ABC's Work It: The last gasp of network TV's troubling take on emasculated men
Even though women emerged as breakthrough performers in this year's crop of new network TV shows, a tiny bulge of six new programs headed in the other direction, focused on men struggling to define their masculinity in an age where women have never had more access to money, power and visibility.
The worst of those shows, ABC's Work It, debuts tonight.
Bad enough that the concept is basically a bad, Great Recession-era revamp of the TV classic Bosom Buddies -- two laid off guy pals dress like women to get jobs in a down economy. The show is also a quivering expression of the angst certain TV producers must be feeling now that the scales are starting to balance a little -- at least in front of the camera.
This is an odd series to debut on TV, especially given a recent study showing that the last TV season saw women writers drop to their lowest level in years, just 15 percent of the total. There may have been a man-cession in the general economy a few years ago, but in the TV industry, it's women who are on the negative end of the hiring trends.
If there's any explanation for how a series awful as Work It landed on ABC's schedule, it's probably that statistic.
The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation has also criticized the show, taking out an advertisement in the trade magazine Variety protesting that the show unfairly encourages the audience to ridicule transgender people.
For me, Work It is part of an odd trend which also includes Tim Allen's Last Man Standing, ABC's recently axed Man Up! and CBS' mercifully retired How to Be a Gentleman.
Buried in the background of most of these shows: The idea that real men have become an endangered species in modern life – made so mostly by their open emotions, good grooming, distaste for physical labor and overbearing wives/girlfriends.
Despite the fact that more women watch TV than men, networks such as ABC, which offer heavily female-skewing signature shows such as the departing Desperate Housewives, Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice and Dancing with the Stars, need some men to shake up their audience. Hence, shows about guys dealing with female connected subjects or women characters.
If it works, male viewers identify with the guys and the women are drawn to the females.
If not, like with Work it, then everybody hates the show.
Check the trailer below: