You may have heard that "Work It" (Tues., 8:30 p.m. EST on ABC) is one of the worst sitcoms of all time. You heard correctly. In fact, if the Metacritic rating for this new show isn't the lowest score ever for a television comedy, I confess, I'll be a little disappointed in my fellow TV scribes.
Given that I agree with every negative assessment of "Work It" will see this week, you may be asking yourself how I could rustle up reasons to be glad of the show's existence. That's because seeing the bright side of this debacle is the only way to get through it. Cynicism is the normal response to something as hacky and ill-conceived as "Work It," but if I go that way, my few remaining shreds of optimism might simply disintegrate. And that's no way to start an otherwise untarnished, shiny new year.
So we should rejoice (OK, very temporarily tolerate) the existence of "Work It" because ...
1. It allows critics to break out the old thesaurus and start tossing around deliciously vicious adjectives. Here are just a few of the five-dollar words I'm tempted to use to describe this half-hour endurance test about two men who dress as women in order to get decent jobs: Abhorrent. Vile. Noxious. Execrable. Repugnant. Let's face it, it's fun to deploy a few of the words we memorized so long ago for the SATs. But how can one little sitcom warrant so much fancy derision? That brings us to the next reason to rejoice.
2. It synthesizes so many wretched ideas so badly that, with any luck, no one will go near those concepts for another millennium or so. "Monty Python," Dame Edna and "Bosom Buddies" are just a few of the cultural touchstones that prove that men dressing as women can be very amusing -- done right, of course. Not only do the men of "Work It" look nothing like women when they're in drag, the show manages to derive nothing fresh or funny from its central premise, and that's kind of mind-blowing (not to mention a gratuitous insult to Tom Hanks' legacy). Of course, maybe you'll find it funny that the show implies that having to act like a woman is a humiliation. Heh heh, femininity, what a horrifying concept! But seriously, let's hope "Work It" makes gender-switcheroo sitcoms off-limits until someone has a really, really good idea for how to execute one.
3. ABC might finally give up on the idea of "Mancession" comedies, given how badly received most of them have been been. Remember how funny the men-trying-to-figure-out-their-identities comedy "Man Up!" was? No, you don't, because it's already been canceled, nor was it funny while it lasted. As for Tim Allen's "Last Man Standing," it's done fine in the ratings, but that's probably because people like to watch Allen doing his usual schtick and because the show has moved away from the he-man chest-thumping that made watching its pilot a chore.
4. The badness of this show has united us -- critics and fans of quality television -- and isn't unity a beautiful thing? These are fractious, difficult times in America, but look at how one collection of stale, tired, derivative jokes and poorly executed gender-based comedy has brought us together! Even if you've only seen the promos and ads for "Work It," you've probably thought, "I need to go find a community of people who despise this show as much as I do." Presto! Here, we can discuss our dislike of not just this comedy, but the gross condescension ABC demonstrated in polluting our airwaves with it. Feel free to sound off in the comment area if you've watched (or tried to watch) "Work It," because post-debacle venting to like-minded non-fans can be as restorative as it is enjoyable. It may just be the fuel that makes the Internet go, in fact.
5. It's only the first week of January, and we already can stop looking for the worst comedy of the year. Whew, that's a relief! I suppose 2012 might actually bring us a comedy that is more cynical, less funny and full of even more questionable gender assumptions, but I have to believe that isn't true. If something worse does come along in 2012, maybe that will be the horrific disaster that some prognosticators have predicted for the coming year? In any event, let's hope ABC goes back to brewing up fun comedies like "Happy Endings" and frothy, addictive soaps like "Revenge." (Best case scenario: The "Work It" guys become guests on "Revenge" and Victoria Grayson kills them with the hate lasers that shoot out from her eyes). Speaking of other ABC shows, the No. 1 reason to cheer on "Work It" (or rather, its swift demise) is because...
6. The swift failure of "Work It" could bring "Cougar Town" back sooner. Maybe. Come on, America! Don't let me down! Let's take "Work It" to the ratings woodshed and hope that ABC, which has not yet scheduled a return date for the delightful "Cougar Town," sees the error of its ways and brings back the Cul De Sac crew as a peace offering.
Who knows if that's really ABC's back-up plan for if -- I mean, when -- "Work It" fails. But let's use our powers for good and try to make that happen. Hope you didn't tune in Tuesday night!