Deep within the core of NBC’s latest comedy failure Animal Practice, is a solid comedy premise that could become quite a quirky little cult comedy – something the network’s explicitly stated they’re trying to move away from. That philosophy ends up burying what promise there is to the show under a blanket of horribly mundane and mindless jokes, a terribly constructed and defined romantic core, and a poor secondary cast of characters.
Now, I didn’t come into this show expecting the next big thing in comedy; but I do think there is a place (one that’s rapidly shrinking, looking at the industry’s recent trends) for oddball comedies that aren’t really emotionally satisfying, but still amusing to watch and worth tuning into for a half hour of escapism on whatever night of the week it might be. But Practice‘s cardboard characters rob the show’s setting of any personality, making it less of a workplace comedy with an ensemble, and more like a half hour of Justin Kirk walking around and seeing weirdos be weird in the background, their absurdities bouncing around whatever righteous path George Coleman is on this week.
The pilot’s entire plot revolves around two notes: Coleman’s ex-girlfriend returns after a two-year absence to take over the hospital, and Coleman performs an illegal – but morally righteous – surgery on a dog. George Coleman – an easily definable Jeff Winger clone – doesn’t like humans, but man, does he care about animals, and nobody is going to get in the way of that. And why doesn’t he care about people? Well, because his heart was broken inexplicably by the same girl who is NOW HIS BOSS.
Hilarity ensues…. or at least, that’s what NBC would like us to think. But the eternally unfunny Bobby Lee continues to make a career out of trying too hard – here a mumbling, submissive Asian doctor whose has two defining traits: his wife dominates him, and he’ll do anything for a friend. There’s also the ugly chick who is weird and says funny things, and a sassy black nurse to keep everyone in line. Saying there was thought put into character construction would be a bit of an over statement: every character on the show is easily recognizable not because they feel familiar and real, but because they’re carbon copies of hundreds of main characters on television comedies, most of them better than Animal Practice.
It’s too bad, because I wanted to like the show for its odd, almost surrealist setting… but at the end of the episode, that was the only thing left appealing about the show. The romantic parts were such a dud (how many times in the script did it say “exchange meaningful looks” in scenes with George and Dorothy?) and the animal bits felt like a show reaching for its jokes in the first twenty minutes of the episode. The Russo brothers certainly tried to jazz it up with ER-like walk and talks and lots of active shots and familiar background music (has to be by the same composers as Community, right?), but it all feels like a very poorly developed vehicle to stuff guest celebrities and random animal acts into one show… something I don’t think anyone is really that excited to watch.
- the only other character was the broken-hearted guy with a beard, whose character served the purpose to show how detached George’s character is. Those bits about comparing humans to animals was a tired bit from the moment it started, and let their conversations feeling hollow and misguided. How many fucking times do I have to hear about a guy sleeping with a girl after a break-up just to forget about it? Let me tell you from experience: it doesn’t work.
- Have people not realized the ‘single, depressed white girl with cats’ joke got old in 1993? This is what the show chose to open with, combining it with an attempted suicide joke. Not the best opening.
- Imagine a comedy pilot without a massively obvious romantic pairing being defined in the first five minutes. Oh wait… they don’t exist.
- NBC is 0-2 in new comedies already this year, which makes a 13-episode order for Community that much more appalling. That show is going to die so shit like this can be on the air. Pathetic.
What did you think of Animal Practice? Was it the show you expected it to be, and is that a good or bad thing? Feel free to leave your thoughts/comments below!!!