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the hate recap

The Hate Recap: On the First Episode of Work It

WORK IT - In the premiere episode, "Pilot," the almost-broke and unemployed Lee finds out that Coreco Pharmaceuticals is looking to hire sales reps -- female sales reps. He takes a chance and goes into the interview dressed in heels, a skirt and makeup. The transformed Lee gets hired -- as a woman. Lee wants to stay true to his agreement with Angel that, if one of them is working, then the other will be too, so he tells Angel what he has to do if he wants a job at Coreco. Angel, who is miserable working at a fast-food dump, is desperate to make a change; he decides to swallow his pride and go for it. Unfortunately he tanks his interview, but when he fixes the boss's car, he too is hired - also as a woman. "Work It" premieres TUESDAY, JANUARY 3, 2012 (8:30-9:00 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network. (ABC/ERIC MCCANDLESS)
AMAURY NOLASCO, BEN KOLDYKE

At some point last year, Work It creators and co-executive producers Andrew Reich and Ted Cohen walked into a room at ABC and gave the following pitch to executives: “Two unemployed guys dress up like women to get jobs.” Instead of the ABC executives saying, “Get the fuck out of my office you numbskulls, you just pitched me Bosom Buddies,” the executives said, “Oh, you guys worked on Friends, right? We’ll have legal send over the paperwork.” Work It is a REAL television show. It’s a real show and it’s on ABC. The American Broadcasting Company — the same network that gave us Taxi, The Wonder Years, and Twin Peaks. This is not a “Funny or Die” sketch about a bad sitcom. This is a real TV show that many people spent millions of dollars to make. Work It is something that ACTUALLY happened on the planet Earth, January 3, 2012. Because such mind-bending crassness does not occur every day, we feel duty bound to acknowledge it, savor it, and, of course, mock it. Forthwith, please enjoy this very special recap, a Hate Recap, of the absurdity known as Work It.

Work It is a tightly written pilot. ABC, don’t you dare use that as a pull quote — please understand that "tightly written" does not mean well written. But it follows all the sitcom rules and within the first minute of the show, we know everything we need to as fast as you can say, “Show, don’t tell.” (They tell.)

Lee used to be a salesman for Pontiac. He’s desperately looking for a job and the search is NOT going well. (As the show's tagline says: “Looking for a job in today’s economy can be a real DRAG.” Get it?) Lee can’t even afford to pay his daughter’s cell phone bill. And then a mere 55 seconds into the first episode, we get to our first network-friendly rape joke, from Lee's long-suffering wife: “As a woman, I’m gonna have to ask you to stop comparing prostate exams to the pinball scene in The Accused.” Seconded! I’m sure the discussion about that line in the writers’ room went something like this: “Yes! That’s exactly the kind of line we need at the top of the show to establish edge! Who cares if it’s a 10,000 year-old reference? That just means the studio audience will get it! Who wants Baja Fresh for lunch?”

There’s been a lot of anger directed at the multi-camera sitcom recently, some of which has been incredibly unfair. Just because Whitney had those psychotic “Half of All Marriages End in Sweatpants” posters, does not mean that a good show can’t exist in front of a live studio audience. It’s not the genre that sucks. It’s what people do with it. What the people at Work It do with it is to have one of Lee's friends, the slobby, allegedly truth-telling one, proclaim boldly and Zeitgeistily at the neighborhood bar, “This isn’t a recession, it’s man-cession!” (In the original version of the pilot, this same slobby man went on to exclaim that women were turning all men into fruit-touching monkeys, by daring to ask them to go grocery shopping. So just know he's the toned-down version of horrible now.) The term "man-cession" is just about the only thing keeping Work It from being identical to a sitcom that could have been created and executed 30 years ago: having been deployed, the show gets back to being a total throwback.

When Lee goes to visit the proctologist (HA!), he overhears a conversation about a pharmaceutical sales rep job that he’d be perfect for. One catch: doctors are only interested in buying life-saving medications from SEXXXXXY LADDDDDIESSSSS!!!! And it’s at that moment that Lee’s insurance is denied and he’s stuck with a $900 bill.

As Lee holds a pair of his wife’s earrings that he’s just about to sell, he actually says, out loud: “How am I gonna come up with $900?” Suddenly, a bolt of inspiration hits him and we’re treated to a montage of Lee getting into ladies' clothes set to the ... BLACK-EYED PEAS!!!!! At this moment, I am now, again, trying to wrap my head around what’s going on here. I think I’m pretty safe in assuming that both of Work It's creators, Andrew Reich and Ted Cohen, have enough money. They worked at Friends like, FOREVER. I’m even willing to bet that the two are actually funny guys. So what the hell was so bad at home that they needed to get out of the house and create a montage to “My Humps"? Do they know how dangerous "My Humps" montages are? Are they taking the money from Work It to fund some kind of passion project? A documentary on the economic crisis they hope to take to Sundance? I demand answers!

Anyway, Lee shows up for a job interview and miraculously no one says to him, “Hey, gigantic dude, you need to adjust your wig a bit! And then get the fuck out of here, we’re trying to run a business!” Instead, the women who work at the pharmaceutical sales company hire him. They have nooooooooooo idea that she is actually a he!

In fact, Lee makes such a convincing woman he even fools his best friend Angel, who used to be head mechanic at Pontiac, but who is now working at a fast-food taco restaurant because that’s an easy setup for toilet jokes. Because Angel can't see through Lee's inexcusably bad drag, Lee has to point out to Angel that it is actually he, Lee, in all this inexcusably bad drag, and if Angel wants in on this lamebrain scheme he is going to have to dig up some inexcusably bad drag of his own. Angel is in!

One job interview and a montage to “Bootylicious” later, and Lee and Angel are pharmaceutical sales reps surrounded by the other girls at the office. They include: the bitchy one, the crazy one, and the best friend one. Oh, and there’s the sexy lady boss who really stretches out Angel's ace bandage!  It’s progressive for prime time because they’re both actors of color.

Angel and Lee go out to celebrate their new jobs with a “girls' night out” (this of course involves large, cartoonish martini glasses) and then Lee returns home to his wife. By the way, she has NO idea what her husband has been up to. That would kill so many great “almost getting caught dressed like a woman” jokes in future episodes … of which there will be four (fingers crossed, anyway). Having been lectured earlier in the episode by one of his co-workers on feeling unappreciated by her ex-husband, Lee goes home and gives his wife a new handbag because he has a newfound perspective on how hard it is for women today — they don't really eat, they have to discuss their feelings, other women are mean to them, and men don't really appreciate them — having sort of dressed as one for a few hours. Fade to black. Holy shit, I just watched Work It.

Photo: Eric McCandless/ABC