How bad is ABC’s new comedy “Work It” (7:30 p.m.)? Let’s just say I can probably wrap up my end-of-the-year “Worst New Show of 2012” column right now.
‘‘Work It” continues a weird trend for ABC, a variation explored on the dreadful “Last Man Standing” and the quickly canceled “Man Up!” — a theme of male insecurity.
‘‘Work It” stars Ben Koldyke as Lee, a brash car salesman who, like his friend, Angel (Amaury Nolasco), has been out of work for a year, since Pontiac shut down. At least they say they’re down on their luck. You’d never know it from the spanking-new kitchen Lee shares with his wife, or the ham-fisted, hardy-har-har punch lines he tosses around like anvils.
Desperate for a job and faced with mounting medical bills, Lee does something audacious and dresses as a woman to land a sales job. Yes, we’ve crossed over into cross-dressing comedy, a long and proud tradition that includes “Some Like It Hot” and “Tootsie,” considered by many to be two of the best big-screen comedies of all time. It’s also the premise for “Bosom Buddies,” hardly a distinguished television comedy, but one that launched the career of Tom Hanks, no slouch in the acting department.
As Hanks, Dustin Hoffman, Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis demonstrated, the job of a man passing as a woman and doing it convincingly enough to make us laugh is very difficult. To quote the Wicked Witch of the West, “These things must be done delicately.” If not performed with finesse, drag can be obvious, stupid and crude, as it is here.
There isn’t a moment of subtlety on “Work It.” Lee and (eventually) Angel pass themselves off as women by putting on big ugly dresses and wigs. To make matters worse, the other female characters seem to fall for their act. After chatting with one deluded fellow job seeker, Lee purrs, “Thanks for the tampon.” Yes, folks, we’re talking real wit here.
• “The Biggest Loser” (7 p.m., NBC) enters its 13th season. I’m reminded of the line in “Blade Runner” from Rutger Hauer’s replicant: “Time to die.”
Tonight’s other highlights
• Sue’s scandal sheet on “Glee” (7 p.m., Fox).
• Angelo intrudes on “Switched at Birth” (7 p.m., ABC Family).
• “America’s Election HQ” (7 p.m., Fox News) sifts the tea leaves from the Iowa caucuses.
• Mixed signals from Nick on “New Girl” (8 p.m., Fox).
• Freak-casting alert: Gary Busey and Ted Haggard (and the women who love them) appear on “Celebrity Wife Swap” (8 p.m., ABC).
• “Jane by Design” (8 p.m., ABC Family) sets yet another melodrama in the world of high-powered fashion design.
• Secret beliefs revealed on “Taboo” (8 p.m., National Geographic).
• A test of wills on “Raising Hope” (8:30 p.m., Fox).
• Murder at a construction site on “Unforgettable” (9 p.m., CBS).
• On the road on “Parenthood” (9 p.m., NBC).
• A bride does not survive to say “I do” on “Body of Proof” (9 p.m., ABC).
• “Frontline” (9 p.m., PBS, check local listings) looks at women forced into marriage by Afghan drug lords.