Work It, the first new TV comedy of 2012, premieres Tuesday night on ABC. And judging from the near-universal pans, it's already poised to be one of the new year's worst. Branded a "lame Bosom Buddies remake" (after Tom Hanks' men-in-drag sitcom of the '80s), the comedy centers on two unemployed male friends — suffering from what they call the "man-cession" — who dress as women to get jobs as pharmaceutical sales reps. Why? As one of their female co-workers explains, the firm won't hire men because "the doctors seem to want to nail them less." Not only is the show being lambasted for its tired jokes and stereotypes, gay advocacy groups took out a full-page ad in Variety begging ABC not to air it, arguing that it's offensive to the transgender community. Is Work It really that much of a drag?
It's really, really bad: Work It is the horrendous kind of show "you will use in years to come as a benchmark for other bad sitcoms," says James Poniewozik at TIME. Dressing men in drag can actually be used to brilliant effect, as proven by Bosom Buddies, Tootsie, and Some Like It Hot. The failure of Work It is its "ugly and mean-spirited" adaptation of that premise, painting women as shrill, ditzy, and clueless. From the cringeworthy drag montage set to the Black Eyed Peas' "My Humps" to the sight gags "you can see coming as if they were 6'-3" and wearing high heels," almost every joke misses the mark.
"Work It: Say no to the dress"
And it's really, really offensive: The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) joined together to protest the show, says Noelle Howey at The Daily Beast. And they're right to do so — Work It "would be a negative addition to our cultural conversation." Not only are the "stereotypical images of burly men in kitten heels hiking up their dresses to use the urinals" offensive to the transgender community, but to "any men, women, children — anyone — seeking entertainment." With any luck, this repulsive sitcom will die a quick death.
"Boycott the crossdressing show! ABC's new sitcom Work It doesn't work"
But sadly, it may be a success: Credit must be given where it's due, says Brian Lowry at Variety. For better or worse, stars Ben Koldyke and Amaury Nolasco deserve praise for "attacking the material with utter abandon" — even if the material is terrible. That's no reason to recommend watching the series, but it does indicate that the comedy may do well, despite the lousy buzz. In a TV season in which plenty of mediocre sitcoms (Last Man Standing) are posting respectable ratings, "stranger things have happened."