“Work It” is a new “high-concept” situation comedy from ABC. High concept means the opposite of what it sounds like. It's not an idea that is complex or high-brow. Rather, it describes a concept that can be easily and appealingly communicated in a few words or one sentence. The high concept for “Work It” would be something like: “Two unemployed men dress as women to find jobs.” It's a potentially funny premise that was successful (in a slightly different version) for Tom Hanks and Peter Scolari on “Bosom Buddies” from 1980-82. Three decades later men dressing as women is still high concept, but “Work It” is not making it work.

“Work It” is a new “high-concept” situation comedy from ABC. High concept means the opposite of what it sounds like. It's not an idea that is complex or high-brow. Rather, it describes a concept that can be easily and appealingly communicated in a few words or one sentence. The high concept for “Work It” would be something like: “Two unemployed men dress as women to find jobs.” It's a potentially funny premise that was successful (in a slightly different version) for Tom Hanks and Peter Scolari on “Bosom Buddies” from 1980-82. Three decades later men dressing as women is still high concept, but “Work It” is not making it work.


Lee Standish (Ben Koldyke), a former top salesman has been unemployed for a year. After he overhears that a pharmaceutical company is hiring female sales staff, he impersonates a woman and is hired when he shows impressive knowledge of the company's products. His best friend Angel Ortiz (Amaury Nolasco) also gets a job at the company. But Lee is a guy's guy, which means that he and his friends make lame jokes about women and the chore of having to have sex that involves “cuddling” and “listening.” When he wants to celebrate his new job, he offers to take his wife to the local bar to have a beer with his friends. She says no and he announces that he'll wake her for sex when he gets home. So Lee is insensitive and clueless. This set-up is deliberate because Lee and Angel, now forced to live their work lives as women, will learn things to help them be better men.


I might be able to get through the silly weekly gender lesson if “Work It” moved past predictable jokes and seen-it-all-before characterizations of women. Then again, probably not, because “Work It” is not fun or funny. In the pilot, Lee has lunch with his female colleagues and whips out a giant sandwich. Seeing his co-workers’ horrified expressions, he throws the sandwich away, but not before removing once lettuce leaf and happily devouring it. Get it? Women don't eat! The characterizations of Lee's colleagues are equally unoriginal. They include a blonde, flighty woman who (surprise!) likes to party, a socially awkward woman who is needy and insecure and an icy, ambitious “mean girl.” There's also a montage of Lee trying on his wife's clothes, makeup and shoes and figuring out what to do with his man parts. A visit to a makeup counter and an ace bandage solve his problems.


“Work It” undoubtedly sees itself as a timely and humorous commentary on the current economic climate. Times are tough. Jobs are scarce. What if you had to dress as the opposite sex to find a job? This is Lee and Angel's dilemma, and it's not an uninteresting question, but if the show wants viewers to care about and laugh at the answer it needs to give it without recycling sexist comedy.


Melissa Crawley credits her love of all things small screen to her parents, who never used the line, "Or no TV!" as a punishment. Her book, “Mr. Sorkin Goes to Washington: Shaping the President on Television's 'The West Wing,’” was published in 2006. She has a PhD in media studies and is a member of the Television Critics Association. To comment on Stay Tuned, email her at staytuned2011@hotmail.com or follow her on Twitter at @MelissaCrawley.