ABC president Paul Lee said Tuesday that he didn't understand complaints from lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender activists about ABC's new cross-dresssing comedy "Work It."
Speaking to reporters at the Television Critics Association winter press tour, Lee said he was proud of ABC's portrayal of gay and lesbian characters and compared the sitcom, which debuted to middling ratings, to the 1982 comedy "Tootsie."
Also read: 'Work It' Ripped by LGBT Groups
"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. But that's probably me."
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 sophisticatred, 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 transfender 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 noncommital 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.