Last night, CBS jumped the gun by debuting the network’s newest summer show, Tough As Nails, one week earlier than previously planned with a two-hour series premiere. Unlike the network’s other competition series, the silly Game On!, Tough As Nails is a bit more dignified. It not only features real, blue collar workers, but celebrates them. There are an even dozen of contestants ranging in age from 24 to 62 coming from all walks of life and all over the country.
The first episode introduced the twelve competitors who are working both independently and as a team through a series of different tasks. Given the group’s varied work experience, some tasks are more tailored made for some and foreign to others. The first task required the group to individually move a stack of cement bags. The first one to finish was given the opportunity to choose their teammates. The second task required them all to build a wall of bricks within one hour. The person with the highest wall with the least amount of mistakes won the right also choose their team members. If this sounds a little dull, well, it is somewhat.
Hosted by Phil Keoghan, Tough As Nails has the same look and feel as his other show, The Amazing Race, but the pacing is a lot less frenetic, doesn’t have any real frightening tasks and doesn’t feature any spectacular locales. It’s hard to make brick-building seem exciting. As a whole, this show is a refreshing change and is interesting, but the producers need to pick up the pacing a bit if they hope to see a second season. But I’m not ready to throw in the towel just yet, and neither should you.
Tough as Nails is also different in another way. No one gets “voted off the island” or get sent home for coming in last place. This dirty dozen are in it for the long haul. On one day, the twelve will compete as two teams of six against the other for a certain amount of prize money. The winning team divides its winnings equally amongst the players. The next day, everyone is competing against everyone else. The person who comes in last place has to “punch out” of that portion of the game, but will continue on with the team games. The last person standing will win the $2,000,000 prize money plus bragging rights.
What I think will make this show special in the end, is how much we will get to know each of the players. All of them are likeable and all have unique stories to tell. None of them have squeaked by living an easy life. These players include:
- 35-year-old Luis Yuli, which one other contestant says that he looks like he should be on the cover of GQ magazine. But he’s brawn is just as impressive. He’s a Scaffolder from The Bronx, New York.
- Linda Goodridge works as a deputy sheriff Jailer in Marion, New York. She’s 29. She says that “sometimes the toughest obstacles aren’t physical. Sometimes they are emotional and mental.”
- You would never know that 30-year-old Tara Davis and mother-of-four is an ironworker. Hailing from Elk Plain, Washington, both her parents are drug addicts and have been in trouble with the law but her grandmother encouraged her to be more than just a statistic.
- Myles Polk is a 28-year-old forestry tech worker in Tuskegee, Alabama. He’s playing for his girlfriend whom he is hoping that he’ll earn enough money to buy her a really nice ring for their wedding.
- Melissa Burns is youngest of the women, but already, this 27-years-old as made a name for herself as a mother of four and a farmer in Milford Center, Ohio.
- At 61 years, Lee Marshall is the oldest male of the group. The roofer from St. Louis, Missouri is a man of few words, works hard and doesn’t make excuses.
- Young An is a 36-year-old firefighter from Alexandria, Virginia. While his work is demanding in real life, it hasn’t completely prepared him for some of the tasks given to him. He says that he’s competing for his parents who sacrificed a lot to come to America so that he could have a better life.
- Callie Cattell could be mistaken as a beauty queen but she is no pushover. The 28-year-old fisherman from Bend, Oregon swears that sea water is great for her complexion.
- Kelly “Murph” Murphy is a 47-year-old Marine Corps Veteran but you’d never know it by his long hair and beard. Coming from Paragon, Indiana, this soft-spoken man is a gentle giant with a good sense of humor.
- At 5 foot 6 inches, Danny Moody from Spokane, Washington is the shortest of the men. The 33-year-old jokes that his job as a drywaller gave him big guns, but his four kids are somewhat responsible for his gut.
- Linnett Key is pretty hard on herself despite the hard work she has already done to provide for her four kids. The 34-year-old single mother went from being homeless to owning their own home within one year working as a welder in Lecanto, Florida. She has nothing to feel bad about.
- At 62 years of age, Michelle Kiddy is the oldest female of the bunch. Short in stature and working as a gate agent at an airport, the Alexandria, Kentucky woman doesn’t intimidate her fellow team members, but she should. She’s a force to be reckoned with.
Next week, Tough as Nails airs on Wednesday at 8 p.m. on CBS with the show’s third episode. Even if you aren’t able to catch up beforehand, you should be able to pick right up and cheer them on.
Main image: Monty Brinton/CBS
I write about pop culture, arts and entertainment in the greater Seattle area.