“Tough As Nails” (7 p.m., CBS, TV-PG) returns for a second season. Hosted by Phil Keoghan, of “Amazing Race” fame, it applies the reality TV competition formula to blue-collar work. A popular summer diversion, “Tough” collected a group of toilers, including a steelworker, pipe welder, travel nurse, UPS delivery driver, retired Air Force colonel and others to compete in individual feats of strength and team events.
Between the he-man and he-woman events, there’s plenty of time for chatter about “good honest work” and “a job well done,” the kind of pick-up truck patter and predictable bromides that fill the commercials that sponsor shows such as “Tough As Nails.”
My dad worked the night shift as an electrician in a can factory. I never once heard him brag about how “tough” he was. He let his union, and his vote, do the talking.
From the time of “Survivor” onward, reality television has accentuated backstabbing and winner-take-all triumphalism. It has celebrated the divide-and-conquer we’re-all-on-our-own philosophy that keeps people isolated and weak. Particularly working people.
The contestants on “Tough As Nails” are playing up to stereotypes in the way professional wrestlers might. They’re little better than blue-collar drag queens. They’re as real as the characters in the Village People and not half as entertaining.
If Mark Burnett, Phil Keoghan and the other reality TV puppet masters want to help workers, maybe they should create a series about forming a union. Real tough people don’t play games: They organize.
• Robin Roberts (“Good Morning America”) narrates the documentary special “Tuskegee Airmen: Legacy of Courage” (7 p.m., History, TV-PG). The story of America’s first Black military pilots began with their training in 1941, before America entered World War II and while the armed forces were segregated.
Roberts has a personal stake in this story, as her father, Col. Lawrence E. Roberts, was a Tuskegee Airman. The valor of the airmen pointed out the hypocrisy of fighting a war against the Nazis’ “master race” ideology while still maintaining Jim Crow laws in America.
Their achievements helped convince President Harry Truman to desegregate the armed forces in 1948, a decision that split the Democratic Party before the elections of that year and reverberates to this day.
TONIGHT’S OTHER HIGHLIGHTS
• Halstead weighs his options on “Chicago Med” (7 p.m., NBC, TV-14).
• Gallo disregards orders on “Chicago Fire” (8 p.m., NBC, TV-14).
• “Nature” (7 p.m., PBS, TV-G, check local listings) celebrates the biodiversity of Texas’ Big Bend National Park.
• Set in the 1950s, the 1997 drama “L.A. Confidential” (8 p.m., Starz Encore) explores a confluence of power, corruption and tabloid media that continues to this day.
• The community chafes under a history of abuse on “S.W.A.T.” (9 p.m., CBS, r, TV-14).
• A street shooting is not what it seems on “Chicago P.D.” (9 p.m., NBC, TV-14).
• Officers face charges on “For Life” (9 p.m., ABC, TV-14).
• Calluses, open sores and corns loom large on “My Feet Are Killing Me” (9 p.m., TLC, TV-14).
• After a casual conversation with a fellow ride-share passenger, a fashion designer discovers she has a stalker in the 2020 thriller “Driven to the Edge” (9 p.m., LMN, TV-14).
An angry trumpet player (Sammy Davis Jr.) meets a civil rights activist (Cicely Tyson) in the 1966 musical drama “A Man Called Adam” (1 a.m., TCM, TV-PG), co-starring Ossie Davis and featuring musicians Louis Armstrong, Mel Torme and Frank Sinatra Jr.
“The Masked Dancer” (7 p.m., Fox, TV-PG) ... Beverly meddles on “The Goldbergs” (7 p.m., ABC, TV-PG) ... Archie returns after seven years on “Riverdale” (7 p.m., CW, TV-14) ... Helping the stork on “American Housewife” (7:30 p.m., ABC, TV-PG) ... An extraction mission ends in an ambush on “SEAL Team” (8 p.m., CBS, r, TV-14) ... “Name That Tune” (8 p.m., Fox, TV-PG) ... A battle over a single candle on “The Conners” (8 p.m., ABC, r, TV-PG) ... A ticking clock on “Nancy Drew” (8 p.m., CW, TV-PG) ... Jackie offers advice on “Call Your Mother” (8:30 p.m., ABC, TV-PG).
Christopher Walken appears on “Conan” (10 p.m., TBS, r) ... Kristen Wiig and Rebecca Breeds are booked on “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” (10:35 p.m., CBS) ... Jimmy Fallon welcomes Dwayne Johnson, Daniel Kaluuya and Chris Stapleton on “The Tonight Show” (10:34 p.m., NBC) ... Allison Janney and Rep. Cori Bush visit “Late Night With Seth Meyers” (11:37 p.m., NBC) ... Noah Centineo and Madison Cunningham appear on “The Late Late Show With James Corden” (11:37 p.m., CBS).