TV First Impression: “Animal Practice”
When the POPDOSE’ers were splitting up the fall TV schedule to review, I jumped on Animal Practice with hopes of having easy fodder to maliciously savage. I became extra agitated when I tuned in last night only to discover NBC was premiering in the time slot with Episode #3 (I’m sure the other two aired around Midnight during the Olympics). Needless to say, I was shocked to discover I was engaged, laughing and utterly charmed by what I saw.
First let’s clear the Achilles Heel of the series. A monkey dressed as a person. The TV staple from the 50’s through BJ & The Bear is back. Oh look at the costumes! Ain’t he adorable? He does things people do — only cuter. I can only hope the writers tire of the novelty before the audience does and this monkey is sent packing the the same place Marcel went on Friends.
Thankfully, Animal Practice has much more going for it. The writing is crisp. The show is well cast. It has a heart.
That said, it’s essentially the same show as NBC’s Community and Go On — handsome man lands in a pool of misfits and winds up needing them as much as they need him. Much of this has to do with the executive producing duo of Joe and Anthony Russo who also EP Community. In this case, the premise is much less dire than the other shows which are about a bunch of people suffering tragedy (Go On) and failure (Community). In this case, it is an Animal Hospital which makes the show feel like Scrubs without the hyperreality and flashbacks. One can even guess it was shot in the same abandoned North Hollywood hospital that served as the Scrubs set.
Our cast is a bunch of strays: Justin Kirk (Weeds, Jack & Jill), Tyler Labine (Reaper), JoAnna Garcia Swisher (Better With You, Welcome to the Captain) and Bobby Lee (MadTV). Since NBC bogarted the pilot, I have no idea about the set-up, but it was easy to dive in. Garcia, one of the most beautiful women on TV, is a pure delight as the eager-to-please manager or owner. Labine and Kirk step into the Turk and JD roles from Scrubs. Lee leads a band of misfits that also includes newcomer Betsy Sodaro who plays a potentially scene-stealing character with masterful restraint and humanity instead of taking her into one-note Urkel territory.
I look forward to seeing where this goes. And come on NBC, if you want this show to find an audience – re-run those damn first two episodes!