Given the throwback appeal of the Tim Allen vehicle “Last Man Standing,” ABC has found the logical sitcom-adjacent home for “Work It,” a return to the men-in-drag days of “Bosom Buddies” with the thinnest of recessionary twists. The broad (sorry) tone of the comedy hinges almost entirely on one’s tolerance for straight men being ogled and chafing (literally!) over women’s fashions. Although it’s hard to see this “high concept,” as ABC describes it, wearing particularly well, in a year where mediocre sitcoms are posting acceptable numbers, stranger things have happened.
The premise hinges in part on reverse sexism — namely, an assumption that the recession is really a “man-cession.” Guys, for example, are handicapped when it comes to serving as pharmaceutical sales reps, as one of the gals explains, because “the doctors seem to want to nail them less.”
Alas, that’s easily the premiere’s best line, and the show’s politics — sexual and otherwise — are merely an excuse to get stars Ben Koldyke and Amaury Nolasco into dresses and heels, unleashing the hoped-for hilarity that ensues.
Koldyke’s Lee is a downsized car salesman, while Angel (Nolasco) was head mechanic at the plant where they worked. Desperate after a year of unemployment, Lee learns Coreco Pharmaceuticals is hiring, dons the wig and nylons to ace the interview, then brings the skirt-chasing Angel along for the ride. Of course, it doesn’t help in maintaining the ruse that Angel has the hots for their boss, Vanessa (Rochelle Aytes).
Lee must balance misleading not just his co-workers but his wife (Beth Lacke) about his job and the lengths to which he’s gone to land one. This raises the prospect of near misses and quick changes. Hey, it worked for “Tootsie.”
In theory, there’s nothing wrong with trying to find the laughs in hard times, especially when the show is essentially a live-action cartoon. Perhaps that’s why advance criticism from gay-rights groups seems misplaced, if only because “Work It” hardly seems worth the effort.
Indeed, this series aims so low, to paraphrase another artifact from the “Bosom Buddies” era, it could practically play handball against the curb. (If the series lasts long enough, by the way, I’ll be stunned if Peter Scolari doesn’t show up at some point.)
Credit Koldyke and Nolasco — who may look less like women than any reluctant drag-sters since Jack Lemmon in “Some Like It Hot” — for attacking the material with utter abandon, and the show is helpfully free of pretensions to being anything more than it is, despite the inherent notion that walking a mile in women’s shoes, as it were, will make the boys more sensitive.
That’s hardly cause to recommend the series (created by “Friends” alums Andrew Reich and Ted Cohen), but then again, ABC proved smart comedy works with “Modern Family,” so perhaps there’s room for a few really dumb ones.
Thus, we get “Last Man Standing” leading into “Last Men Standing — in Heels.” When it comes to bouncing back from the comedy recession, networks aren’t above swallowing their pride.