By Rich Heldenfels, Akron Beacon Journal –
Drag comedy has a long American tradition, some of it inspired by other countries: “Some Like It Hot.” Abbott and Costello’s “Here Come the Co-Eds.” “The Birdcage.” “Victor/ Victoria.” “Just One of the Guys.” “Juwanna Man.” “The Ugliest Girl in Town.” “Bosom Buddies.”
But the latest attempt at a prime-time show about men dressing as women has become quite controversial. Organizations including GLAAD see nothing amusing in this topic in ABC’s “Work It.”
Not that there’s anything funny in “Work It” to begin with. But we’ll get to that.
The series, which premieres at 8:30 p.m. EST Tuesday on ABC, stars Ben Koldyke as Lee Standish, a car salesman who has been out of work for a year; his unemployment benefits are running out, but there are no jobs to be found. Then he learns that a pharmaceutical company is hiring salespeople — but only women.
Cut to Lee in a dress, wig, makeup and heels.
There ensue lame jokes about things such as Lee’s having forgotten to take his football playing off his resume, his lack of fashion sense, and his attempts to fool his co-workers and keep his wife and daughter unaware of how he finally gained employment. Adding to the supposed merriment is Lee’s promise to his friend Angel Ortiz (Amaury Nolasco), who is also unemployed, that if Lee got work, he would get Angel a job at the same place. When Lee finally explains his situation, Angel also gets a wardrobe makeover.
GLAAD has seen the show as mocking transgender people by making light of “the characters’ attempts at womanhood.” And, while neither Lee nor Angel is transgender, “many home viewers unfamiliar with the realities of being transgender will still make the connection,” a GLAAD statement says, adding that transgender people already face discrimination in the workplace and can be fired in 34 states “simply for being who they are.”
While I often agree with GLAAD’s positions, this one seems to overreach and to give “Work It” undeserved extra publicity. That’s not to say the show is inoffensive; one especially bad line by Angel is, “I’m Puerto Rican. I would be great at selling drugs.” But, whether one accepts GLAAD’s premise, the show is not worth your time. The characters are cardboard; the jokes, dreadful. The good people in the cast (Rebecca Mader of “Lost,” for one) are wasted in this shabby effort.
8:30 p.m. EST Tuesday