Full disclosure: I am not an animal lover. I don’t dislike them, I just don’t particularly…like them. Nevertheless, I would get a pet just to become a regular visitor to Animal Practice, a very funny and original sitcom about an animal hospital where the pets come first (sometimes to the consternation of their owners).
Justin Kirk, who played the outrageous Andy Botwin in Weeds, is now Dr. George Coleman, a veterinarian who loves animals but isn’t crazy about humans. He is surrounded by a zany group of very enjoyable supporting characters, not the least of whom is Betsy Sodaro as Angela, an animal handler who seems to reveal something disturbing about herself just about every time she opens her mouth. Sodaro was only a guest actor in the pilot, but she was quickly signed as a regular, which is a great move!
Fans of Mad-TV and Chelsea Lately will recognize Bobby Lee as Dr. Kim Yamamoto and Tyler Labine, who was in last year’s sit-bomb, Mad Love, and may still be remembered from the cult favourite, Reaper, plays Dr. Doug Jackson. They are colleagues and friends of Coleman’s, but they aren’t above throwing him under the bus if it suits their purposes.
In the pilot, Dr. Coleman is getting along just fine running the Animal Practice, which is owned by the grandmother of his former girlfriend. The fun begins when that former girlfriend inherits the practice and decides to bring some efficiency to the often chaotic clinic. Clashes ensue.
The real standout of this show is the crisp writing, which not only gives us some funny moments, but clearly defines who each of these people are right away. You won’t have to wait until episode six to feel as though you know these people. It almost feels as though we’re climbing on in season two, and that’s a good thing.
Oh, and if you love animals, there are plenty of them, from dogs and cats to tigers and hogs and penguins. The clear standout is a monkey called Dr. Zauis, who wears a doctor’s coat and is considered to be a member of the staff by Dr. Coleman. You might think that’s a far-fetched idea that sounds too “sitcom-y”, but it works. He’s cute and adds an element of fun to the proceedings that should keep viewers entertained.
Animal Practice has a tough battle in the timeslot department, kicking off NBC’s Wednesday night schedule against ABC’s powerhouse lineup of comedies. Still, I believe this is the kind of show NBC is looking for to help shore up its weak stable of shows from the past few seasons. It’s original, it’s funny and come on, it’s got cute animals! It even got to THIS animal non-lover. That’s got to be worth something.
TV Gord’s verdict: One of my personal favourites.