Episode 1: Pilot
The Series Premiere
By: Carlos Uribe
Animal Practice is a show about a veterinarian who is good with his patients but not their owners. Also: this is the show with the monkey. I will be covering this show weekly.
If you pay attention to the media and hype, to the commercials, and to the posters then you would be forgiven to think that this is a show about the monkey. The critics seem to think that Crystal the monkey either steals the show or is a sign that this show simply isn't any good. If anything, it seems like this show isn't know for it's human leads but because it's now the only current primetime comedy with a monkey in it's cast. Going in with this expectation, then you might find yourself to be pleasently surprised. The monkey does appear in the episode and it's jokes are largely built around visual gags. It has no plot dedicated to it and there are scenes where the monkey is present, but remains in the background for that scene. This isn't a show about the monkey. If you've been turned off because of Crystal's presence, then maybe this will get you to check this comedy out: at this moment it is completely about the humans. This might change as the series goes along, especially with the attention that Crystal has gotten, but for not it appears to be a workplace comedy that just happens to have a monkey in it. Considering that the workplace is an animal hospital, it's not like the monkey is out of place.
The question becomes not whether the monkey will turn you off or not, but whether the comedy will make you laugh. The pilot isn't very funny. It's too busy setting up the show and the characters that it never really concentrates on making the audience to laugh. It has some gags and weak jokes but it's not very funny at the moment. This pilot might not be funny, but I'm not sure if this is going to be any indication of future episodes. These episodes won't have to set up the premise and they'll be working to develop the characters rather than setting them up. They'll also have an actual writing team. A good writing team can take the pieces of this pilot and potentially this could be a show that is actually very funny. This prediction isn't necessarily guaranteed. There's a lot of things that could go wrong with Animal Practice. It could decide that people don't want to see Tyler Labine and Justin Kirk, but Cystal the Monkey. It could decide that the easy jokes would attract a bigger audience. It simply depends on how much ambition and quality that future episodes will have. This show has promise and I'm hoping it'll be able to achieve it.
This pilot might have been busy setting up the characters but none of the human leads left much of an impression. Justin Kirk plays Dr. George Coleman. I like Justin Kirk from his work on Weeds and is one of the two reasons I decided to review this show weekly. Dr. George is presented as the best veterinarian in the world but who has poor people skills. He's kind of the House of the vet world. He wasn't particularly funny in the pilot but Dr. Coleman could potentially turn out to be a great character. It simply needs to establish him beyond just what the plot requires. We get that he cares about medicine, but doesn't that explain just about every doctor on television? There needs to be more to Dr. Coleman. Adding a character who has sexual tension with him doesn't count. That's right: this show has the obligatory love interest. This time it's an ex-girlfriend who decides to run the animal hospital. Played by Joanna Garcia-Swisher (who would have been a third reason for me to review this show weekly if she had been casted when I was picking shows), this is a character who isn't developed beyond just “love interest”. Joanna makes the character work well for this episode but she's going to need better writing to have a real character.
The other reason I chose to review this show weekly is Tyler Labine. I've seen him on Reaper, the dreadful Mad Love, the underrated Sons of Tucson, and even Invasion. You could say I'm kind of a fan. He portrays Dr. Doug Jackson, a good vet but without any woman skills. In other words, a generic character. Bobby Lee plays Dr. Yamamoto, whose only characteristic trait seems to be that he has no spine. Kym Whitley portrays Juanita, the nurse who....is a nurse and not much else. Betsy Sodaro is Angela, a vet who is quirky and a bit annoying. There's also Crystal the Monkey, who plays Dr. Rizzo. The fact that all of these side characters, except for the monkey, are so undeveloped isn't a good sign but this can be rectified in future episodes. This episode might have set them up, but it was too busy with the premise to properly introduce them. It would have been nice if the pilot had been more busy with the characters than the plot but it does at least leave future episodes some freedom on how to mold them.
Animal Practice is a show that could go in a lot of directions. A lot of critics seem to be hoping for “Scrubs in a veterinarian office” but I'm not going to say that. I don't think that this show should be pressured into being a different show. This show has no fantasy sequences, no narration, and it appears to have a larger concentration on it's patients. Animal Practice should feel free to create it's own identity-I can only hope that's going to be a good one. Lucky for it I'll be sticking with it no matter what-Tyler Labine, Joanna Garcia, and Justin Kirk all but demand of it. Even if it means having to stand that “scene-stealing” monkey.