‘Tough as Nails’ powers through pandemic restrictions

Rick's Reviews

Phil Keoghan returns to host a second season of “Tough as Nails.” (Photo courtesy of CBS)

(KGET) — The CBS reality competition series “Tough as Nails” is to hard physical work as “Jeopardy” is to strong mental abilities. It celebrates everyday Americans who consider their aching backs and rough hands to be badges of honor.

A second season of competitors being tested for their strength, endurance, agility and mental toughness in challenges that take place in the real world begins at 8 p.m. Feb. 10.

Host Phil Keoghan – best known for his jaunts around the planet as the host of “The Amazing Race” – was inspired to create the competition series by his grandfather. The New Zealand native would spend a lot of time with his grandparents when he was in high school.

That gave Keoghan the opportunity to see that while his grandparents never got further than middle school they were smart, able people capable of making a major impact on their community.

“I always looked up to him (grandfather), and it always irked me that some people somehow look down on people who maybe didn’t get a chance at an education but who still have these incredible life skills,” Keoghan says. “There’s lots of shows out there that have honored people who are really good at singing, dancing, designing.

“Maybe they are good looking  and  they  are going  to be a model. But,  I  felt  that  maybe there was a place for acknowledging those people who keep a country running. Real people,  in real life, who are real tough.”

The real people among the 12 competing this season include a  bricklayer, travel nurse, construction foreman, cement mason and lineman. Each week, one contestant is eliminated until the “Tough as Nails” winner is named.

One difference for this show from other competition programming is that nobody goes home. Even after they “punch out” of the individual competition, they will have the opportunity to win additional prizes in the team competitions that continue throughout the season.

Contestants found that there is more to being on the show than just the chance to win prizes. First season winner Kelly Murphy – a Marine veteran – discovered the impact the show has had on people. He had one woman explain how she got her son to got over his fear of heights because he had faced his own fears on the show.

There was also a man who was going to commit suicide but he started watching “Tough as Nails” and wanted to see what would happen the next week. That gave the man the strength to face another day and not take his life.

Murphy says, “So many people have reached out like that. It’s just been amazing, like, how many people have said, ‘Hey, you inspired me to change careers or to try something new.’ So the outreach has been amazing since Season 1 ended.”

Keoghan describes the contestants as people who keep this country running. And, they never get enough credit for the work that they do.

“They are the ones that keep the lights on. When there’s a storm, they climb up the poles, and they make sure that the power gets back  on. They make sure that we can flush our toilets if we have a terrible mess in the house with the plumbing,” Keoghan says. “They take away our problem for us.

“So we wanted to acknowledge those people. They are not necessarily fighting to be in the limelight. As a matter of fact, some people that we’ve had on the show, it’s incredibly hard to get in touch with them because they are not necessarily that closely connected to technology. We are trying to get back to a time where we are acknowledging people like Rosie the Riveter who, in World War II, rolled up her sleeves and who went to work to help make the country work.”

Keoghan didn’t realize after making the first season of “Tough as Nails” that he was going to have to be faced with his own challenges to get the second season filmed. Between the two, the world was shut down because of COVID-19.

One of the biggest hurdles was finding all of the locations needed to stage the competitions. A traditional competition show takes place in one place. “Tough as Nails” needed to get the green light to film in more than two dozen locations.

“So there were some challenges that we had set up where we literally went back seven times with applications to be able to get a COVID-cleared challenge because we didn’t have enough room for parking or spacing out toilets or lunch areas,” Keoghan says. “With regards to safety and making sure people are healthy, et cetera, it was our number one priority, making sure that we got out of this COVID-free, and I’m very proud of the fact that we have done that.”

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