ShawConnect TV critic Brent Furdyk samples the upcoming pilots for a first look at the new fall TV season
Starring: Justin Kirk, JoAnna Garcia Swisher, Tyler Labine, Bobby Lee, Betsy Sodaro, Kym Whitley, Crystal the Monkey
The gist: This new comedy from the Russo brothers (Happy Endings, Up All Night, Community) follows the medical misadventures of Dr. George Coleman (Kirk), a misanthropic smart-aleck veterinarian who goes above and beyond for his animal clientele, even if it means rubbing their human owners the wrong way. Coleman is the top dog at a prestigious New York City animal hospital, where he works alongside quirky fellow vets Dr. Yamamoto (former MadTV player Lee) and Dr. Doug Jackson (Reaper’s Labine), Crane Animal Hospital’s outrageously weird animal handler, Angela (Sodaro), and his best friend: a monkey named Dr. Rizzo.
In one of those only-on-television plot twists, the elderly woman who owns the hospital dies and leaves it to her granddaughter, Dorothy Crane (Garcia Swisher of Reba) — who just happens to be George’s ex. He thinks she dumped him, she reminds him that it was only because he didn’t reciprocate when she told him she loved him, and we’re off! With his ex-girlfriend as his new boss and Dr. Rizzo as his simian Mini-Me, George fights with pet-owners while treating a virtual Noah’s ark of critters, including snakes, penguins, tigers and even the occasional dog.
It’s like… House meets Dr. Doolittle
Sample line: “This is an animal hospital, not a Chuck E. Cheese!”
IMHO: For the past few years, NBC has been home to smart, critically acclaimed comedies such as Community, Parks and Recreation and The Office — which hardly anyone watches. In a desperate gambit to raise ratings, the peacock network is doing a complete 180 with this one, a comedy so broad its biggest laughs come from a monkey dressed like a doctor riding atop a tiny ambulance. As you’d expect, the tone of Animal Practice hovers somewhere between wacky and zany; although there are certainly laughs to be had, they’re of the fat-guy-slipping-on-banana-peel variety rather than the oh-isn’t-that-clever kind.
Anyone who’s seen Weeds or Angels in America knows that Kirk is a talented actor, but he’s really not given a whole lot to do here other than toss off smarmy punch-lines while playing second fiddle to a monkey. Not only is Crystal the show’s real star, Dr. Rizzo is also a more interesting character than any of the humans, who are more like one-dimensional punch-line dispensers than actual people.
Fun fact: Before being rechristened Dr. Rizzo, Crystal the Monkey’s character was supposed to be called Dr. Zauis, but producers were unable to get the rights to the name from Fox, the studio that produced the Planet of the Apes flicks.
Verdict: If you’re one of the millions who likes to watch sleeping cats fall off furniture on YouTube, you’ll probably enjoy watching a monkey taking bets on the outcome of a race between hamsters riding on the backs of turtles. I wish I were making that up.
Prediction: You know that old saying about how nobody ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American public? Keep that in mind if this thing somehow becomes a hit.
ANIMAL PRACTICE will air Wednesdays on Global & NBC, but a special sneak preview airs Sunday, August 12