“Work It” Premiered and Everybody Hated It

In December I wrote at length about the many reasons ABC’s new misogynistic sitcom Work It! was offensive to just about everybody with two ears and a brain. This show, about two men who adopt female identities and dress as women to get hired at a pharmaceutical sales company that only hires women, premiered on January 3rd, and was quite possibly the worst thing I’ve seen on television since that time I recapped Two and a Half Men. Seriously, Work It makes Two and a Half Men look like Fraiser. 

Many hoped this show wouldn’t ever make it to air. GLAAD and the HRC were very outspoken about what they perceived to be covert transphobia as well as outright sexism perpetuated by the show. They even gathered a well-signed petition, took out a full-page ad in Variety and put in numerous requests for a meeting with ABC. But SURPRISE! — ABC ignored a bunch of angry queers and women and went on to broadcast this program.

And holy shit did it SUCK.

everyone at this diner knows that "WORK IT" sucked

If you find yourself consistently impressed by the ingeniousness of beer commercials, perhaps you’d like this show, which trots out a series of so-tired-they’re-basically-comatose jokes about how men are neanderthals and women are idiots and lipstick is hard. Over. And Over. And Over.

I’ll spare you (and mostly myself) an actual recap of the program, but before I go on to share with you some encouraging news about the show’s debut ratings (bad) and the overall press reaction to the show (worse), let me get you up to speed with what we’re dealing with here by sharing some of the show’s most obnoxious attempts at “comedy.”

First I’d like to mention that the episode opens at Lee’s super-nice house where his super-nice wife is standing around with pretty hair, being super-awesome, into which Lee enters to mope about his fruitless day of job hunting and suggest that, despite all external appearances to the contrary, the family now must steal ketchup packets to feed themselves. He even had to cancel his daughter’s cell-phone plan!

So we hadn’t even gotten into the gender stuff yet and I was already screaming from my eyeballs.

1 broke guy

So, onto the jokes!  Lee is at the bar with his bros, where the trio drink beer and moan about the job market:

Angel: “How did this happen?”
Lee: “Well, it’s a recession.”
Brian: “It’s not a recession, it’s a MAN-Cession. Look, women are taking over the workforce, soon they’ll start getting rid of men, they’ll just keep a few of us around as sex slaves.”
Angel: “That part doesn’t sound so bad.”
Brian: “Not the kind of sex you like, Angel. Just kissing and cuddling and [grimaces] LISTENING.”

WOMEN HATE SEX BECAUSE THEY’RE SAPPY SILLY CREATURES WITH TOO MANY FEELINGS HAHAHAHAH!

i dunno bro, it's just so tough being a bro in a chickalicious universe

When Lee overhears a fellow patient at his doctor’s office telling the receptionist that her pharmacuetical sales company is hiring, he jumps right in offering his wide-open work schedule:

Kristin: “Oh, we’re kind of just looking for girls.”
Lee: “Really, why?”
Kristin: “Well, we’ve had some guys, but the doctors seem to want to nail them less.”

ALL WOMEN ARE GOOD FOR IS BEING SEXY HAHAHAHAH ALL MEN CAN DO IS WANT TO FUCK THEM AND THEN BUY PROZAC HAHAHAHA

When Lee has his job interview — for which he has dressed as a woman — the interviewer, Vanessa, says she’s impressed that Lee has experience working in a car dealership. Vanessa, by the way, is the only woman in the office who isn’t inept and doesn’t speak in a chirpy baby voice. She’s actually smokin’ hot, but that is neither here nor there.

Vanessa: “What was it like working there? There couldn’t have been many women.”
Lee: “No, I was the only one.”
Vanessa: “That must have been hard.”
Lee: “Oh it was! The guys were always sassing me or patting my fanny or ogling my tits.”

HAHAHAH SEXUAL HARASSMENT ISN’T REAL GIRLS ARE SO SENSITIVE

the all-around beauty of this woman is the only redeeming aspect of this show

Lee goes on to wow the Interviewer with his pre-interview knowledge of the company’s products (because “get to know the company you’re interviewing for” is such a special secret employment trick only men know about):

Vanessa: “Impressive. Most of the girls who interview here think that clinical trials are the things Lindsay Lohan keeps having to go to.”

HAHAHA ONLY MEN CAN DO REAL JOBS WOMEN ARE SO STUPID HAHAHAHA!

girls in the office talking about handbags and boys

After being peer-pressured into tossing out his hoagie in favor of eating a piece of lettuce like a fucking rabbit from hell, Lee hits up Astro Taco, where Angel is suddenly working, and confesses his plan:

Lee: “So, whaddya say?”
Angel: “I don’t know man, you have to understand this kind of thing doesn’t really fly in my culture.”

HAHAHAHA GENDER HAHAHAHA RACE HAHAHAHA

imitating how girls feel when they put in a tampon, he saw it on tv

Back in the office, Lee’s doing his very best to work work work because that’s what men do, they WORK! but one of his silly-floozy flower/cardigan co-worker ladies has more important things to discuss like Lee’s horribly unstylish handbag/purse situation. She’s so offended by the purse, in fact, that she bought Lee a new one!

Kristin: “The bag is just a reminder that you’re a woman, and you have needs, you can’t neglect yourself.”

After Angel gets hired, Lee and Angel go out for drinks with their man-hungry lady coworkers:

Angel: “So what is Vanessa like as a boss? Is she all about the job, or does she have a husband?”
Kelly: “No, no husband. I think she might be a LESBIAN.”
Angel [to Lee]: “NICE!”

JESUS FUCKING CHRIST AHAHAHAHAHAHA.

is there any alcohol in this

When Lee’s wife keeps calling and he and Angel attempt to dip out and head home:

Kelly: “Hello! Have I gotten drunk and slept with a random guy yet? Nobody is leaving until we dance!”

HAHAHAAH WOMEN ARE SUCH STUPID SLUTS! HAHAHAHAHA!

fyi, lee is standing like that because the ace bandage he used to strap down his penis to stop him from getting boners in the workplace or while looking at his own tits began falling out between his legs

Needless to say, I haven’t been this excited about a show getting bad ratings since before Showtime stopped releasing Real L Word stats to the public!

The Hollywood Reporter has reported that Work It was the lowest performing original network entry between 8 and 10 pm, posting a 2.0 in its key 18-49 demo, which is a 17 percent drop from its lead-in, Tim Allen’s Last Man Standing. The show Work It replaced, Man-Up, had debuted to a 2.4 rating amongst 18-49ers.

However, Futon Critic reports that Work It still pulled in 6.14 million viewers, which unfortunately isn’t too shabby. Last Man Standing earned 7.87 million, and the premiere of Celebrity Wife Swap, which followed Work It, pulled in 6 million viewers. For comparison, The Playboy Club debuted with about 5 million viewers and was cancelled after sinking to 4 million.

oh, gender

What did the critics say?

Angel Cohn from Television Without Pity:

“Work It did manage to put seemingly every single cliché about women and men into the first episode… the women on the show are all catty about handbags, make fun of large women to their faces, only eat salad, are all dumb and only want to talk about their children. The men like to drink in a bar, complain about cuddling and make tasteless jokes about sex.”

Tim Goodman at The Hollywood Reporter:

“When the bile bubbles up contemplating what heinous element of a series to slaughter first, you’ve got a problem. It’s not just that Work It is poorly written, broadly acted and apparently produced without any shame, it’s that any number of people had a chance to say no to the groin-thwack against standards that is this series, but they refused.”

Matt Roush from TV Guide:

“Some like it hot, but more like it funny. By either or any standard, ABC’s atrocious Work It fails miserably. The cornball premise that assumes the sight of men wobbling on high heels and fretting over their panty lines is a scream — it certainly agitates the laugh track — has struck a politically correct nerve with organizations like GLAAD, which feels the show is insulting to transgender people. GLAAD should learn when to pick its battles. Work It is insulting to anyone of any gender with half a brain and a lick of taste. Ignoring it is the best revenge.”

One can only hope that the show will continue to garner absymal ratings and eventually get cancelled, therefore sparing us all the pain of watching the “Work It!” promos during Modern Family.

Ultimately, I found that I was not offended as a woman, as a queer, as a trans ally, or as a person who eventually decided to employ herself because no other human was willing to employ me. I was offended as a WRITER and as  a comedian. I was offended as a person who can hear, breathe and read. Because this shit just fucking sucked, y’all.

Really, the saddest recession-related message this show sends is that all these actors were desperate enough for a paycheck that they agreed to be in this show in the first place.

Care to suffer through it yourself? Here you go!

Riese is the 39-year-old Co-Founder and CEO of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, blogger, fictionist, copywriter, video-maker and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and then headed West. Her work has appeared in nine books including "The Bigger the Better The Tighter The Sweater: 21 Funny Women on Beauty, Body Image & Other Hazards Of Being Female," magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 2857 articles for us.

86 Comments

  1. I don’t remember “Vanessa” being that hot when she was in White Chicks. I wonder how she feels about this being the second production she’s been in with dudes dressed as ladies. I think White Chicks is hilarious for the record. This…not so much.

  2. Thank jeebus this got horrible ratings and reviews. There was a cynical part of me that was quite sure it would become a smash hit like Two and a Half Men. Seriously. That fucking show, I don’t even.

  3. I’m going to watch this so I can experience/pick apart all the bad firsthand, but in the meantime…

    Goddammit this sounds/looks like pure trash. I’m disappointed it pulled higher ratings than Playboy’s debut (at least they were trying for lgbt supportive and strong female characters). I was hoping for some really rock bottom numbers.

  4. I was already mad about the sexist and transphobic references, and when I saw that clip of the whole “I’m Puerto Rican, I’ll be good at selling drugs,” my blood just boiled. I’m not Rican, but as a latina that shit offends me to the core. I hope to see the writers during the zombie apocalypse…

  5. Not only is it all the things you mentioned but I think it’s classist and makes light of the struggle that real unemployed people go through- “haha I’m so poor I have to sell my wife’s earrings” meanwhile living in a huge nice house and going out drinking every night? Please.

    That’s what I got from the 4 minutes I watched. 4 minutes is when the laugh track started to make my ears bleed so I had to turn it off and watch the West Wing reruns instead, to remind me that smart television can be made.

  6. I feel like the only thing that could make this show more terrible would be for the two guys to adopt the little girl robot from “Small Wonder.”

    Or maybe I’m thinking of “more nightmare inducing.”

  7. Has anyone watched one man standing. I watched it one time and it was horrible. It’s on the same lines as this show, macho stereotypes and weak women. I cringed the whole time, ugg, fuck you Tim Allen.

  8. The thing that really worries me about this show (and anything like it [and the rape jokes on two broke girls]), and it being bad, is that it may associate “bad,” in the wrong way. As in, the whole idea of someone being transgender is a “bad,” thing and only applicable in horrible campy situations.

    What I mean is, instead of on AS, a nice queer site, people other places may be saying this is “terrible, not funny, offensive,” because it’s all those things but also contains “men,” “pretending,” to be “women.” Which is “bad,” because people “shouldn’t do that and this doesn’t belong on tv where kids can see it.”

    Did that make sense? Double edged sword? Like it’s bad either way, supporters or non-supporters of all things LGBT. It’s a lot of negativity thrown in the queer direction.

    Perhaps a better summary is that it makes trans folks look bad the same way certain “lesbian,” programs make us look bad because it’s just terrible. Which is obvs riese’s point, I was trying to add to that but I dunno if I succeeded or not. My head hurts.

  9. So like, is this thing so completely meta that none of us get it? I feel like I’m watching a show about people being so deep in the recession that they have to sign on to make the worst TV show in history.

    Because then this would make sense… right? RIGHT!?

    • Honestly, if this show displayed even the slightest self-awareness concerning its blatant sexism, racism, transphobia, (even ageism!) etc. (i.e. a social commentary, satire, etc.) it might actually be slightly compelling and even funny. Unfortunately, its only success is portraying all humans (including men) as stupid and non-normatively emotional in some way (men = insensitive shitheads, women = hysterical). Thaaaaanks, media – the gender binary strikes again.

      P.S. Thank you so much for this article. For real. Since I’ve been home for the holidays, I’ve endured incessant mocking from my brother-in-law every time we watch movies or television – mocking of the “omg-it’s-absurd-and-hilarious-how-hypersensitive-and-overanalytic-you-are-about-sex-gender-and-social-justice-issues-in-the-media” variety.

      God, I feel validated. Whew.

  10. Here’s a relevant link to when family guy had their “trans” episode that was pretty much my exact reaction. It’s sort of what I was trying to say.

    http://www.queerty.com/was-family-guys-trans-episode-horrifically-offensive-20100510/

    From the end of the article by Ryan Tedder:

    “It was a pretty remarkable bashing of trans people — one that went so far I can’t even defend it. I’ve got no problem with TV shows making fun of queers; we’re a funny bunch, and our stereotypes can be hysterical. But Family Guy‘s take was just revolting. This program didn’t use humor to further a worthwhile conversation. Instead, it painted this group of people — our group of people — as monsters. That’s not something to laugh at. That’s something to expunge.”

    I’d say instead of monsters, “clowns,” might be more applicable for “Work it,” also “liars,” (in the non ally minds).

  11. What’s even more terrible about this is it’s not even uncharted territory. I’m not sure how “Bosom Buddies” would be received by the trans community if it came out today. I haven’t watched it in a long time. Society has evolved and the LGBT rights movement is more vocal and visible since the 80s. If you’re going to do something was done two decades ago, it has to reflect two decades of change if it’s to be successful because comparisons are bound to come up.

  12. Unfortunately, I think I see where this Lesbian Boss storyline is going.. she’ll make a move on him, but he’s a guy, so ACTUALLY she must be straight after all. Hilarity ensues, and the heteronormative balance is restored.

    :S

    • Either that, or she’ll be terribly confused by her attraction to him, but it will turn out to be OK, because he is really a guy. (*Whew! What a relief! For a moment, she thought she was gay!)

      And it will have to be the black guy that she’s attracted to, because she is black and they don’t want to squick people out with a biracial relationship. But wait… maybe not, unless he gets a job as *her* boss (or at least, a job that makes him ‘equal’ to her).

  13. We are having what is for all intent and purposes the first group of autumn storms of the season rolling in across the North Sea from the west here in the Netherlands.
    Let’s hope this show sinks quickly enough before it hitches a ride on a depression across the Atlantic and comes crashing on Dutch TV shores…

  14. What I hate most about this show (granted, I haven’t actually watched it, but I trust your recap!) is how badly it portrays both men and women, women especially, using horrible stereotypes. I actually don’t think it seems to be anti-trans, because these are straight cis-men dressing as cis-women and in no way have a trans identity, right? What worries me though is that there are still a LOT of uneducated people who think that being trans means you are a woman who dresses “like a man” or a man who dresses “like a woman.” I worry those people will see this show and think that trans people are really weird or something, when they wouldn’t if they actually knew what being trans means.

  15. I had an entire argument with my mother about this show. She defended it, saying that the queer community was being “too sensitive and had to laugh at themselves” and that intolerant characters can teach the audience that bigotry is wrong through their mistakes (which is true, but it’s not just the characters who are intolerant. IT’S THE ENTIRE F*CKING SHOW. Learning through mistakes only works if the show portrays the intolerance and mistakes as mistakes.)

    Meanwhile, I began contemplating slamming my head into a brick wall.

    • Sure, it is good to laugh about yourself every now and then. But can we at least get some intelligent, funny and non derogatory jokes?

      Going for the lowest common denominator, the cheapest of jokes, makes it just that bit easier for people to laugh at us transfolks and before you know it…

      In case you ever need an argument:
      http://tgunited.org/?p=131
      That and lack of some very basic protection is why transgender people are so vocally against this show.

      And that totally leaves out the other major problem, the continuing inequality between men and women.

  16. I didn’t hate it. Unpopular opinion. My day to day is so stressful that this provided some needed entertainment. If it weren’t that the two main characters were men, it’s actually very similar to Two Broke Girls in terms of quality and type of jokes (which is not very high). It’s slightly better than Two and a Half Men to say the least. I know that most of the jokes can be offensive to women when taken completely seriously.. I am a woman, and I am a feminist, and I was not offended. I don’t get it. I really don’t think it was as offensive as Riese portrayed it to be, and you all just took her word for it without seeing it for yourself and then got all fired up. That’s never good when you want to have a solid argument and know what you are arguing about. Her judgement has not always been objective or spoken for /every/ lgbt member or woman and it never will.

    • Riese has never claimed to speak for every woman or every one who is LGBT.

      But anyway, I watched it and I hated it. I hated it as much as Riese did. So tell me feminist lady, why didn’t you hate it? Please explain why pigeonholeing gender is something a feminist can stand behind and enjoy? Please explain why media that portrays women the way this show does is acceptable?

  17. Out of curiosity, what does AS think of other cross-dressing as women for work movies, like Tootsie and Mrs. Doubtfire? Admitted I watched and enjoyed them, but this was before I was aware of how media can be transphobic and offensive.

  18. “Vanessa: “Impressive. Most of the girls who interview here think that clinical trials are the things Lindsay Lohan keeps having to go to.”

    This is right about where MY eyeballs started screaming. (I’m blind so it took mine a little longer :P )

Contribute to the conversation...

Yay! You've decided to leave a comment. That's fantastic. Please keep in mind that comments are moderated by the guidelines laid out in our comment policy. Let's have a personal and meaningful conversation and thanks for stopping by!