Before Animal Practice aired, it had transformed from a silly show about a monkey veterinarian into something more: a sign of NBC’s transformation. Ever since Friends and Frasier ended in 2004, NBC has been a fount of low-rated but innovative comedy. 30 Rock. Scrubs. My Name is Earl. Parks and Recreation. The Office, which became a minor hit. And Community, the brilliant show NBC sent off to near-certain cancellation without its creator on Fridays. But this season, NBC made an effort to go “broader”, with no less than three sitcom blocks. Animal Practice was emblematic of the change. Where once NBC offered a few million viewers smart pop culture parodies and wit, they were now giving millions more a wacky monkey show and pushing their greatest shows to early graves: 30 Rock is officially in its final season, and neither Parks and Rec nor Community seem likely to last out the year. To add insult to injury, the monkey in Animal Practice is Annie Boob’s from Community. It felt like NBC was poaching from its best show to prop up an inferior newcomer.
So after much backlash, Animal Practice turns out to be a sitcom that’s…alright. Not great, or especially interesting, but a tolerable enough way to spend a half-hour. Animal Practice stars Justin Kirk as a veterinarian who hates people, but likes his animal patients; a Dr. House who treats canis lupus, if you will. He was with Dorothy (Joanna Garcia-Swisher), who as with all TV exes re-enters his life dramatically. She owns the hospital now and reorganizes it to be, well, more like a hospital. It won’t be a TV romance to challenge Sam and Diane, but isn’t the most annoying one either. Rounding out the cast are Bobby Lee and Tyler Labine as the requisite wacky dweebs. Betsy Sodaro’s Angela is there to say weird things and push George and Dorothy to get together, which is theoretically funny. And of course there’s Crystal the Monkey as Dr. Rizzo, the monkey veterinarian responsible for most of the pilot’s laughs.
The leads work and the pilot is effective in setting up Animal Practice as a likable enough world. Veep’s Matt Walsh guest stars as a man who balks at the cost of his daughter’s dog’s surgery and wants it put down. Dorothy kidnaps the dog to keep it from being killed, and they do eventually perform surgery on it and essentially blackmail him into paying for it by revealing a strip club coaster was found inside the dog. Yes, it’s broad. But is being broad necessarily bad? There’s worse ways to go broad than Animal Practice’s method of easy emotional beats, simple characters and cartoonish comedy. A lot worse; just look at any ad for Guys With Kids. Animal Practice isn’t a show I’ll seek out, but it’ll probably be an enjoyable enough time waster when I do catch it.
- Animal Practice has one of the least memorable title sequences in recent memory. Network title sequences have been cut severely (or even removed entirely), but Community, Parks and Rec and The Office all managed to make something memorable in a short time. Animal Practice? Not so much.