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‘Animal Practice’ flops as a predictable sitcom

Contributing Writer

Published: Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Updated: Tuesday, September 11, 2012 02:09

Justin Kirk

PHOTO COURTESY OF Kristin Dos Santos/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

Actor Justin Kirk disappoints in his role as Dr. George Coleman.

Picture a monkey wearing a lab coat. Are you laughing yet? If not, then you probably won’t appreciate NBC’s newest sitcom, Animal Practice, which has been described as “the most hated show on television” after its sneak preview on August 12.

Nothing drives me crazier than the use of run-of-the-mill, overused conventions in new sitcoms, especially when these conventions sometimes flourish (see: Two and a Half Men). NBC has a bad habit of doing this, which has resulted in a slew of canceled shows, like Awake, Are You There, Chelsea? and Best Friends Forever. And now here’s another to fill your Wednesday night.

The show operates on the age-old formula of sitcoms. The premise: the escapades of a misanthropic veterinarian. Naturally, there is an obvious love story, an urban setting and, of course, impossibly quirky supporting characters. These characters don’t actually add anything to the plot and are a last-minute attempt to breathe comedy into the show.

Cue the submissive Asian man with the pencil mustache and lopsided bowtie (MADtv’s Bobby Lee). Also cue the authoritative African-American woman, the fallguy (i.e. The Office’s Toby Flenderson, Parks and Recreation’s Jerry Gergich) and the masculine woman with a criminal record. Throw in a monkey and you’ve got NBC’s Next Canceled Sitcom.

The show centers around Dr. George Coleman (Justin Kirk), the head veterinarian at an elite animal hospital in (where else?) New York City. “My system may not be perfect, but I help a lot of animals and I meet a lot of girls,” Coleman boasts at the beginning of the episode. Coleman is understandably angry when his ex-girlfriend Dorothy Crane (JoAnna Garcia Swisher) shows up, with the news that she inherited, and now runs, the hospital where he works. Crane and Coleman form an incredibly likely duo as they predictably butt heads, finally coming together to save a dog’s life by stealing him from his owner and performing surgery on him. But wait! Is there hope for their relationship, asks ... no one? Only time will tell (read: without a doubt).

Like Scrubs, the humor in Animal Practice is screwball and goofy. Unlike Scrubs, however, much of the humor in Animal Practice is incredibly predictable and often downright corny (i.e. “I’m not going to sit around and watch my grandmother’s legacy get turned into a zoo” as a monkey drives by on a toy ambulance). The show’s quirkiness feels forced and over-the-top, making the cardboard characters fall flat. Even with the suspension of reality necessary for watching any sitcom, the plot is only funny in that it’s laughably stupid, and not in an endearing way.

Kirk, a critically acclaimed, Emmy-nominated stage actor, is completely wasted in this role, surrounded by what I assume are Community rejects. Garcia, on the other hand, fits perfectly on the show, since her amateur acting matches the show’s dim-witted attempts at comedy. Even the resident monkey’s talents are wasted (credits include Night at the Museum, Night at the Museum II and The Hangover Part II). Seriously, the monkey (played by Crystal the Monkey) is the best part of this show.

The only award NBC will win for this one is for being remarkably inappropriate during one of the most widely-watched televised events that the network hosts. Following Gabby Douglas’s gold medal-winning gymnastics performance, NBC aired a commercial for Animal Practice, featuring Crystal the Monkey on Olympic rings. Gabby Douglas, who won two gold medals during the 2012 Olympics, was also the first African-American to win Olympic gold, according to the U.K. Daily Mail.

Twitter exploded with postings accusing the network of racism for airing a monkey doing gymnastics right after Douglas’ performance, where it was announced that she had won All-Around Gymnast. “This spot promoting ‘Animal Practice,’ which has run three times previously, is one in a series with an Olympic theme which have been scheduled for maximum exposure. Certainly no offense was intended,” apologized NBC.

Animal Practice officially premieres on Sept. 26 and will air Wednesdays, at 8 p.m., although in my opinion, excuse the pun, this show will soon be “put to sleep.”

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