For eight seasons, Justin Kirk was one of the best parts of Showtime’s quirky comedy, Weeds. The actor has good comedic timing, he’s a little bit of an oddball, and he totally deserved a series where he could be the lead and carry the whole show. Enter Animal Practice, an impractical, awkward comedy with a monkey, that actually managed to suck me in the second time through.
Like other Olympics watchers, I was more than a little angry that the closing ceremonies were cut off to air the pilot for Animal Practice. This got me off on a bit of the wrong foot with NBC’s new half-hour comedy. Between the obnoxious, lowlife vet techs and the ridiculousness of the pilot episode’s main plotline—which involves stealing a dog to save its life—I laughed off Animal Practice and nearly forgot about it. But I didn’t remove the show from my DVR list.
I’m sort of happy I didn’t, because this week I caught the pilot for Animal Practice for a second time. As it turns out, I let my emotions get to me a bit the first time through. Besides the annoying Angela (Betsy Sodaro), who seems like a caricature (but who my husband assures me is a real type of crazy vet tech personality, having spent time working in a similar place of business), the rest of the side characters are typified by snappy, fast-paced dialogue and group activities (like betting on turtle races) that are funny, but potentially a little too wacky to be believed in. Kirk especially shines, and while his potential love interest, Dorothy (JoAnna Garcia Swisher), is fairly predictable, the love/hate plotline doesn’t come across as arduous amongst the more interesting comedic stuff.
Created by Alessandro Tanaka and Brian Gatewood, the pilot for Animal Practice does have some highlights. Cameo favorite Matt Walsh plays a strip club-loving daddy in the episode, and Mad Love’s Tyler Labine says horrific things to women while trying to pick them up. Which brings us to Kirk. As Dr. Kirk Coleman, the head of the practice, Justin Kirk shines in this show. He’s sarcastic, a little unfeeling, is filled with zingers, and enjoys acting like he’s the smartest person in the room. He’s overly cocksure, but if you like that sort of character, Kirk does it really well. I almost wish the writers would go a little more House with Dr. Coleman and cut out the silly romance thread, but I will tell you right now that character would never fit in with the tone Animal Practice is trying to go for.
Animal Practice isn’t a life-changing comedy, and it may suffer from the rut of repeat plotlines a few episodes in, but the pilot is witty, sets up the premise and characters well, and is certainly passable. If you ignore the monkey and the impossibility of such a huge practice with so many regular and exotic animals streaming in at any given moment, and hone in on Justin Kirk, you may find yourself liking NBC’s comedy more than you meant to. Animal Practice may not be as innovative as Louie, but it also doesn’t shoehorn in jokes like Two Broke Girls. We’ll have to wait and see if passable is good enough for NBC.
Animal Practice premieres tonight at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.
Photo credit @NBC