Tough as Nails

TV review by
Melissa Camacho, Common Sense Media
Tough as Nails TV Poster Image
Competition celebrates the working class, with stereotypes.

Parents say

age 8+
Based on 1 review

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Positive Messages

This competition celebrates working class people in labor-intensive jobs, but sometimes does so in a way that criticizes those who don't get their "hands dirty" and whose callouses come from a gym and not on a job site. Sexism is a theme. There's some stereotypical messages about what the working class labor force is like.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Participants are of various genders, ages, and racial/ethnic backgrounds. Contestants can be very supportive of their teammates, but sometimes the pressure leads to some catty -- and sometimes subtly sexist -- behavior. Women often reveal how they've had to overcome sexist attitudes to succeed at their jobs. 


Yelling and screaming is sometimes used as a way to push team members during competitions. There are some occasional disagreements between cast members. Some of the challenges are potentially dangerous if not done correctly, but contestants wear safety gear. 


Words like "ass" are used. Curses are muted, and mouths are blurred. 


The Ford Company is a major sponsor of the show, and its logo and trucks are showcased. The winner receives a Ford truck.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

On occasion, contestants drink beverages from containers that look like beer bottles, but whether or not it’s alcohol isn’t clear.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Tough as Nails is a reality competition that celebrates the hard work of people in labor-intensive jobs. It sends positive messages about the importance of these jobs, and the value of the people who work them, but sometimes does so in a way that feels insulting or relies on stereotypes to get the message across. There’s some occasional strong words (like "ass") but curses are muted and mouths are blurred. Team members yell at each other during competitions, and on occasion people get into mild disagreements. The Ford Company is a major sponsor of the show, and its logo and trucks are visible. 

User Reviews

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Adult Written byWellingtongee July 25, 2020

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What's the story?

Hosted by Amazing Race’s Phil Keoghan, TOUGH AS NAILS is a reality competition series featuring people working in labor-intensive jobs competing for prizes. A cast of 12 people consisting of farmers, iron workers, correctional officers, veterans, fire fighters, and others form two teams and compete against each other in a series of hands-on challenges designed to test their mental and physical toughness. Some of the competitions earn teams cash prizes, while others lead to eliminations. With an emphasis on teamwork, participants can be eliminated from winning the grand prize, but will still compete with their team throughout the rest of the season. The individual winner of the overall competition gets $200,000 and a big Ford truck. 

Is it any good?

This series, which is inspired by Phil Keoghan’s working class family, is designed to celebrate the people who work the labor-intensive jobs that keep the United States running. The challenges, which range from laying down railroad tracks to carefully maneuvering warehouse pallet trucks, are intended to show how strong and mentally tough they have to be to do this kind of work on a daily basis. Meanwhile, the contestants share their backstories and demonstrate their commitment to their jobs, families, and in some cases, the country. 

These are all positive messages, but Tough as Nails sometimes offers them while subtly criticizing those who make their living and spend their time differently. Meanwhile, it relies on a lot of stereotypical tropes to represent the "traditional" way of thinking about the American working class, such as pointing out their willingness to "get dirty" and featuring a heavy duty Ford truck as a desired prize. It’s entertaining enough when compared to other reality competitions, but no doubt its narrative will ruffle some viewers’ feathers. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what it means to have a "working" or "middle class" job. What kind of work is it? How does Tough as Nails distinguish this work from other types of employment? Are these distinctions accurate?

  • Is it possible for a TV show or movie to characterize a community without using stereotypes to do it? Can you name a TV show or movie that doesn’t offer broad generalizations to represent a group of people?

  • Which of these jobs do you find the most compelling? Do any of them speak to you as something you may be interested in pursuing? 

TV details

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