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Welcome once again to our annual "first look" at the broadcast networks' offerings for the 2011-2012 season, now in its sixth year! Each day we'll walk you through one of the new series set to premiere next season (or one that didn't make the cut) and go over our initial impressions after viewing the pilot. Keep in mind that a lot can change from what's being screened right now - recasting, reshooting, etc. - but we still want to give you a heads up on what you should (and shouldn't) keep on your radar in the coming months. So enough of our rambling, on with the show!
[IMPORTANT NOTE: The following is based on the original sales presentation which was screened to us privately or supplied by a third party NOT an informational, not-for-review screener provided by the network in question.]
WORK IT (ABC)
(written by Andrew Reich & Ted Cohen; directed by Beth McCathy-Miller; TRT: 22:13)
The network's description: "This high-concept comedy centers on two unrepentant guy's guys who, unable to find work, dress as women to get jobs as pharmaceutical reps. Not only do they pull it off, but they might just learn to be better men in the process. With unemployment an ongoing issue and women now outnumbering men in the workforce, the new comedy series "Work It" follows two alpha males who realize the only way to beat the current "mancession" and land a job in pharmaceutical sales is to pass themselves off as women. Combining all the best elements of the workplace comedy, the buddy comedy and the family comedy, "Work It" centers on Lee Standish (Ben Koldyke) -- a quick-witted and likable family man who used to be a top car salesman until he got laid off -- and Angel Ortiz (Amaury Nolasco) -- a single, hot-headed ladies' man with no filter -- who quickly learn there are fundamental differences in the worlds of men and women that go beyond teetering in high heels and tightening up with Spanx.
Lee and Angel are determined to keep their ruse going for as long as they can -- and keep their newly found jobs - in this smart, funny and relevant look at male and female relationships at work, at home and socially. Being a better man sometimes means having to be a better woman. The show stars Ben Koldyke ("How I Met Your Mother") as Lee, Amaury Nolasco ("Prison Break") as Angel, Beth Lacke ("Happy Hour") as Connie, John Caparulo ("Chelsea Lately") as Brian, Rebecca Mader ("Lost") as Grace, Rochelle Aytes ("Detroit 1-8-7") as Vanessa, Kate Reinders ("Sherrie") as Kelly, Kirstin Eggers ("Aussie and Ted's Great Adventure") as Kristin and Kacie Lynch ("Barney and Friends") as Kat. "Work It" was written by Andrew Reich & Ted Cohen ("Friends," "Rules of Engagement"). Reich and Cohen are the executive producers. Beth McCarthy Miller ("Saturday Night Live," "30 Rock") is the director. "Work It" is produced by Bonanza Productions, Inc. in association with Summer School Productions and Warner Bros. Television."
What did they leave out? Just power through this one.
The plot in a nutshell: It's been a rough year for Lee (Ben Koldyke) and Connie (Beth Lacke) and their daughter Kat (Kacie Lynch). Since losing his job at the car dealership they've been scraping by on Connie's nurse salary while Lee looks for work. Even worse, his insurance coverage is about to lapse, sending them into further dire straits. Thankfully while getting one last physical, he overhears pharmaceutical rep Kelly (Kate Reinders) mention her company is on a hiring binge. Unfortunately, they only hire women ("Well we've had some guys but the doctors seem to want to nail them less," she quips) and it turns out his insurance ran out last week, meaning he's $900 in the hole for said doctor's visit. And so, horrified by the prospect of having to sell Connie's diamond earrings to cover the debt, he does the only thing a desperate man would do: try and get that pharmaceutical rep job... as a woman.
Sure enough, his interview with Vanessa (Rochelle Aytes) goes well (Vanessa: "Most of the girls who interview here think clinical trials are the things Lindsay Lohan keeps having to go to." Lee: "I'm not your ordinary girl.") and Lee at long last finds a job. Connie's not the only one thrilled by the news as Lee's best friends Angel (Amaury Nolasco) and Brian (John Carapulo), likewise out of work, beg him to hook them up. "I'm not sure you'd be up for everything this job requires," Lee explains to Angel. "I'm Puerto Rican, I'd be great at selling drugs," he fires back. Ultimately, Angel manages to wear him down and Lee spills the beans on his secret leading Angel, rather than slave away at a taco joint for minimum wage, to follow in his high-heeled footsteps. There they learn the ropes from their new co-workers - alpha dog Grace (Rebecca Mader, "Divorced? Did he leave you for someone smaller?"), the welcoming Kristin and the resident weirdo Kelly (Kate Reinders) - when it comes not only to being pharmaceutical reps but being women.
What works: Holy insert-your-favorite-explicative-here...
What doesn't: ...this got made! And is going to series! Shameless hyperbole aside, it's every bit the lowest common denominator show you'd expect from the prerequisite first time cross-dressing montage set to "My Humps" to the prerequisite dancing with the girls montage in which Lee's tucking comes undone set to "Low." My absolute favorite moment though comes when Lee, hungry from lunch after throwing out his giant sub (because, you know, girls only eat salad), stops by a taco joint and finds Angel working there - only Angel doesn't recognize him in drag. There's always a fair amount of suspension of disbelief in TV shows - that there's vampires out there, aliens among us, that former Seattle Seahawks star Brian Bosworth once headlined a drama series on FOX, you name it - but that's about as big as you can get. Even better: he has to tell Angel it's him before he realizes what's going on.
Equally as stunning is how endlessly convoluted the premise is. So said company is only hiring girls because doctors want to sleep with them. Lee dresses up as a woman but only gets the job because he's actually well-versed in the company's products and is a good salesman, not because he's dressed as a woman - one who, sorry for stating the obvious here, looks like a man with a wig on. So the point of dressing up as a woman is...? And if misconstruing the transitive property wasn't enough, the show tries to graft on a trite "lesson" about how by being a woman it teaches Lee how to be a better husband. Because like all men on TV sitcoms, his idea of a night on the town is dinner at a bar alongside his two buddies.
I wish I could say this is just me being a monocle-wearing, hoity-toity critic who hates anything that's watched by more than 10 people, but between its limp attempts at misogyny ("This isn't just a recession we're in," Brian proclaims. "It's a man-cession! Women are taking over the workforce! Soon they'll just start getting rid of all the men. They'll just keep a few of us around as sex slaves."), its groan-worthy madcappery ("I should take this, it's my w... waxer!" Lee squeaks when his wife call) and its "Mrs. Doubtfire" hijinks ("Why didn't you tell me she was so hot!" Angel says about Vanessa. "My Ace bandage was holding on for dear life!")...
The bottom line: ...holy insert-your-favorite-explicative-here indeed.