I don’t think any of us expected to like ABC’s new cross-dressing comedy, Work It, and as much as this sounds like I’m about to tell you it’s the most surprisingly enjoyable sitcom of 2012, it’s not. The pilot was just as painful as we all thought it would be. I don’t know why we even bothered, really.
The series, in case you haven’t heard is about two men, Lee and Angel, who’ve been unemployed for a full year after the company they worked for went under. Faced with being cut off from unemployment, they’re desperate for any job – even if it means dressing as women. Apparently, the only place in town that’s hiring is a pharmaceutical company – this is where the show steals a page out of the How I Met Your Mother story bank – and the company only hires women. You get where this is going.
But the important question isn’t if the sitcom doesn’t cut it (because let’s be real; it doesn’t), it’s why the sitcom doesn’t cut it, and luckily for us, Work It makes that task mind-numbingly easy. Besides the fact that it very clearly has two men dressing in obnoxiously unfunny drag – which hasn’t been funny for at least the last 15 years – and the fact that this is a direct rip-off of the 80s sitcom I still can’t believe starred Tom Hanks (Bosom Buddies), there are a handful of very distinct ways in which the new series aims to set back both genders by about 50 years. To demonstrate, I’ll list the “lessons” I learned from the pilot episode. And away we go.
1. Men are dumber than those people who make YouTube videos of their kids playing with feces.
The protagonist, Lee, has been married long enough to have a teenage daughter, but he still hasn’t figured out that he can’t invite his wife to his poor man’s Cheers for beers with the guys and expect to be allowed to “wake her up for sex later.” Come on. He’s supposedly been unemployed for a year. If he really acted like that, his wife wouldn’t be coyly reprimanding him, she’d be throwing him a bone by letting him sleep on the porch swing.
The pilot also introduced us to Lee’s “comic” relief buddy, Brian, who’s so bitter about losing his job that he’s convinced women are going to take over the world and turn men into sex slaves. I’m going to go ahead and let that little nugget marinate for a minute. (And we’re only on lesson one.)
2. Only women can get jobs – but only because guys want to nail them.
For the record, those are almost the exact words of one of the supporting characters. Kelly, the first pharmaceutical rep that Lee meets, tells him he can’t work at her company because they only hire women so that the doctors in are incapacitated by their desire to sleep with their sales reps – apparently there are no female doctors in St. Louis or only men are susceptible to seduction by a beautiful person. Because that’s so true.
And when Lee goes in for his interview, his new boss is so impressed because Lee actually did research about the company before trying to get a job there. His boss practically bows down to him because he actually knows something about the job instead of trying to bond with her over the Kardashians. Right, because that’s how most of us ladies get jobs: by being grossly uninformed and balancing it out by being hot.
3. When a man dresses in drag, he can make overly sexual comments to women and get away with it.
This one may be true, but it’s grossly abused in the mere 22 minutes that make up the Work It pilot. Lee’s best friend, Angel, is a “ladies’ man” according to ABC.com, but what he really seems to be is dog. The first thing he does when he gets to his job interview at the pharmaceutical company is use the opportunity to make comment about his future boss’ “tight ass.” As ladies, we know this commentary from a stranger is only okay when it’s said out of envy instead of horndog desire.
4. Women are either slutty and dumb, powerful and bitchy, or desperate and unsure.
Lee’s wife is a caricature of the typical Middle American wife, but I’m not even going to touch on that. She’s boring, but she’s not so bad. The real problem is that the set of ladies Lee and Angel end up working with embody three of the most obnoxious female stereotypes. First, there’s Kelly, the queen bee socialista who uses her good looks to sell pills and expects to get wasted and have sex with a stranger every time she goes to happy hour. Then, there’s Grace (played by former Lost cast member Rebecca Mader), who’s inexplicably British and a bit cosmopolitan for the series’ locale. She’s the most successful sales rep at the company, so obviously she’s meaner than Rachel McAdams’ infamous character in Mean Girls. She even pulls the fake compliment: “Your purse is so cute” means “That is the ugliest purse I’ve ever seen.” Success does not equal bitchiness, but in Work It world, that doesn't seem to matter. Then there's Kristen, the desperate, manic former new girl at the company. She's so desperate to be liked that she takes pleasure in letting Grace call her "sausage fingers." She's a sweetheart, but eventually the neediness overtakes that element.
And what's the one thing these women all have in common? They're completely obsessed with purses - to the point where I think they might salivate over a leather hobo bag the way Lee does over his Astro Taco steak burrito. Most ladies love a great bag, but we do have other interests - and I don't mean whatever book landed on Oprah's reading list last.
5. Fergie and “Bootylicious” make montages of men trying hide their junk and try on pantyhose funny.
This soundtrack is exactly what I would get if I asked someone’s grandpa to make a “You Go Girl” playlist: it’s every mainstream pop song about being a powerful woman on account of one’s overwhelming sexiness. And isn’t it funny to see a six-foot-something man with a chiseled jaw get lipstick on his teeth with “My Humps” in the background? You know, because it’s so ironic? No, it really isn’t.
6. Girls only eat meals suited for rabbits and baby birds; men eat over-sized phallic foods.
This also might be true on occasion, but it would be nice if we didn’t have to witness the overt use of Lee’s giant hoagie in the lunchroom as the least subtle metaphor for the heat he’s packing under that pencil skirt. We get it, he’s a guy in drag. The sandwich is phallic. It’s the elephant in the room that only the audience is smart enough to get because the women in Lee’s office apparently have the collective I.Q. of a broom closet. Also, I would like to note that each and every one of my girlfriends would give any friend an earful if she saw her eating a single piece of lettuce for lunch like Lee does after renouncing his symbolic sandwich.
Did you watch Work It? Do you think I’m being too harsh? If you saw merit in the pilot or want to add to my tirade, enlighten us in the comments or get at me on Twitter (@KelseaStahler.)