Written by: Phoebe Raven, CC2K Staff Writer
For Valentine’s Day 2012 I got the worst present ever: one of my favorite new comedies was rudely canceled by ABC and replaced with the absolute drivel that is Cougar Town. Not only was this an affront to all forward-thinking women, it was a slap in the face of every progressive man as well, because the show was never even given a proper chance: it was only allowed to air two episodes! Had ABC had some patience, I am sure this groundbreaking comedy would have found its footing.
I am talking, of course, about Work It!
The basic premise is as simple as it is brilliant (most premises are): a car salesman and his mechanic friend have lost their job because of the recession and after a year of unemployment, they are willing to do anything to get a job again. So when the opportunity presents itself to work as a pharmaceutical rep, they jump at it. The only problem is: the company only hires women. So the two friends bravely squeeze themselves into bras, thongs and pantyhose and go out to get a job so they can provide for their families! Who could ask for a better man?
The transformation from man to woman goes a little smoother for Angel Ortiz, who is not only adept at flirting, which helps him with his sales numbers, but also a bit smaller in size than his friend Lee Standish, hence Angel has an easier time to pass as a woman. But Lee soon finds his niche: (s)he realizes that her looks will not get her very far with the doctors (s)he is trying to sell drugs to, so (s)he decides to play the one asset (s)he has, her/his dependability.
This is the point in the story where ABC rudely cut it off, when there was so much potential to be explored.
For example, Angel has a crush on their boss Vanessa, who is rumored to be a lesbian. All kinds of hijinks could have resulted from Lady Angel pursuing Vanessa, who then could have turned out not to be a lesbian at all, cuing Angel to reveal himself as a man so that the two can fall madly in love! Think of all the gender-bending, liberal and forward-thinking points this show could have made with a storyline like that!
Because of its premise, Work It was ideally suited to explore the lines where genders blur and give brand-new insight into the societal roles of men and women. In the brief time it was on the air, the show shone a bright light on the fact that women define each other by the kind of purse they carry (what does that say about women, really!?) and that flirting in order to get ahead or get what you want is alright for women, but not for men (how very unfair! How are men supposed to get ahead then?).
The way Work It also highlighted how very complicated the consequences of such flirting can be for women (men always think they are being serious, those scoundrels!) surely opened some men’s eyes to their misconceptions regarding women and taught them the lesson that not every woman who flirts with them actually wants to go out for dinner with them (or lick dip off their finger!).
Furthermore, the exploration of Lee’s home life with his wife and teenage daughter cleverly depicted how important it is for a husband and father to be able to provide for his family, otherwise they would lose all respect for him. I can only imagine the tear-filled, heartfelt confession Lee makes to his wife down the line about what it really took for him to get a job and how thankful his wife would have been for his courage and commitment and not relying on her job as a nurse to provide for them any longer.
And on the way to said confession, I am sure there would have been plenty of laughs as Lee’s wife slowly grows suspicious as to why all her bras are stretched out and her husband suddenly knows more about waxing than she does.
There really was nothing to complain about in Work It, it was as fine a comedy as there ever will be. It had a progressive social message presented in a non-judgmental, non-stereotypical and prejudice-free manner. It had timely humor at the expense of men and women alike. It featured superb acting by Benjamin Koldyke (surpassing his work on Big Love and How I Met Your Mother) and Amaury Nolasco (previously only known for such lackluster shows as Southland and Prison Break) and the show had a lot of room to grow.
The only explanation I have for Work It’s untimely cancellation is that is was probably too ahead of its time and America just wasn’t ready for its liberating message.
If in twenty years the two aired and four unaired episodes are re-released, I am sure our children will praise the show for its mastery and art. Work It just couldn’t be appreciated in its own time, the sign of any great Work of Art.
Author: Phoebe Raven, CC2K Staff Writer
Born in Germany, lived in the US, now in the UK. Always taking my love for TV and writing with me. Life participator. Blogger. Gaming enthusiast.