The Axe: Work It, 101- “Pilot”; Jan 3, 2012

Yes, hello, it’s been a while! I’m working on getting back on-track here. I apologize for the long absence.

Anyway, I had the idea to add yet another show feature to this blog. This one will be focusing on shows that got cancelled really quickly. Now, frankly, I hate when they cancel shows that have only aired an episode or two. Some shows take a while for people to be convinced to watch them. Of course, it’s a good point that a show that takes half a season to get good isn’t a great show to begin with. But it’s hard to bother trying to get into these shows if they’re just going to cancel them after a week, before anyone’s had a chance to get into the show at all.

That said, there must be SOMETHING wrong with these shows that the network, who has already paid for 13 episodes, decides it’s not worth letting the show continue to air for more than a week or two – and in one notorious case, not letting the show continue to air for the remainder of the timeslot it’s currently in. Yes, a show once got cancelled midway through its first airing. The show went to commercial and did not come back. I’ll see if I can find that, seems like it’d be fun to review.

So anyway, we’re starting off this feature with a show called “Work It.” If you don’t remember this show, well, I don’t blame you. I remember seeing ads for it all the time, and it looked stupid. The premise, as presented by the commercials, was two guys who can’t get a job in their field, so they pretend to be women so they can get a job, since I guess whichever company it is won’t hire men.

It’s not a bad premise for the 1980s (see: Bosom Buddies, Tootsie), but this show came out in 2012. I haven’t seen any part of it before today, but I’m not surprised it got cancelled. I can see how a premise like that can edge towards “offensive, but not in a funny way” really easily, and on top of that, the commercials just didn’t seem that funny. But, well, we’ll see for ourselves, I guess.

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ABC: Already Been Cancelled. That’s a better joke than most of the ones in the show.

So we start off with some guy, just back from an interview. It didn’t go well – the company actually went out of business during the interview. But the guy stole a bunch of sugar packets, salt and pepper packets, those little disposable coffee creamer cups, and ketchup packets from the company. What the heck company was this? We don’t know.

We quickly establish that this guy has been unemployed for a year – he got his last unemployment check today – and that he doesn’t like going to physicals. But his wife – who I think is a nurse, it looks like she’s wearing scrubs – has made him an appointment, and says “As a woman, I’m going to have to ask you to stop comparing prostate exams to that pinball scene in ‘The Accused’.” I don’t know what the heck reference that is. Is that a tv show, or a movie? Pinball scene?? 53 seconds into the show and I’m already lost.

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The couple also has a teenage daughter. Her phone isn’t working. Dad says it’s because he ended her cell service until he can find a job. Being a teenager from 2012, she’s all “What am I supposed to do without my phone????” Dad says they still have a landline she can use. She replies, “Don’t those give you brain cancer?” See, it’s funny, because it’s supposed to be cell phones that give you brain cancer. So funny in fact that I forgot to laugh. Daughter says she’ll just find herself a rich boyfriend, and both mom and dad say they will also resort to that as well. Now THAT’S a premise for a tv show.

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Guy and Friend meet in local Sitcom Food-Serving Location to discuss their unemployment. Some hick guy with a hat comes in and also adds to their discussion, but says the all-time unemployment is the fault of the women of the world – they’re coming in from Mexico, taking jobs from hard-working Americans men. You see what I did there? That was funnier than the joke in the show. And it still wasn’t that funny. Friend – who, incidentally, I think is Hispanic – basically says Hat is crazy.

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We cut immediately to after Guy’s physical – seriously it’s 3 minutes in, what is his name? As he’s putting his coat on, he overhears a conversation between the receptionist and an obnoxious-voiced blonde woman. Receptionist is admiring the bracelet worn by Blondie, who bought it for herself. She says she HAD to buy it, because if she waited for a man to buy it for her, she’d be waiting forever, because none of the men have any money. Haha, unemployment is so funny. Some of those men are probably homeless by now.

We find out that Blondie works in “drugs”, and her workplace is hiring right now. Guy is intrigued by this newly presented situation. Guy speaks up, saying he’s a salesman. Blondie says they’re only looking to hire women, because the doctors (the drug doctors?) aren’t into having sex with men. Guy then finds out that his insurance lapsed last week and he owes $900 for this routine physical.

Guy goes home and initially decides to pawn some of his wife’s jewelry to pay for the physical, because I guess the doctor’s office doesn’t accept credit cards and won’t set up a payment plan. Incidentally, this exact sort of thing is also why so many Americans just don’t go to the doctor even if they really need to – I could go, and then be further in debt, or I could not go, and just hope there’s nothing wrong. I’m going to die eventually either way, right?

But anyway, Guy sees his wife’s dress hanging on the mirror, and…

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Hmm…

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Either of these faces are appropriate reactions to this show in general.

Well, okay then. He answers when the receptionist at the drug company calls for Lee Standish, so I’m going to assume that’s his name. When he stands to go up to the interview, he tells the girl he was sitting next to to wish him luck, and he thanks her for giving him a tampon earlier. This is the first joke that I actually laughed out – it was a quick chuckle, but still. What an absurd and unexpected joke.

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The interviewer introduces herself. Lee awkwardly introducing himself, stands for a couple seconds, and attempts to curtsy in his little pencil skirt. That also got a chuckle out of me. I feel conflicted that so far the only parts of this show I’ve laughed at are the ones where he’s pretending to be a woman.

Also, let me say, this is obviously a man dressed as a woman, but to the interviewer’s credit, she just takes “her” for being a really odd-looking, unattractive woman. So it’s still weird that nobody is suspicious that this may be a biological man in a skirt, but at least the interviewer doesn’t think he’s a totally normal-looking woman.

The interviewer is impressed with Lee’s resume, particularly that “she” was a sales”woman” for Pontiac. She’s impressed that Lee sold Pontiacs at all, but also that “she” was so successful int he male-dominated world of car dealers. Lee gets the job, hooray!

He tells his wife about it, and wants to take her out to celebrate. She’s obviously displeased when he means he wants to go eat at the bar with his friends, Angel and Brian. I assume Angel is the Hispanic guy. And it’s not pronounced like it is in Spanish, it’s pronounced like in English – ain-jel. Anyway, Lee doesn’t understand why she’s so miffed about going out to eat at the bar with his two friends. I understand she maybe doesn’t want to eat with his loser friends, but the guy’s been on unemployment for a year and hasn’t even started working at his job yet, I wouldn’t be expecting to go out somewhere fancy with him unless I was paying.

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Brian – who IS Hat, and therefore Angel IS the Hispanic guy – asks if Lee can get him and Angel some job interviews. Angel sticks up for a reluctant Lee, saying they can’t expect a guy who just got hired to do anything like that for them. Brian, who lives with his ex-wife, much to her new husband’s chagrin, is just like “fine” and gets up from the table.

Now that it’s just Lee and Angel, Angel asks if Lee can maybe work something out for him. Lee doesn’t bring up the point Angel literally just made himself – that he was JUST HIRED, has no sway in the company, and can’t ask them to hire his friends like that – and just says Angel won’t really “fit in” there. Angel’s all, “Oh, I get it. It’s because I’m a mechanic, right? Now I know what you really think of me.” And he gets up and leaves.

I know Angel is desperate for a job, but what’s a mechanic going to do at a drug company? I assume he doesn’t have much of a background in sales.

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So Lee starts “her” first day of work. There’s Blondie, who I think said her name is Kelly; a mean British lady; and an excitable brunette. They all ask about Lee’s family status. They observe he has no wedding ring, but DOES have a tan-line. I don’t know why Lee took off his wedding right for this. Excitable brunette is excited to hear that Lee also has a teenage daughter; she herself has an 8 year old son and is also a single mother, like she assumes Lee is.

Lee’s Wife calls and says she doesn’t like how they left things last night, and that they should talk. Lee’s like “Yeah, I’m about to have lunch with the guys” or something, and Kelly calls him. Wife is all “Who’s that woman?!” Apparently she’s surprised that there’s a woman also working at this company? Is this some sort of crazy alternate universe where typically men ONLY work with other men and women ONLY work with other women? Why is Wife surprised and suspicious to hear a woman’s voice at her husband’s place of work? Also, why is she calling him in the middle of his workday?

The three ladies and Lee sit down to eat lunch, them with dainty lady snacks, and him with a giant sub sandwich.

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Left to right: Kelly, Excitable Brunette, Mean British Lady, Lee

See, it’s funny, because men like to eat big sandwiches. Lee feels self-conscious, and pulls off the piece of lettuce and tosses the sandwich into the trash.

Later, Lee goes out for some tacos, because I assume he was still hungry. He encounters Angel at the taco place. Somehow, Angel doesn’t recognize him until Lee comes out and says it’s him, and that he had to dress up as a woman to get a job.

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Angel asks how he managed it, and we have a montage of Lee trying on his wife’s clothes and struggling with makeup, set to Fergie’s “My Humps”.

It’s still questionable how Lee managed to find any of his wife’s clothes that actually fit him, but we do see at least that not ALL the clothes fit him.

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Does he look a little like Sylvester Stallone to anyone else?

Also

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Lee encourages Angel to try the same thing. But Angel’s unsure – that kind of thing is frowned upon in his culture. Lee rebuts sarcastically that his culture just loves this sort of thing.

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So Angel goes in for his interview, but he is immediately smitten with the Interviewer.

Meanwhile, Excitable Brunette has a gift bag for Lee! It includes their next Book Club book, and a new purse, because I guess Lee’s was ugly.

Angel comes out of the interview, sure that he blew it. Interviewer comes out, and needs to leave for something, but her car won’t start. Luckily, Angel, who’s a car mechanic, is still there!

So Angel gets a job, and Kelly, mean Brit, Excitable Brunette, Lee, and Angel all go out for drinks!

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Lee’s wife – who probably has a name? – keeps calling, since they’re supposed to talk. Lee tries to leave, since “she” has a teenage daughter and all, but the women insist he can’t leave yet. He should’ve just left – what’re they gonna do, pin him down? He has a CHILD. And who’s watching Brunette’s 8 year old, I wonder?

So they go out dancing, and the wrap Lee has on for something starts falling out of his skirt. I can’t tell what that wrap is actually for – if it’s holding down his beer belly, or keeping a smooth line around his junk, or what. But nobody notices, so… oh well.

Wife is waiting angrily for dad to come home. Lee calls daughter’s cell phone, as a surprise – he’s restored service to her phone because has a job! Yay! And then Lee gives Wife the purse Brunette gave him earlier. He apologizes to Wife, saying he realized he’s the only one who’s had a rough time this past year, and he’s sorry for neglecting her. And they’re going out, not to the bar, and not with Brian and Angel, yay!

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During the credits, Lee encourages Angel to go up to some hot chick at the bar. She says she’s been hoping he’d come over, and he says in that case, he’ll just cut right to the chase. He then asks her what she does to get such smooth panty-lines. She says she isn’t wearing underwear. Angel says that doesn’t work for him, and he goes back to his table. Real talk: Gross! I know lady-parts need to breathe and everything, but, no underwear? Under your clothes?? Bluurgh. Especially when people do that when they’re wearing jeans. Ow!

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Okay, anyway, this show. It wasn’t as stupid and offensive as I thought it would be. It certainly wasn’t good, and I only laughed about twice, at weird jokes. The characters aren’t particularly interesting, the acting isn’t great, the premise is still stupid. But just from my own judgment, I feel like this show would’ve done okay airing its 13 episodes on ABC’s Friday night slot. Friday night seems to be when ABC airs their unfunny sitcoms that are successful despite nobody liking them, so I think Work It would’ve fit fine there until it fizzled out and wasn’t renewed.

This show has left me with one burning question, though – can they not sue this company? That is BLATANT discrimination. They don’t hire men because the doctors don’t like having sex with men? This is a pharmaceutical rep company! That’s a straight-up discrimination lawsuit. Granted, Lee has no money to hire a lawyer, but that seems like something he could bring to the attention of the news.

Oh, but, the controversy: Yeah, so. The main premise is that there’s two guys who are dressed as women. They don’t appear to making fun of any group of people at all. I think the argument that “it’s 2012, we should be past thinking men dressed as women is funny” is perhaps a good one, but I think that’s the only argument that applies here.

Not to defend this tripe, but it seemed like maybe the intention of this show was supposed to be that Lee, at least, learns more about women, and especially learns how to better related to his wife, thanks to pretending to be a woman and hanging around other women who think he IS one all day. Again, it’s 2012 (I mean, when the show came out, it was)… I think this would’ve worked out better as the plot to a movie, ultimately. With much better writers, directors, and actors. Perhaps starring Dustin Hoffman

 

Okay, so, my conclusion here is a bit of a mess, let me try to conclude: I don’t think this show is as offensive as people have made it out to be, but it certainly was a poor choice to make this show in 2012. It could’ve worked, maybe, with a different production team. And if the point of the show was ultimately that Lee learns to better understand women after dressing like one, I don’t think that’s TERRIBLE. But ultimately, this show isn’t funny – not because it is or is not offensive, but because the jokes are lame and the acting isn’t great.

But three episodes of this thing apparently aired on ABC, so I intend to review them all unless they make my head explode.

By the way, I’m calling this set of reviews “the axe” because people say the show “got the axe” when it gets cancelled. Not often, but people do say that.

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