The new ABC cross-dressing sitcom “Work It” won’t debut until tomorrow night at 8:30, but it’s already been subject to protests from both GLAAD and several transgender activist groups. And while I would never deign to tell any minority group (particularly one I’m not a member of) what they do and don’t have a right to be offended by, in this case, it feels like the offense being taken is too narrow.
“Work It” could be seen as an insult to the transgender community, sure. But it’s also an affront to all women, and men, and thinking adults.
(The only reason it’s not offensive to kids is that the one underage character is on-screen too briefly, but her limited screen time suggests she’ll deserve her own protest within an episode or two.)
“Work It” is the last, and least, of ABC’s trilogy of new sitcoms about the crisis of masculinity in modern-day America. “Last Man Standing” more or less abandoned that as a premise and has just become a “Home Improvement” where Tim has daughters instead of sons, and “Man Up!” is already gone and forgotten, but the male panic is more deeply baked into this one and will be hard to let go of.
Ben Koldyke (Robin’s co-anchor boyfriend Don on “How I Met Your Mother”) and Amaury Nolasco (Sucre from “Prison Break”) play Lee and Angel, a car salesman and mechanic who’ve been out of work for a year. There are jobs out there, but not for them, it seems.
“It’s a mancession,” rants their oafish friend Brian (John Caparulo). “Women are taking over the workforce. Soon, they’ll get rid of men.” He speculates that men will only be kept around as sex slaves, but only for the kind of sex they don’t like: “kissing and cuddling and listening.”
While the auto industry is in trouble, Lee discovers that there are tremendous opportunities in pharmaceutical sales, but not for men – because, as one pharma girl explains it to him, “The doctors seemed to want to nail them less.”
Before you can say “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” Lee has slipped into his wife’s clothes – even though she’s petite and he’s built like a free safety – and conned his way into a job for a local pharmaceutical conglomerate. Though he couldn’t look more like a guy in drag unless he was sporting a handlebar mustache, he gets the job in part by telling the boss what a tough time he had dealing with the sexist jerks at his last job, where “the guys were always sassing me, or patting my fanny, or ogling my teets.”