Review: Work It (ABC) 1×1

The kind of show that makes you despair for humanity

In the US: Tuesdays, 8.30/7.30c, ABC

So this is it? The first new show of the New Year and this is what ABC throws at us? That’s kind of like saying "Merry Christmas!" to someone and having bubonic plague pustules rubbed in your face as a reward. In fact, ABC should probably have to pay people to watch this, in part to afford the shots they’ll need, such is its mesmerising, terrifying, pus-ridden awfulness.

Now, as mentioned last year, one of the big trends of the Fall 2011 season was "sitcoms that deal with the (alleged) difficulty of being a man in the 21st century". We started on a relative high note with How To Be A Gentleman, before slowly moving down through the various circles of Hell that were Last Man Standing and Man Up!. Now, though, like Dante, we have made it through to the ninth circle and we are staring into the three treacherous faces of Satan.

We have reached Work It.

Work It sees a bunch of unemployed men theorise that women ‘have it all’ in the modern job market, so to get jobs, they dress up as women. And watching it is like being deprived of God’s love for 30 minutes, although it will feel like eternity.

Cue the trailer.

This high-concept comedy centers on two unrepentant guy’s guys who, unable to find work, dress as women to get jobs as pharmaceutical reps. Not only do they pull it off, but they might just learn to be better men in the process.

The show stars Ben Koldyke ("How I Met Your Mother") as Lee, Amaury Nolasco ("Prison Break") as Angel, Beth Lacke ("Happy Hour") as Connie, John Caparulo ("Chelsea Lately") as Brian, Rebecca Mader ("Lost") as Grace, Rochelle Aytes ("Detroit 1-8-7") as Vanessa, Kate Reinders ("Sherrie") as Kelly, Kirstin Eggers ("Aussie and Ted’s Great Adventure") as Kristin and Hannah Sullivan as Kat.

"Work It" was written by Andrew Reich & Ted Cohen ("Friends," "Rules of Engagement"). Reich and Cohen are the executive producers. Beth McCarthy Miller ("Saturday Night Live," "30 Rock") is the director. "Work It" is produced by Bonanza Productions, Inc. in association with Summer School Productions and Warner Bros. Television.

Is it any good?
Look at the ‘About’ up there. Do you see you the danger words? No? They are "high" and "concept". What ‘high concept’ means is it’s based on an idea that you can stick on the back of an envelope, you can pitch it to a TV executive with commissioning power and they’ll grasp instantly what your show is about. If they can grasp it, so goes the theory, largely perpetrated by TV commissioning executives, so will the audience. And if the audience can grasp it, the ratings will be huge.

What this actually means is that anything "high concept" is probably too stupid to live: if you can describe it on the back of an envelope in such a way that an executive will ‘get it’, it’s dumb, clichéd and probably hideously stereotypical and offensive.

So it is with Work It. It’s a show so bad, you feel sorry for everyone involved, it reeks so much of desperation and people wanting to have work in this troubled economic climate. And by people, I mean sitcom writers and actors.

Clearly a show hatched about two or three years ago, Work It starts with a premise that’s no longer true – that it’s largely men being laid off during the recession – and tries with all its heart to make something of it. So for a good five to ten minutes, we have a show featuring middle class Americans desperately trying to make ends meet on unemployment cheques. Only one cheque mind, because in this ficticious middle class environment, you only need one wage-earner to be able to afford a vast sitcom house and care for a teenage daughter.

Eventually, the cheques run out, the health insurance expires and even though the mother in this family isn’t even going to job interviews, it’s time for desperate measures. While having a prostate examination (oh, the lot of men!), our ‘heroic’ former salesman overhears that a drugs company has plenty of work going and needs salespeople. Except they only really want ‘girls’ because ‘doctors only really want to bang them’.

And there we have Work It in a nutshell. All doctors are crude, straight men, easily persuaded by a pretty face. Saleswomen are pretty and use their sexuality to make the sale. That’s all there is to it. And in such a world, with a middle class guy out of work, it makes sense for him to put on a dress and try to get a job at a company only hiring women for sales jobs, rather than to SUE THEIR ASSES OFF.

Things don’t get any better when our hero interviews for a position at the firm as a woman, doesn’t bother to change his CV beyond the name (they better not rigorously check references then) and includes ‘football’ as his college sport. To cover up (rather than just say ‘Yes, I played football at college’), he admits to playing ‘lingerie football’.

Surprisingly, he gets the job – presumably because doctors will want to bang him – and soon enough, he’s convincing another friend to play dress up, too. Cue even more hilarity, because – to cover the writers’ asses – they’ll soon learn it’s not that easy being a woman. I mean, what’s the polite way to say ‘thank you’ when someone offers you a tampon at your job interview. Do they teach guys that kind of thing? No, of course not, but that must happen to you girls all the time, hey?

Now, in case you haven’t worked it out already, this is a horrible, horrible, vile, detestable, horrible, insulting, sickening, horrible show. It’s miserable, depressing, unfunny, badly made, badly acted, badly written, probably by a bunch of guys who’ve never been unemployed or even met a woman, and if you watch it, you’ll be encouraging ABC – you’ll be part of the problem, not the solution, and there should be a circle of Hell reserved for you and your co-viewers.

So don’t watch it. A rousing chorus of ‘Kumbaya’ to rally support, everyone?


  • Rob Buckley

    I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.