Is Cross-Dressing Comedy ‘Work It’ a Drag? You Decide

by | January 3, 2012 at 3:15 PM | TV News

Transgender advocates and gay activists have come out against “Work It,” the cross-dressing comedy that premieres Tuesday night (Jan. 3) at 8:30/7:30c.

But what about those of us who don’t have a dog in the fight for transgender equality, but simply want to know if a new comedy is funny? Here’s what some of the nation’s TV critics had to say in their Tuesday columns about “Work It” (after the clip).

Watch how Ben Koldyke transforms himself into a woman in this clip from “Work It”:

In the Washington Post, critic Hank Stuever put the series in the context of centuries of comedy based on men wearing women’s clothing. He also crafted a new variation on the word “dumb.”

“In trying to make any sense of ABC’s duuuuummmmb new Tuesday night sitcom, ‘Work It’,” Stuever wrote, “it’s quite tempting to rummage through centuries of examples that might help us deconstruct modern civilization’s endless fixation for putting a man in a dress for comic effect. But for the purposes of this particular bit of TV criticism, we needn’t travel any further back than 1980, when Tom Hanks and Peter Scolari played ‘Bosom Buddies.’ In an unseemly display of uncredited closet-raiding, ‘Work It’ is just ‘Bosom Buddies’ with a smokier eye.”

Robert Lloyd of the L.A. Times was dismissive. “The series is just not very good,” he wrote. However, Lloyd gave as good a summation of the show’s premise as we read anywhere on Tuesday. “A comedy of disguise, its estimable forebears are ‘Some Like It Hot’ and ‘Tootsie,’ and if it has any deeper point, it is the old one that masquerading as a woman can make one a better man,” he wrote.

Indeed, “Work It” tells the story of two macho, blue-collar men who are long unemployed and come to the realization that women are faring better in the workplace these days. So they decide to dress flamboyantly as women to interview for sales jobs in the pharmaceutical field. We’ve seen the show, and our own take is that the show is hilarious (so help us, we laughed out loud), but also absurd and implausible. As some critics pointed out, these men dressed in drag are still wholly recognizable as men to anyone with a pair of working eyes, although they manage to “pass” as women on the show, which is ridiculous.

However, it is at such times that we like to point out that “ridiculousness” is often a synonym for comedy or, at the very least, not a reason to avoid a work of comedy because it’s “too ridiculous.” Or, to put it another way, in real life, would anyone seeing them close up have accepted Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon as women in “Some Like It Hot” or Robin Williams in “Mrs. Doubtfire” (well, maybe him)? To us, the sitcom’s perceived duuuuummmmbness is beside the point. It happens to be funny.

“Work It” premieres Tuesday night at 8:30/7:30c on ABC.

Watch a trailer for “Work It” right here:
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