This is likely the first-ever TV review on Zap2it to cite the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. But we’re in not-very-well-charted territory with ABC’s joyless, charmless new show “Work It.” And although we’re only three days into 2012, we’re pretty confident this show will end up near the top of lots of “worst” lists next December.
The show’s premise is that the economy is so bad for men that two guys (Ben Koldyke, best known as Don on “How I Met Your Mother,” and Amaury Nolasco from “Prison Break”) who’ve been out of work for a year have to resort to dressing up as women to land new jobs. It’s a “mancession,” their crude buddy/expository device Brian (John Caparulo) declares. Women are snapping up all the jobs, and soon men will just be kept around as “sex slaves.”
It’s true that when unemployment spiked in 2008 and ’09, the percentage of men out of work passed that of women. There was a fairly good-sized disparity in mid-2009, and according to BLS numbers from November, the unemployment rate for men (8.9 percent) is still a little higher than the rate for women (8.3 percent).
It’s also true, though, that men still outnumber women in the workforce by about 5 million, and men got about two-thirds of the new jobs in the 12 months ending in November. And there’s that whole pay-inequality thing — women earn 70 to 80 cents for every dollar men earn.
All of which is to say that “Work It” starts off with an extremely flimsy premise. When you add to that a string of obvious, unfunny cross-dressing jokes and a set of female characters that are barely even one-dimensional, the premise pretty much collapses entirely.
Comedies don’t have to be complete mirrors of reality to work, but there should be either A) enough of a tether to the real world to feel at least plausible, or failing that, B) at least be pretty funny. “Work It” fails on both counts in several ways, but most obviously here: The show asks us to believe that all the women Lee (Koldyke) and Angel (Nolasco) (convenient, those androgynous names) work with at their new job as pharmaceutical reps wouldn’t take one look at them and go, “You’re a dude, right?” — as any barely sentient person would.
ABC Entertainment president Paul Lee swore up and down at last summer’s TCA press tour that he loves “Work It,” and joked that as a Brit he was pretty much obligated to put a cross-dressing show on the air. As the head of a network, though, he’s also obligated to try to put good shows on the air. Pretty much everyone on screen in “Work It” and everyone who has the misfortune to tune in to ABC at 8:30 p.m. ET Tuesday (Jan. 3) deserves better.