Back at the ‘Ranch’

“Texas Ranch House” (7 p.m., PBS) may sound like an ad in the real-estate section of this newspaper, but it’s the latest in a series of educational-reality-re-enactment melodramas inspired by the BBC’s “1900 House.”

Through the years, we’ve seen participants toil in a “Colonial House” and a “Frontier House,” and now we re-enter the era of 1867 Texas, a time when returning Civil War soldiers and immigrants joined with local Mexican cowboys and freed slaves to rope, rustle and wrangle longhorn cattle.

Like any reality series, “Texas Ranch House” has a social dynamic and pecking order. Stan, the foreman, rules over the bunkhouse of six cowboys with tough love and discipline learned during four decades in the military. His managerial style irks Johnny, a would-be cowboy from England. Ignacio, a trained chef who lived as a homeless man on New York’s streets, also balks at Stan’s authority.

The only native Texan among the cowboys is Jared, a self-confessed disco dancer. With his shaggy hair, glasses and goofy demeanor, he looks like he’d be more comfortable working for Dell than chasing cattle.

Stan works the ranch on behalf of the Cookes, a family of comfortable means from California, who thought it would be fun and inspiring to spend a few months in the 19th century. Upon arriving at the ranch house, wife and mother Lisa wells up with tears, exclaiming, “Oh … It’s just like 1867.” There’s no indication that the camera crew standing right next to her was as touched by the moment.

Fans of “The Real World” and “The Bachelor” will find the pace a tad slow. Apparently, they really took their time back in 1867, and it seems to take a solid hour to introduce all of the players. But, then again, they’re not arriving by limousine, and everything they do takes place under the broiling Texas sun.

“Ranch” will air over the next four nights as the Cookes and their crew learn whether they have the true grit to run a ranch and turn a profit from the legendary longhorns.

¢ Sebastian Bach plays host to the four-part clip countdown “40 Greatest Metal Songs” (10 p.m., VH1). Songs by Pantera, Iron Maiden, Metallica and others get rated and ranked tonight through Thursday.

Tonight’s other highlights

¢ Famous TV chef Jamie Oliver takes on his toughest job and harshest critics: 21,000 school-cafeteria customers. “Jamie’s School Lunch Project” (6 p.m., TLC) chronicles his efforts to bring healthy cuisine to a U.K. school district. “Lunch” airs every Monday in May.

¢ Michael has to accelerate his schedule on “Prison Break” (7 p.m., Fox).

¢ The Camdens glance back on “7th Heaven” (7 p.m., WB).

¢ Eight contenders compete to open the best hair salon on “The Apprentice” (8 p.m., NBC).

¢ The first lady’s emotions get the best of her on “24” (8 p.m., Fox).

¢ A rock-throwing terror needs supervision on “Supernanny” (8 p.m., ABC).

¢ Molly Ringwald guest stars on “Medium” (9 p.m., NBC).