ABC rolls out the crazy (‘Celebrity Wife Swap’), the lousy (‘Work It’)

Don’t walk, don’t run — book a flight.

When ABC announced that they would be devoting their first two hours of Tuesday nights to Tim Allen, a show about cross-dressers, and Z-listers swapping wives, we couldn’t quite figure out whether we were intrigued or just downright horrified. Not one idea on the show was exactly fresh, and they had each been done before in better forms.

Then, we sat down to actually watch the first two hours (we’re sparing “Body of Proof,” since it hasn’t done anything wrong) — and we somehow managed to be more shocked than we ever realized we would be. Why? Only one show actually met our expectation — though that expected was that the show was going to be terrible.

The worst offender – “Work It”

The moment we heard that men dressing up as women was largely the premise behind the show, we wondered if ABC forgot “Bosom Buddies” had already aired on TV. After we actually saw the show itself, we’re now wondering why the network ever ordered the show to begin with.

“Work It” may be the worst comedy to hit TV since “Caveman” (based on a car insurance commercial), and it may be gone from the air in an even shorter amount of time. Even without getting tot he actual content here, the very premise (guys disguising themselves as woman after thinking they here is discrimination against men in the workplace) sets feminism back to the days of Susan B. Anthony. The jokes were nonexistent, the script was stale, and we ultimately feel so bad for everyone involved that we refuse to say any of their names. If we are to believe in second chances, it’s really better this way so some of these people could get hired again. It’s also bizarre that every female on the show seems clueless as to what’s going on when it is beyond painfully obvious.

It’s really mystifying to think that ABC chose to not only order this show, but then place it on a schedule over “Cougar Town” — a show that is not only smart, but has a devoted (if only moderately-sized) fan base. “Work It” is an embarrassment, so much so that we are embarrassed to actually have sat through thirty minutes when we could have turned it over to “The Biggest Loser” … or an “NCIS” repeat … or even “The Newlywed Game” on GSN.

The letdown – “Celebrity Wife Swap”

On paper, the idea of forcing anyone to live with Gary Busey seemed hysterical and downright insane — then, things got even more interesting when scandal-ridden pastor Ted Haggard join the fold. While we were hoping that Busey was going to switch wives instead with Flava Flav (who is on next week), we had high hopes going in here that this wold be trainwreck TV at its finest. Since we haven’t seen Busey on reality TV since “The Celebrity Apprentice,” the media really just hasn’t been the same.

Unfortunately, this “celebrity” edition of the show really felt too much like an ordinary version of the show — there was no excess drama, the Haggards played this too much like a political endorsement ad, and the craziest thing Gary did was proclaim that he was at one point a witch who lived during the hey day of Salem, Massachusetts.

The biggest problem with “Wife Swap” was that Busey and his fiancee actually wanting to prove they were functioning human beings — and while that’s nice to them, it’s not so much fun to people who had labeled ABC’s pre-“Body of Proof” lineup “Train wreck Tuesday” as we did.

“Last Man Standing” – The surprise?

Maybe it’s the power of retrospect after sitting through “Work It” — or maybe it’s just that repeats of “Home Improvement” are still lodged somewhere in the back of the nostalgia cortext of the brain — but “Last Man Standing” was the bright spot in ABC’s lineup this week. Tim Allen’s Mark was slightly more interesting (and slightly less of a Tim Taylor / Archie Bunker hybrid), and some of the other characters (take his wife and co-workers) actually had something resembling a personality.

The children still need some major work on this show about a girls’ world if it is truly going to stand out — or at least be something more than a sitcom that viewers in the heartland love but critics on the east and west coast ignore. While “Last Man” has not become a certifiable hit, it has held its own in a time slot that is often occupied by both “Glee” and “NCIS” — and that has to be commended since ABC tends to swap in shows here every year to no success.

If you want solid escapist TV, there are worse ways to spend your night. (For example, you could have kept on watching after the show and saw a man pretend to be a woman — and somehow, watch people fall for it despite how obvious it was that he was still a man.)

In review, we’ve probably all come to the same conclusion here — even though “Glee” is in repeats and “Dancing with the Stars” won’t be back until March, there are still better ways to spend your Tuesday nights than over on ABC — with the exception of “Last Man Standing” if you’re a Tim Allen fan.. If you must, just DVR some programming from Monday (a fairly solid night all around) and carry it over if you’re not an “NCIS” fan — at least that way it feels like a pretty solid night.

Photo: ABC

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