Now a man wearing a dress is just a regressive bit of vaudeville that can, from a certain view, seem as outdated as blackface.
“Work It” attempts — badly — to translate a subset of America’s present unemployment woes, particularly as those statistics apply to jobless men. Amid a so-called “mancession,” the numbers could suggest a gender imbalance that favors women.
Ben Koldyke plays Lee Standish, a husband and father in St. Louis who was once a top salesman at a Pontiac dealership, until Pontiac went kaput during the GM bailout. With no luck on the job search, he hears that a pharmaceutical giant is hiring sales reps. However: “We’re only looking for girls,” another sales rep tells Lee.
“Why?” he asks.
“Well, we’ve had some guys [as salesmen],” she says, “but the doctors seem to want to nail them less.”
Rather than file an EEOC complaint (or point out that not all doctors are men), Lee’s natural response is to raid his wife’s closet and visit his local MAC counter. Voila — awkward transformation. With “her” impeccable sales résumé, Lady Lee gets the pharmaceutical sales job.
The laughs could not be thinner. The show’s comedy is predicated on the fact that none of Lee’s female co-workers seem able to discern the obvious (she’s a man, baby), probably because they are too busy living down to every lame stereotype associated with office women, up to and including the itty-bitty salads they nibble at lunch. As an actor, Koldyke is terrible at being a woman, but he’s also not very entertaining as a man. He’s a drawing of a man wearing women’s clothing.
Fortunately — which also means unfortunately — there’s Angel Ortiz (played by Amaury Nolasco), Lee’s bosom bud, who used to work as a mechanic in the Pontiac service department. Lee tells Angel his new secret and, soon enough, Angel puts on a skirt and gets a sales-rep job, too — and his drag is somehow just a little bit better than Lee’s, and an immeasurable fraction more funny, but that still doesn’t do much to give the show spark.
Certainly we could all find something better to watch, but that’s also what I thought about Tim Allen’s creaky “Last Man Standing,” which is also airing on ABC Tuesday nights. It, too, is bloated with outdated sitcom humor about the sexes, and it turned out to be a relative ratings smash.