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New TV series celebrates everyday Americans who “get their hands dirty”

I was feeling a bit under the weather yesterday and found myself flipping through channels more often than I usually do, but I was happy I did—I pleasantly stumbled across the premiere of a new CBS show called Tough As Nails.

The reality competition series celebrates “everyday Americans who get their hands dirty while working long, hard hours to keep the country running.” The 12 contestants (six men and six women) have backgrounds in construction, welding, drywalling, ironwork, agriculture, and other labor-intensive industries. Luis, a scaffolder from The Bronx, couldn’t imagine sitting in a cubicle all day doing paperwork; Linnett, a welder from Florida, and her children were homeless before she started her career—one year later she became a homeowner. All 12 contestants are competing to be crowned the Tough As Nails champion and receive a $200,000 grand prize along with a new Ford truck.

But nobody goes home. Even after players are eliminated from the individual competition (where they “punch out” using a large time clock), all participants remain on the show to compete in team competitions, giving them the opportunity to win additional prizes.

The competitions take place at real-world job sites and test players’ strength, endurance, life skills, and mental toughness. During last night’s premiere, contestants wheelbarrowed 24 bags of powdered mortar mix through an obstacle, tried their hand at bricklaying, laid railroad track, and shoveled coal.

Creator and host Phil Keoghan (host of The Amazing Race) said his inspiration to create Tough As Nails came from his “working-class family of farmers, gold miners, builders, and coal miners. I’m proud of my family and wanted to shine a light on people who are not afraid to roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty to do a hard day’s work.”

The series aligns well with the mission of the Center’s “Great Jobs Without a Four-Year Degree” project: bringing attention to the Great Jobs in sectors that form the backbone of our state’s economy and highlighting the impressive individuals who choose these alternative occupations.

The contestants on Tough As Nails enjoy their jobs, they have positive attitudes about the hard work involved with these jobs, and they are proud to work in industries that have typically been associated with deeply engrained misconceptions (they are for “dummies,” they are “dark, dirty and dangerous”).

To anyone who enjoys reality competition television, I recommend checking this series out.

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