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TV Weekend: Animal Practice

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Neil Jacobs/NBC

When NBC announced its new sitcom Animal Practice—a.k.a. That One Show With the Monkey In It—plenty of critics, myself included, leapt into the trees to fling, um, stuff at it: so this is what it’s finally come to! In truth, there’s no reason a TV show co-starring a monkey can’t be great. I still have abiding fond memories of Lancelot Link: Secret Chimp.* In fact, there’s a storied tradition of multiprimate shows, not just on TV in general but on NBC in particular. The Today show had J. Fred Muggs. Friends had Marcel. Community has Annie’s Boobs (played by Crystal, who now costars in Animal Practice). BJ and the Bear? Hell, yeah that was NBC! If anything, you could argue that NBC has betrayed its traditions by not having enough series with monkeys in them.

* (I know, I know: Not technically a monkey. Bring on the primate pedantry!)

So whatever problems Animal Practice (previewing after the Olympics Aug. 12) has, don’t blame the monkey. Crystal, who plays Dr. Rizzo, the mascot/assistant in a veterinary hospital run by dedicated but irascible Dr. George Coleman (Justin Kirk), is a delight whenever she—it’s a she—waddles or drives a tiny ambulance through a scene. And despite what the series promotions might suggest, the pilot doesn’t overuse her. A little monkey goes a long way.

It’s the humans, and the situations they’re set up in, that I already feel we’ve seen too much of. There’s not a dynamic on the show that doesn’t feel transplanted from another donor sitcom. We have the cynical, skirt-chasing protagonist who just can’t play by the rules (he loves animals, it’s their owners he has a problem with, &c.). There’s the uptight hospital owner (JoAnna Garcia Swisher), the uptight ex-girlfriend who rides herd on him and shakes her head at his monkeyshines. There are the eccentric supporting characters, all of whom feel like various outtakes from Scrubs.

NBC has thrown plenty of talent at the screen here, and I don’t just mean Crystal. I too am conditioned to expect a good time at the site of Tyler Labine, here playing a Tyler Labine sidekick role. Swisher is a better choice in a role that was recast from an early pilot, but there’s nothing interesting in her wet-blanket role so far. And Kirk is a dryly funny actor, but the first episode gives him little to latch on to when it tries to layer deeper characterization on top of his wisecracks and verbal sparring.

On the bright side, there are some funny set pieces in the pilot, and enough fruitful interactions with the patients and their troublesome owners that I could see this show developing into a kind of Scrubs with rabies shots, if the characters can develop beyond the familiar menagerie we start out with. For now, the diagnosis I’d give Animal Practice is much like the way Dr. Coleman sees his patients. The animals are fine—it’s the humans who can use fixing.

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AdamWill
AdamWill

I'm a vet, so I want to be excited about this show, but it just makes me irritated. It makes me think of Scrubs, and how over the top that show could be, and yet how true it still was to the bigger truths about medicine.

A show can go over the top with some things if they get the true feel and bigger things right.  And I know it may be too soon to tell - maybe even with all my complaints, the larger truths will come through... but based on the slipshod attitude displayed in the preview, I don't have much hope. 

The show bothers me because it's lazy and stupid, not because it does wacky things. To wit - I don't care at all that it has a monkey, even though that's absurd - it would be a disease control nightmare, dangerous to clients and animals, and probably illegal. But it's over the top and silly, and fine. On the other hand, having all young male vets and no females? That doesn't really represent the profession as it stands. Having a non-vet as the owner/boss? That can't happen and so sets up false conflict. Having the vet perform surgery without wearing a mask to cover his face, OR oxygen/gas provided to the patient? Lazy and annoying. And finally, recommending a woman get her cat laid because it's in heat instead of spayed? Makes light of one of the biggest issues in animal welfare today(over population - never forget Bob Barker!)  by having a vet say something no vet would say, all for a cheap and unfunny sex joke.

And this is just from the preview. I don't mind a silly vet show. I mind a cheap, lazy vet show that gives people the wrong idea of my profession and what we do.

anon76returns
anon76returns

If your review is accurate, then NBC might need some re-tooling in its promo department.  The incessant AP promos during the olympics have pretty much had the effect of making me never want to watch the show.  The same could be said about "Go On", though I persevered in watching it anyway.  Verdict: it was better than the promos (not the same as saying it was good, but it definitely exceeded expectations).  In any case this doesn't seem to be a new problem- I recall the promos for Community having a similar effect on me lo these four years ago.

The Hoobie
The Hoobie

For some reason, I've been finding the Revolution promos during the Olympics just hilarious. In the "hilariously awful" sense. Slo-mo! Generic-looking middle-aged white guy! More slo-mo! Generic-looking middle-aged white guy swordfighting! (You know, as you do in the postapocalypse.) Wary-looking bearded dude, looking wary in slo-mo! And where's Giancarlo Esposito?! You'd think they'd want to highlight one of their coolest assets....

anon76returns
anon76returns

I do like the thought that, in lieu of making either (non electrical) machines to make life better, or a least bullets if you're set on pummeling your enemies, the inhabitants of Revolution have decided to spend their limited blacksmith resources on (very professional-looking) swords.  I'm sure it made complete logical sense in the writer's room.

The Hoobie
The Hoobie

Maybe they just were all Franklin Mint members, before the apocalypse?