Review of “Work Out”

Jackie and Erika

To its credit, Work Out gives Jackie and Mimi's relationship significant airtime, acknowledging its importance in Jackie's life; it's much more than the stated-but-not-shown relationships we're used to (not) seeing between lesbians on television. Work Out does not shy away from showing Mimi and Jackie in bed, cuddling together at restaurants, and at Jackie's home playing with her dogs. Nor does it paint a perfect picture; their coupling has tension and difficulty along with the playfulness and passion. It's great to see realistic glimpses of what a four-year-old relationship between two women looks like.

The series also addresses Jackie's lesbianism at the gym, as when she's asked by a male client if she gets hit on often. She says yes, but that's she's not available now since she has a girlfriend. “Oh, that's cool,” he says, and then mentions how some women experiment with sexuality. Jackie casually but firmly says that's not the case for her, that she's gay. What a positive statement this makes for Jackie to emphatically and proudly declare her lesbianism in front of clients as well as in her personal life.

Bisexuality and/or bi-curiosity is also alive and well at Sky Sport, where sexual energy flies off the screen often, with lycra-clad bodies in suggestive positions. Rebecca, for instance, is fond of touching the breasts of her female clients and happily declares “I spanked a playmate!” after hitting Playboy cover girl Victoria Fuller's behind.

The trainers also spend one afternoon discussing in which order they'd have sex with each other, and the answers are definitely not straight-laced. Though this docudrama does not have the clearest nor most realistic depictions of bisexuality, it is a good sign that the such energy and dynamics are openly acknowledged.

While Rebecca and Brian enjoy lots of airtime in the first two episodes, the other trainers are interesting, too–and certainly more mature. With an Angelina Jolie-type look, brooding brunette Erika, 27, is the senior trainer and acts as Jackie's eyes and ears on the gym floor. Zen, 34, is a sporty-dyke looking cutie with an infectious grin and a great sense of humor. Ex-military man Andre, 35, comes off fierce, saying he works his clients hard and doesn't take no for an answer. California boy Doug is friendly, 43, gay, and has a (so far off-camera) boyfriend. Newest on the team is Jesse, 25, cute, vivacious, and also gay.

Work Out also explores Jackie's business acumen and management style in addition to her, and the other trainers', thoughts about nutrition, wellness, and fitness. We learn more about all of them when Jackie puts the trainers through their paces at the boot camp-type retreat in the second episode. It's a way for her to demonstrate her “work hard, play hard” philosophy.

It is refreshing to see that one Beverly Hills stereotype, an affinity for body-modifying surgery, is not embraced by Jackie and her staff. Jackie and Erika eagerly work with a client who wants to combat back pain with a workout regimen rather than undergo the breast reduction procedure suggested by her doctor. And in the previews of coming episodes, they work with a woman who is attempting to avoid a gastric bypass. From what I could see in brief glimpses of her, though, this woman didn't seem heavy enough to be a candidate for such a procedure (usually 100 lbs. over the “ideal” weight). Guess it would be too much of a stretch for them to show a supersize woman as a client.

The previews also reveal that Jackie's mom, who lives in Ohio, will visit and apparently has problems with her daughter's lifestyle and the concepts of gay marriage and parenting.

With Sky Sport's status as an elite private gym located in Beverly Hills, it's not surprising that celebrities are among their clients. Singer Jody Watley is a regular client and friend of Doug's, while Young and the Restless star Krisoff St. John works out with Jackie. Others we see in the first two episodes are actor and model Tara Gerard and actor Alex Quinn, son of Anthony.

If seeing a lesbian with a girlfriend and beautiful people doing the work needed to maintain their beautiful bodies isn't unique enough, we also get to hear the rare “f” word. When voicing her disdain of Rebecca's sexed-up “floor etiquette,” Jackie declares “As a strong woman and a feminist, I have a hard time when someone plays the sex card all the time.” I almost fainted from delighted surprise when I heard a lead character from a TV show call herself a feminist. When did that last happen–on Cybill?

Work Out has frenetic pacing, similar to sister Bravo show Blow Out. The blend of fitness and wellness philosophies, business dynamics, banter between the trainers, and Jackie's love life create a personable, amusing, though decidedly elitist show. The exclusive gym setting may be off-putting for some viewers, but Jackie is a complex character who is by turns sophisticated, mature, irreverent, harsh, compassionate, fun, workaholic, loving, and intense. It is interesting to see how she holds herself so well and with such integrity with many different kinds of people. The trainers are an entertaining bunch, too, though Brian's immaturity gets old very quickly.

Bravo, the network previously known for their queerness being laden with testosterone, gets kudos for airing a series with a lesbian lead character, but more importantly, for allowing the lesbian lead character to have a lesbian life in more than name only. Hopefully Work Out will serve as a warm up for their ordering more lesbian-themed programming in the future.

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