the fact that the more recent films have been hard to watch. And what of the film series' own legacy? Have movies, particularly summer movies, gotten better since 1977? And has our culture been enhanced by a dialogue that simplifies everything to the dark side vs. the light side? Darth vs. Luke? Freedom vs. Evil Doers?

We're told that "Star Wars" made people feel good again during the malaise-ridden 1970s. But at what cost? Did we lose all tolerance for subtlety, nuance and shades of gray in the Wagnerian bombast of these comic-book legends?

What becomes of the brokenhearted? They join "The Ex-Wives Club" (9 p.m., ABC), a weird new entry in ABC's lineup of tear-jerking reality fare. Hosted by a trio of famously abandoned celebrity wives — Angie Everhart, Shar Jackson and Marla Maples — "Ex" showcases two sob stories per hour, helping emotionally devastated women get their grooves back.

The show follows the teachings of divorce-survival guru and "life coach" Debbie Ford. Apparently a lot of crying, shouting and kickboxing can work wonders for the emotionally devastated.

"Ex" takes an odd if not felonious turn when the hosts take a divorced woman on a plane ride over the desert. Having commandeered her creepy ex's vintage muscle car, they push it out of the plane at 10,000 feet. Apparently, they think watching a GM product crash and burn will make her happy and tick off her mean ex. Don't they know that guys like watching stuff blow up? And who is going to clean up the flaming wreckage? Divorce can be very, very messy.

"Sunset Tan" (10:30 p.m., E!) follows the high-strung antics at the Hollywood ultraviolet-ray factory where Britney Spears comes to get her melanin excited. A Hollywood mom drops $1,300 on a tanning session for her 9-year-old daughter. She wants her to look good for her class picture. It's hard to tell whether this is comedy or tragedy.

"Tan" airs right after "The Simple Life Goes to Camp" (10 p.m., E!). It's safe to say that neither Paris nor Nicole will be devoured by cougars. But we can always hope.

A daylong marathon of "Jaws" (5 a.m., Encore) movies unfolds. Contestants submit their films on "On the Lot" (8 p.m., Fox). A gambler and a medium trade situations on "Wife Swap" (8 p.m., ABC, TV-PG). Whoopi Goldberg guest-stars on "Everybody Hates Chris" (8 p.m., CW, r, TV-PG). Vanessa Minnillo and Mario Lopez host Miss Universe 2007 (9 p.m., NBC).

• A father-and-son surgeon team battles America's vast waistband on "Big Medicine" (9 p.m., TLC).

A string of apparent mob murders mirrors a movie's script on "CSI: Miami" (10 p.m., CBS, r, TV-14,V). Experts address summer anxieties on "More Swimsuit Secrets Revealed" (10 p.m., WE). The spineless father of a 3-year-old enlists a "Supernanny" (10 p.m., ABC, TV-PG).

A sergeant (Best Actor William Holden) falls under suspicion in a German POW camp in the 1953 drama "Stalag 17" (10 p.m., TCM) directed by Billy Wilder.

Kevin McDonough, a syndicated columnist who lives in Narrowsburg, can be reached at kmcdonough@unitedmedia.com.