Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Pilot Review: Work It

Work It (Tuesdays at 8:30 on ABC)

There's already a ton of buzz in the media regarding Work It. Gay groups are upset over the depiction of cross-dressing men, and the pilot itself is the worst reviewed of the season. And every bit of this negative press is deserved, because Work It is both offensive and awful.

Lee (Ben Koldyke, How I Met Your Mother) used to be a car salesman in St. Louis until he lost his job a year ago; Angel (Amaury Nolasco, Prison Break) was a mechanic at the same dealer and is in the same situation. Lee has a family to think about, but he just can't seem to find work. At a routine physical he overhears a pharmaceutical salesperson (Kate Reinders, Ugly Betty) talking about how well she and her company are doing. This is right up Lee's alley, except the company is only hiring women. So he puts on his wife's clothes and gets a job selling drugs, soon stringing Angel along with him.

Let's dive right in: Work It is indeed offensive. Lee is not so much impersonating a woman but a flamboyant homosexual while he is at work. The scene between him and his boss (Rochelle Aytes, Detroit 1-8-7) is most telling; here he is conversing with an actual woman, but exaggerating his motions and voice to the extreme. His affectation is not that of a woman, as we can see the woman playing opposite him; he is imitating the most feminine traits he can imagine, and he comes off as a gay man... not a woman. So I can understand the offense taken by GLAAD. Furthermore, this is horribly detrimental to the cause of the transgender community. Seeing two men easily slipping into the role of "female" and passing for women is totally inconsistent with reality (obviously, it's a sitcom). But trans people do not fit that easily into any role, and oftentimes the punishment for not passing is dangerous and violent. To see two horribly configured men-as-women be accepted as women sends the wrong message about what it is like to truly be between genders; it is not a matter of putting on clothes, Ace bandaging your package, and applying makeup. There is a complex of emotions and fears that go along with gender-switching that just aren't appropriate for sitcoms.

More so than being offensive toward gays and transgendered people, it's generally offensive to just men and woman. According to this show, all men are beer-drinking, clueless, lazy, sex-starved, overeating slobs. And all women are flirty, bitchy, slutty, constantly dieting, over-reacting man-haters. The gender references are so dated you'd swear the pilot was written by cavemen. I mean, would a man who can no longer afford to pay for his daughter's cell phone really go out every night to the bar and drink beers? Would a company really only hire women because they're nicer to look at than men? It's ridiculous.

But perhaps its biggest offense is that Work It is not even funny. The humor is so cliche and expected that it's groan worthy. A sample of some sight gags: Lee's bandage comes unraveled while he's dancing; Lee tries to get his breast size just right but can't seem to hide his bulge; Lee doesn't know how to properly apply makeup, so he ends up with black spots all over his face; Angel can't walk in heels so he constantly shakes his ass to compensate; etc. If any of that sounds appealing to you, you have the sense of humor of a child and have found your new favorite show. And while we're at it, the show isn't even original. Its lazy plot is a dumbed down adaptation of Bosom Buddies, Some Like It Hot, Tootsie and others.

It's likely the only reason this pilot ever got anywhere is because creators Andrew Reich and Ted Cohen were producers on Friends for so long (and even won an Emmy for it); but that good will can only last so long with an unoriginal story, terrible dialogue, a lack of laughs, and horribly cliche stereotyping. I don't see this one lasting more than a few weeks.

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