ABC Midseason Fail: ‘Work It’ an Idler

Cross-dressing comedy fizzles in Tuesday premiere

ABC’s critically savaged cross-dressing comedy Work It got off to an uninspired start Tuesday night, notching a 2.0 in the 18-49 demo—down a few ticks from the premiere of the previous inhabitant of its time slot.

Bowing in the 8:30 p.m. slot after Tim Allen’s Last Man Standing, Work It squandered 17 percent of its lead-in. The first new episode of LMS since Dec. 13 averaged a 2.4 in the demo, per Nielsen overnights. 

Work It was slotted as a midseason placeholder after the comedy Man Up! failed to connect with viewers. Man Up! debuted on Oct. 18 to an inauspicious 7.78 million viewers and a 2.4 rating; after reaching a series low 1.6 in the demo on Dec. 7, ABC relegated the final five episodes to the Web.

All told, Man Up! averaged a 1.9 in the demo—a hair under Work It’s debut number. Fans of ABC’s Cougar Town may be in luck. Should the network pull the plug on Work It, the ensemble comedy could slide into the post-LMS slot earlier than planned. (ABC had been eyeing a late February return for Cougar Town.)

Reviews for Work It have been uniformly negative, and given the cross-dressing context, critics have marveled at the similarities between it and the 1980-82 Tom Hanks goof Bosom Buddies.

A characteristic review of Work It was published by The Onion, which pronounced the pilot “fascinatingly awful, in that way where you wonder how the hell something like this got on TV in the year 2012.”

The Onion went on to declare Work It the “early front-runner for the worst show of 2012,” a dire prediction indeed given the quality of the four comedies that have been canceled thus far (Man Up!, Free Agents, Allen Gregory and How to Be a Gentleman).

The Twitterverse was even more dismissive. Jeffrey Sconce, an associate professor of screen cultures at Northwestern University's School of Communications, deployed this rhetorical put-down: “Honestly, ABC, was this [show] the product of sexual barter or cocaine fatigue?”

Also bowing last night was Celebrity Wife Swap, a new spin on the unscripted series that debuted on ABC back in 2004. After a “sneak preview” episode aired Monday night at 10 p.m.—the opener drew 6.27 million viewers and a 2.4 in the demo—CWS stepped into its regular Tuesday 9 p.m. time period.

Featured swappers Gary Busey and Ted Haggard drew 6 million viewers and a 2.2 rating, per preliminary Nielsen data.