Rob Schneider is lucky because he has a sitcom coming next week, called Rob (originally called ¡Rob!), which stands a very good chance of being the worst sitcom of a season that has not lacked for bad sitcoms. Under normal circumstances, a washed-up star of terrible movies crawling back to TV with a terrible sitcom would make him the butt of many jokes – maybe even a few jokes that didn’t quote that South Park episode. But his sitcom is coming in almost under the radar because it premieres the week after Work It, whose badness has been so long anticipated that it’s sucking up all the scorn, leaving almost nothing for the other bad sitcoms. Even Jon Stewart managed to work a “Work It is awful” joke into last night’s show. Work It will be lucky to last 13 episodes, but it has already united the world in hatred. That’s the joy of having a bad sitcom based on an obviously stupid premise: everyone can find something to make fun of in it, like Small Wonder.
The problem, as many people have pointed out, doesn’t have much to do with the basic premise of guys in drag, though. Oh, it’s unsustainable, as Bosom Buddies already proved, and works better in a stand-alone story where the masquerade must be kept up for two hours, not 13 episodes. (Many shows have done episodes where male characters pose as women; few have done it week by week.) But it’s not offensive or comedically unacceptable. The thing that makes Work It the easiest target of the year is the reason for the disguise: men have to pretend to be women because women are getting all the good jobs. Others have gone into the problematic and just-plain-wrong aspect of this premise, a misinterpretation of Hanna Rosin’s popular (in Hollywood anyway) article “The End of Men.”
But if most bad shows have a basic design flaw that means they can never really be good, then this is Work It‘s design flaw. Popular disguised-in-drag comedies usually come up with some kind of compelling reason why a) the protagonist must dress in drag and b) the job he gets could only be held by a woman. In Some Like It Hot, it’s an all-girl band, which was a real type of act; in Tootsie, he can’t get any work as an actor – not because he’s a man, but because he has a bad reputation – and knows that there is a part open for a woman on a soap opera. There’s no sense that the rules of the world as we know it have been overturned; the only thing we have to accept is that nobody recognizes this famous man in what is obviously a disguise. Now, maybe Work It‘s creators did all kinds of research and found that its “man-cession” premise is totally plausible; it doesn’t seem plausible, though, so we have to accept two things that seem implausible, one of which (women have an easier time getting hired these days) seems like a denial of what’s actually going on in the world. And that’s why ¡Rob!, which may turn out to be just as offensive if anyone watches it, will not get the same amount of entertainingly negative attention. It’s that basic hook, that bizarre view of the world. that caught everyone’s eye.