ABC Chief Paul Lee Says He “Doesn’t Get” LGBT Complaints About “Work It”

Jan 10, 2012
4:02 PM

Before the Puerto Rican community started reacting to ABC and the critically-panned 'Work It" sitcom (somewhere the Original "Bosom Buddies" Tom Hanks and Peter Scolari are shaking their heads about how the new show is basically a much less witty show that TV's original cross-dressing comedy), the LGBT community was already issuing statements about how "Work It" is an affront to gender roles in modern society.


So, in today's Reuters online, ABC head Paul Lee commented about the reaction. Lee spoke to reporters at the Television Critics Association winter press tour and said that despite the LGBT's calls to just get rid of the show (which is very likely anyway, due to poor ratings, and we are pretty sure those numbers will go down), Lee compared "Work It" to the the 1982 Dustin Hoffman movie "Tootsie."

Lee was quoted in Reuters:

"In terms of the lesbian and gay community, we're incredibly proud of the work that ABC does," he told TheWrap. "That's not just 'Modern Family,' it's 'Grey's Anatomy,' it's 'Private Practice,' it's 'Dancing With the Stars.' But in that particular case… I didn't really get it. I love 'Tootsie.' … I still love 'Tootsie.' I don't find it to be offensive. So in that particular case I didn't get it."

Reuters continues:


He also defended the show's inclusion in ABC's slate, saying it was one "very, very, very, very silly show" among many more ambitious ones. Yes, he said "very" four times.

"Certainly I wanted to bring some new types of shows," he said. "We certainly thought there was room… for some ambitious shows, for some really sexy, sticky shows, like 'Revenge' and 'Scandal,' and for some really sophisticated, smart shows like 'Suburgatory.' I thought there was room personally for a very, very, very, very silly show."

He also said the show "wasn't our priority" when ABC picked up pilots for this season but "became a cause for discussion."

Before the show aired, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation and the Human Rights Campaign took out an ad in Variety saying "Work It" would harm transgender people.

"By encouraging the audience to laugh at the characters' attempts at womanhood, the show gives license to similar treatment of transgender women," the ad read.

Lee was noncommittal on whether the show will remain on ABC's schedule given its soft debut ratings, and said he would wait and see how the show performs.

So, as with anything, Lee spun it beautifully in a classic public relations tactic. Observe:

  • Compare a lame show that will get canceled with a comedy starring an Academy Award winner from 30 years ago, when this country was basically marginalizing the LGBT even more that it does today
  • Plug all your other shows as quickly as you can so the press can capture them and you get free publicity."
  • Suggest already that 'Work It" is getting canceled and that this very, very, very, very silly protest will just go away.
  • And oh yeah, don't even talk about Puerto Ricans.

It does appear that Lee will probably commenting soon once again, but you never know. Well played, Mr. Lee. Although it is a safe bet that the LGBT community will be responding and you still have those pesky Puerto Ricans to address.