‘Special Forces’ Celebrity Competition, ‘Tough as Nails,’ ‘Abbott’ Spins the Wheel, the Madoff Story

Who are the grittiest reality-TV competitors: the 16 celebrities putting themselves through a military-style boot camp in Fox’s Special Forces: World’s Toughest Test or the 12 blue-collar laborers in the new season of CBSTough as Nails? Cast members of Abbott Elementary play Celebrity Wheel of Fortune as the Emmy-winning sitcom returns with new episodes. A four-part Netflix docuseries explores the financial crimes of Bernie Madoff.

Hannah Brown in 'Special Forces World's Toughest Test'
FOX

Special Forces: World’s Toughest Test

Series Premiere

Who’s got what it takes to make it through the grueling training exercises that Special Forces recruits endure before being chosen for the elite unit? “This is not an adventure race. This is a military selection,” barks one of the Directing Staff leading 16 celebrities from the sports, entertainment and reality-TV worlds through a series of mental and physical challenges. The only way out is to quit or otherwise come up short in the eyes of the DS trainers. The cast includes the usual assortment of who’s who and who’s that: athletes Danny Amendola, Dwight Howard, Gus Kenworthy, Nastia Liukin, Carli Lloyd and Mike Piazza; performers Mel B, Montell Jordan, Beverley Mitchell and Jamie Lynn Spears; chef Tyler Florence and reality stars Hannah Brown, Kate Gosselin, Kenya Moore, Dr. Drew Pinsky and the unclassifiable Anthony Scaramucci. When they boast this test is tough, they’re not kidding. As another ex-operative puts it, “We not only want you to face your fear, we want you to smash it.”

'Tough as Nails' Season 4 premiere
Cliff Lipson/CBS

Tough as Nails

The players in this rugged competition series may not be famous, but they’ve got true grit, which is tested in a fourth season of Phil Keoghan’s celebration of essential workers. The new cast features contestants whose skills include pipeline labor, construction work, dry masonry, diesel technician, carpentry, welding, shipboard electrician, concrete form setting and firefighting. The season opens on California’s Catalina Island, with a challenge involving replacing old boat moorings. Then they’re off to build a concrete retaining wall in the first individual competition.

Janelle James, Sheryl Lee Ralph and Chris Perfetti-'Celebrity Wheel of Fortune'
ABC/Christopher Willard

Celebrity Wheel of Fortune

Abbott Elementary cast members leave the classroom behind to reveal their skill at wordplay, with Emmy winner Sheryl Lee Ralph, Janelle James and Chris Perfetti spinning the wheel and solving puzzles to win money for their favorite charities. This serves as a curtain-raiser for the first new episode in 2023 of the Emmy and AFI Awards-winning Abbott Elementary (9/8c), in which the classrooms of Janine (Quinta Brunson) and Melissa (Lisa Ann Walter) face off in a read-a-thon sponsored by a local pizzeria.

Bernard L. Madoff
TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images

Madoff: The Monster of Wall Street

Series Premiere

A four-part true-crime docuseries from Joe Berlinger (Conversations with a Killer) examines the mechanics of financial fraudster Bernie Madoff’s infamous Ponzi scheme, a $64 billion scam that ruined the fortunes and lives of his duped investors. Featuring never-before-seen video from Madoff’s depositions, the series aims to show that Madoff didn’t pull off this crime alone, implicating co-conspirators and a deeply flawed financial system.

Inside Wednesday TV:

  • The Price Is Right at Night (8/7c, CBS): A series of special themed prime-time episodes begins with a “Redemption” round for previous players who missed a big payday by just that much.
  • Chicago Med (8/7c, NBC): Crockett (Dominic Rains) considers using the OR 2.0 for surgery as all three One Chicago series return with new episodes. Followed by Chicago Fire (9/8c), where Det. Pryma’s (Troy Winbush) case takes an explosive turn, endangering Kidd (Miranda Rae Mayo) and Carver (Jake Lockett), and Chicago P.D. (10/9c), with a series of home-invasion robberies bringing the team in contact with a detective whose policing style sets Torres (Benjamin Levy Aguilar) on edge.
  • Married at First Sight (8/7c, Lifetime): The relationship series moves to Nashville, in the hopes that hearts will sing for 10 Tennessee singles as they wed a stranger and decide eight weeks later if it was love at first sound bite.
  • NFL Tailgate Takedown (9/8c, Food Network): Talented tailgate chefs representing rival NFL teams square off in a new competition, hosted by Sunny Anderson and Patriots hall-of-famer Vince Wilfork. The opener pits fans of Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants in a tailgate battle at New Jersey’s MetLife stadium.
  • First Contact: An Alien Encounter (9/8c, PBS): In the tradition of National Geographic’s Mars, documentary interviews are weaved within a fictional narrative about an encounter with an extraterrestrial artifact, revealing new tools available in the never-ending search for life beyond our planet.
  • Big Sky: Deadly Trails (10/9c, ABC): While Sunny (Reba McEntire) and the even more devious Paige (Madalyn Horcher) learn the terrible truth about Buck (Rex Linn)—no doubt those carved hearts are a giveaway—Jenny (Katheryn Winnick) is distracted by the return of her own crooked mama, Gigi (Rosanna Arquette).
  • Star Wars: The Bad Batch (streaming on Disney+): The animated spinoff returns for a second season of adventures for the rogue clones on the run from the Empire after the fall of the Republic.