By Brianne Johnson, Daily Arts Writer
Published January 8, 2012
If men are from Mars and women are from Venus, why can’t Lee Standish find a job on his own planet? The star of ABC’s new sitcom “Work It,” Ben Koldyke (“Stuck on You”) plays the befuddled family man forced to resort to unorthodox methods (ahem, cross-dressing) in an apparently female-dominated workforce. Presenting yet another program encircling the tragic dwindling of masculine power (hello, “Last Man Standing”), ABC redeems itself through a sympathetic cast, but fails to deliver the ferocity implied by its title.
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Salesman Lee Standish has a heart of gold, and a 14-karat gold heart bauble embodied in the polished hoops of his feminine alias. Escaping the seemingly imminent fate of Astro Taco servitude, Standish readily braves a nine-to-five life of lipstick for a position with Coreco Pharmaceuticals. As an employee of a company for which a uterus is worth more than a degree, Standish and best friend Angel Ortiz (Amaury Nolasco, “Prison Break”) pose as conspicuously broad-shouldered women in order to regain the dignity stripped by a failing economy. The two modern bosom buddies wiggle their way back to earning a paycheck, but not without learning a thing or two about the labors of women.
Replacing the failed sitcom “Man Up,” “Work It” is ABC’s third attempt at reining in a male audience, touting subtle sexist remarks and cries for the salvation of manhood in the face of recession — or, as bar-hopping friend Brian (comedian John Caparulo) calls it, a “MAN-cession.” This regurgitated idea of female superiority as less acceptable than its male parallel does ABC no favors in appealing to either sex. The men are pitifully desperate in their job hunt, blaming the female demographic for their failures with claims like, “When the women take over, they’ll make pride illegal … that and eating on the toilet.” But ABC must have some innovative twist up its sleeve to balance out such a pathetically old-school attitude, right? Right?
Wrong. Unless a pair of men sporting a pair of boobs is new (it isn’t), “Work It” offers little more than the formulaic family sitcom. Misunderstood teenage daughter? Check. Neglected housewife? Check. A horny heckler, bubbling blonde and bitchy co-worker? No doubt. Complete with a musical montage of wardrobe malfunctions and makeup mishaps, “Work It,” unfortunately, knows how to work a good stereotype, if nothing else.
Yet the show, in its predictability, sets such low expectations comedically that its few “laugh out loud” moments are a welcome surprise. A notable example is Angel’s sex drive, which gives “Work It” a refined, albeit soft, adult sense of humor that’s just subtle enough to sail over kids’ heads, yet elicits its fair share of double-takes from older viewers.
The most obvious — but welcome — shift from the ABC line of testosterone-driven television is protagonist Lee Standish. A sympathetic victim of the economy and pantyhose, Standish displays an endearing conscience and respectable knowledge of the industry. Unlike Tim Allen’s character in “Last Man Standing,” Standish is not a stubborn, rambling bonehead. Koldyke portrays the character with an honesty and innocence that is impossible to dislike. Not once does Standish lapse into the role of patronizing, resentful husband. Rather, he escapes the obnoxious fall into blind, “macho” pride and presents a rather forgivable cluelessness.
If there has to be one “last man standing” among ABC’s repetitive slew of man-powered disappointments, please let it be Lee Standish. Any man willing to brave stilettos for his family is worth a second chance.