Worth Watching: ‘Tough as Nails,’ ‘Stateless’ on Netflix, ‘100’ Prequel
A selective critical checklist of notable Wednesday TV:
Tough as Nails (8/7c, CBS): CBS delayed The Amazing Race until fall because of disruptions to the schedule by the pandemic, but fans can still get their fix of host Phil Keoghan in a ruggedly inspiring competition series he produced and (in the first two episodes) directed which is close to his heart and his working-class roots. Tough as Nails celebrates America’s often unsung heroes and essential workers with its cast of six men and six women, who’ve developed their physical and mental strength and stamina the hard way: on the job. Representing professions including welding, dry-walling, ironworking, farming, Alaskan fishing, scaffold building, roofing, firefighting, foresting, gate-agent baggage handling, plus a deputy sheriff and a retired Marine, these contestants are no joke. Neither are the challenges, where skills at wielding a loaded wheelbarrow, bricklaying and shoveling coal come in handy. The first hour leads to picking two teams of six, who will continue intact through the competition, even when someone “punches out” from the individual contests. Only one will make it to the end to claim a $200,000 prize, but no one is sent home or goes away empty-handed (or pocketed).
Stateless (streaming on Netflix): Yvonne Strahovski, so impressive as the conflicted Serena Joy in The Handmaid’s Tale, scores again in this grim six-part Australian drama about disparate souls who converge on an immigration detention center located in the Australian desert. Strahovski is powerfully affecting as a flight attendant who gets seduced by a strange cult operating as a dance studio — series co-creator and producer Cate Blanchett (Mrs. America) has a small role as one of the cult’s leaders (with The Affair‘s Dominic West). How she escapes, and finds herself in detention sporting a German accent, is one of the show’s mysteries. As good as Strahovski is, her story lacks the tragic urgency of the plight of the Afghan refugee (Fayssal Bazzi) who’s separated from his family during flight.
The 100 (8/7c, The CW): As the sci-fi thriller heads into the final stretch, we learn more about the nuclear holocaust that ravaged the Earth in a prequel episode that in the best of all possible dystopias could lead to a spinoff. In other news, Clarke (Eliza Taylor) faces a new adversary, because why should this week be any different? No rest for the heroic on this series.
Inside Thursday TV: In a staged docudrama format presented by New York’s Public Theater on its YouTube channel and website, The Line (7:30/6:30c live stream, available through Aug. 4) by Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen uses first-person accounts from interviews with New York City’s medical first responders to depict their battle to save lives during the COVID-19 crisis. Performers include Santino Fontana, Alison Pill, Nicholas Pinnock, Jamey Sheridan and Lorraine Toussaint… Netflix’s Mucho Mucho Amor profiles the Latinx sensation Walter Mercado, a flamboyant TV personality whose horoscopes entertained more than 120 million at his peak… PBS NewsHour Presents China: Power and Prosperity (10/9c, check local listings at pbs.org) is a report from foreign affairs/defense correspondent Nick Schifrin on the often-contentious relationship between China and the U.S.… E!’s The Soup (11/10c) returns with new weekly episodes, hosted by Jade Catta-Preta, who’ll mock the outrageous pop-culture moments you may or may not have missed.