January 3, 2012


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Written by: Mitch Salem
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Disclaimer:  Network pilots now in circulation are not necessarily in the form that will air in the Fall.  Pilots are often reedited and rescored, and in some cases even recast or reshot.  So these critiques shouldn’t be taken as full TV pilot reviews, but rather as a guide to the general style and content of the new shows coming your way.
WORK IT –  Midseason on ABC:  Change the Channel
WORK IT is getting on the air.  I say this because if you’re ever unfortunate enough to watch this thing, you may want to repeat that statement over and over as you stare, in sheer wonderment, at how low network standards can sink.  Every season has a series that’s jaw-droppingly “What were they thinking?” awful, and folks, this year Work It is that show.

Exaggeration, you say.  Overstatement, you presume.  Well, the opening scene of this theoretical comedy has a joke in which a man’s prostate exam is compared to Jodie Foster’s gang rape in The Accused.  And hey, as far as I’m concerned, no subject is off-limits for comedy–if I heard that Louie CK’s act had some edgy bit on gang rape, I’d at least give it some consideration.  But in the context of a multi-camera network TV sitcom, how did anyone think this was going to be funny?  For more hilarity, how about a guy who’s lost his job and is supposed to go shopping, quipping without euphenmism that he’ll put the nectarines where his balls used to be?  Again:  on Rescue Me, that might fit with Denis Leary’s brand of bitter dark humor.  But for the guffaws of a live studio audience?
Work It is based around the familiar trope of guys who have to masquerade as women for some pressing reason:  in Some Like It Hot, Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis were hiding from gangsters; in Big Momma’s House and its sequels, Martin Lawrence was an undercover cop; in Bosom Buddies, Tom Hanks and Peter Scolari were after cheap rent.  Work It takes its cue mostly from Tootsie, where Dustin Hoffman could only get work when he became an actress.  Similarly, here Ben Koldyke and Amaury Nolasco are former Pontiac salesmen who are unable to find any sales jobs–except at a drug company, which only hires women (because, we’re told, when the company employed men, “the doctors didn’t want to nail them.”). 
Let’s put aside the legal risks of that policy, not to mention the idea that any doctor would want to nail the frightening “women” our heroes become–that stuff goes with the genre.  But while the great cross-dressing comedies are actually terrific romances, stories with great affection for their biologically female characters (Marilyn Monroe, Jessica Lange, Donna Dixon), Work It comes close to flat-out misogyny.  As the jokes above suggest, the comedy here comes from a place of fear and distaste toward women.  It’s a puzzlement how writers like Andrew Reich and Ted Cohen, whose careers include senior writing positions on Friends, could be responsible for gags like Koldyke, in his job interview, referring to his supposed body parts as his “teats,” or discovering that while men eat hero sandwiches for lunch, women eat only salads; women also, it turns out, belong to book clubs, can have any grudge assuaged with an expensive handbag, and don’t know the first thing about cars.   
It’s not the actors’ fault–they go about their cartoonish paces professionally enough (although it’s sad to see Rebecca Mader from Lost stuck as the mean girl at the drug company).  That goes for Beth McCarthy Miller’s direction as well.  The material is the culprit here; they’re collateral damage.
ABC hasn’t announced where they’ll place Work It on their midseason schedule (presumably it’ll substitute for one of their regular sitcoms to avoid reruns, the way Mr Sunshine was slotted into Cougar Town‘s spot last year).  Wherever it is, though, you may want to check if your brand of DVR has an “Avoid At All Costs” setting.
Read more about TV’s new shows at THE SKED PILOT REPORT.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."