Although it seems that NBC may be undergoing a year of serious comedy change-up, I was heartened when they started putting their new pilots online early. Even moreso when I watched Go On (hashtag #goon because someone didn’t think that one through) and realized that it was really, really good. Like, I’m going to add it to my very selective Watch This Live list for the fall, really, really good. And then I found the pilot of Animal Practice on Hulu and decided, “Hey, I thought I would hate Go On and I loved it, so let’s just give this baby a spin.” And within thirty seconds of putting it on, I knew I had been so, so wrong.
The premise is simple enough. Emotionally unavailable world-class veterinarian George
Foreman Coleman has built up an animal hospital until its owner dies and leaves everything to Dorothy Rutledge (yes, really, Dorothy), her inexperienced granddaughter (but she has a lot of heart!), who also happens to be the vet’s ex-girlfriend. They have to figure out a way to work together, and hijinks ensue! Oh, and by the way, it’s set in New York, I guess.
Here’s the thing. I really like both Justin Kirk and Joanna Garcia (Swisher). I really do. I like seeing them get work because I think they’re both great actors. I just think they were both miscast in these roles. Either one of them could be in these roles separately, but together they lack chemistry and it’s too much to think that they were ever in a serious relationship. He’s too sleazy and a jerk for her, and she’s too overly controlling and incompetent for him. You know, I would even totally buy them as formerly good friends or arch-rivals or something, anything but the romantic play.
The supporting cast is great, if a little stereotyped. But hey, two of the four aren’t white people, so that’s an improvement, I guess. Betsy Sodaro, Bobby Lee, Tyler Labine, and Kym Whitley all shine in the moments they have, and I liked the budding bromance between George and Labine’s fellow vet Doug, if it was a little weird. The pugs in the park scene that’s in the trailer is probably the highlight of the pilot, it’s true, so take that how you will.
With jokes that run the gamut from cat suicide to gross stereotypes for everyone to poorly-timed slapstick, the show is one big try-too-hard from start to finish. This is the wanna-be-Sorkin monologue from George at the end of the pilot, which I think pretty much sums up all of my feelings about the show. Spoiler alert: The dog didn’t actually die, in case you’re someone who would be upset at the thought of that (because I would be).
Here’s what: One day your little girl is going to grow up and figure out that her father, who she trusted and loved, killed her dog because she ate a coaster from a strip club, and this is going to fill her with such anger towards you that in ten years you’re going to walk into Dazzles and find that swinging from a pole is none other than your little girl. And you know what name she’s gonna go by? Honey.
I mean, wait, what? First, what an uncomfortable speech to give. Second, those are some pretty ridiculous and implausible accusations to be bandying about. I know eight-year-olds are smart, but, uh, I was a smart cookie and it wasn’t until a few years ago that I figured out my goldfish lived for six years because my parents kept replacing it when it died. All I’m saying is that I really think it’s a big leap to suggest that someone would vindictively become a stripper because her dad accidentally killed her dog with a paper coaster from a strip club. Also, what’s with the terrible attitude about strip clubs, NBC? I would congratulate you on perpetuating one stereotype, but then I’d have to count on fingers and toes all of the stereotypes perpetuated in the 23 minutes of this show, I guess.
Basically, this is one of the most ridiculous shows NBC has put on in several years, and I can’t believe it made it to series. I mean, it’s not Whitney, but it’s definitely no Go On, either. It’s true that NBC has a pretty great track record with wacky workplace sitcoms. I mean, The Office, 30 Rock and Parks & Recreation are all smash cult hits, so it’s no surprise that they would try to add a few more to the lineup. But there’s really nothing like seeing all of the actors’ eyes filled with a mix of career desperation and hatred for the words coming out of their mouths to kill a show, really.
I guess every network has to have a bad show every year. There’s always at least one, isn’t there? I don’t really understand how that’s possible, but okay. And some of my favorite shows had rough starts. It’s true. But at least on those the casting was right and the writing was solid. On Animal Practice, I can’t really see it going anywhere but down. I’m sad, because I like the actors and I don’t want them to lose work, but at the same time, I don’t want this dreck on my screen when we’re losing two of the best shows on television right now at mid-season.
It’s a pilot. I don’t expect perfection. I always expect kind of a loosely-strung-together pile of witty banter and slapstick paired with a couple of heartfelt moments. I mean, sure, Go On gave me unrealistic expectations for NBC’s new lineup this year. Will I watch a few more episodes of Animal Practice to see if it gets better? Sure, why not? But it’s going in the lower end of the stack, with shows I might wait a few weeks and then catch up on all at once, maybe. I’m just not crazy about it.
I’ll say this for Animal Practice. The actors are all competent, if miscast, and the show could have been a runaway hit in the late 90s or early 2000s, paired with a laugh-track and starring a post-Friends David Schwimmer. But, alas, it’s 2012, and somehow sitcom pilots are still getting away with being out of touch and maybe a little offensive and just not quite right. I’m not holding my breath for the Dane Cook one, Next Caller, either–same same but different, I’m going to call it right now.
At least we can always count on Crystal the monkey to be on target every time, you know?
Animal Practice will air on NBC on Wednesdays at 8/7C, starting Sept 26.