The Bottom Line
- Stars Justin Kirk, JoAnna Garcia Swisher, Tyler Labine, Bobby Lee, Kym Whitley, Betsy Sodaro
- Created by Brian Gatewood and Alessandro Tanaka
- Premiere airs Wednesday, September 19, 2012, at 9 p.m. EST on NBC; subsequent episodes air Wednesdays at 8 p.m. EST
In addition to Dr. Rizzo, the staff at the animal hospital includes Dr. George Coleman (Justin Kirk), the misanthropic head veterinarian, who’s portrayed as the vet equivalent of Dr. Gregory House, a curmudgeonly genius who can heal any ailment but has trouble interacting with people. In this case, he loves animals but has no patience for human beings, including his ex-girlfriend Dorothy Crane (JoAnna Garcia Swisher), who just so happens to be the new owner of the animal hospital.
George and Dorothy have a pretty rote “will they/won’t they” dynamic, including some rather obvious banter, but Kirk and Swisher are both charming, and the show at least acknowledges the obviousness of their relationship with self-aware jokes about the sexual tension delivered by weird vet tech Angela (Betsy Sodaro). Sodaro and the rest of the supporting cast are pretty charming, too; Tyler Labine and Mad TV veteran Bobby Lee play George’s veterinarian colleagues, and they manage to embody their fairly one-dimensional characters with likability. Labine and Kirk have decent chemistry as reluctant friends, and Lee provides easy jokes as the timid, easily swayed doctor caught between George and Dorothy. The weakest link is Kym Whitley as the stereotypical sassy, no-nonsense older African-American woman who keeps the staff in line, but her role is limited enough in the first episode that it leaves room for improvement.
The humor is fairly obvious, and anyone with a low tolerance for jokes about the bodily functions of animals will get tired of this show pretty quickly. Likewise, the plot of the first episode, which involves Dorothy taking over the hospital and George quitting (obviously temporarily) is predictable and unoriginal. Amidst the poop jokes and jokes equating animal and human sexual behavior are a handful of amusingly random references ranging from The Wendy Williams Show to Arby’s, and the actors give their lines enough flair to elicit laughs even when the writing isn’t that strong.
The entire show can pretty much be summed up in the final scene that airs over the credits: The no-nonsense Dorothy interrupts what appears to be a serious medical meeting among the hospital staff, and when she steps out, Angela literally pulls back a curtain to reveal that the doctors are watching a makeshift race among hamsters riding on top of turtles, as Dr. Rizzo holds handfuls of cash that the staff has wagered on the event. If a race featuring hamsters riding on turtles is your idea of hilarity, then Animal Practice is definitely the show for you.