Take Me To The Pilots ’12: NBC’s ‘Animal Practice’

[In case you’ve Forgotten, and as I will continue to mention each and every one of these posts that I do: This is *not* a review. Pilots change. Sometimes a lot. Often for the better. Sometimes for the worse. But they change. Actual reviews will be coming in September and perhaps October (and maybe midseason in some cases). This is, however, a brief gut reaction to not-for-air pilots. I know some people will be all “These are reviews.” If you’ve read me, you’ve read my reviews and you know this isn’t what they look like.]

Show:“Animal Practice” (NBC
The Pitch:It’s “Becker”… With a monkey!
Quick Response: This is the first Take Me To The Pilots show this summer where I could write a review if I wanted to. And perhaps I may in a few days. NBC is premiering “Animal Practice” next week with an Olympics bump and I’ve already seen two versions of the pilot, one with Amy Huberman as the romantic lead and one with JoAnna Garcia-Swisher. The addition of Garcia-Swisher is already a good sign, not because Huberman was bad by any means, but because Garcia-Swisher is quite good and there’s a chemistry with leading man Justin Kirk that was entirely absent in the original pilot. I always feel better about shows when they know things need fixing and take steps to fix them and that gives me some cause for optimism with “Animal Practice,” perhaps more cause for optimism than either version of the pilot. Kirk, so excellent for so long on “Weeds,” gets a fair amount of mileage out of a character who’s barely even sketched out in the script. He loves animals, but he hates people! Yes? And? Yeah. That’s it. With Joe and Anthony Russo directing, the main edict on this “Animal Practice” pilot appears to have been “Faster!” and the 22 minutes zip by at a tremendous clip even if basically nothing of substance happens. Kirk’s good with fast-talking and with Tyler Labine, Bobby Lee and newcomer Betsy Sodaro, he’s got a cast of scene-stealers around him. But then, because those three slightly hammy supporting players aren’t enough distraction, you also have Crystal the Monkey and a wide assortment of other animals. The core problem with the show is that there’s no point in having seven or eight scene-stealing humans and/or animals if the core of the show isn’t there. Right now, despite the best intentions of Kirk and the smart addition of Garcia-Swisher, it just isn’t. I chuckled a few times at “Animal Practice,” but I didn’t care about anything and I didn’t warm to a single character. You choose what you want to accentuate in a pilot — “Ben & Kate” w/its likability or “The Mindy Project” with its singular voice or “The Neighbors” with its sucking — and “Animal Practice” accentuates chaos and stupid animal tricks. Yes, Bobby Lee getting choked by a python isn’t unfunny, but it won’t be enough to bring me back. 
Desire To Watch Again: Oh, I’m gonna watch again. Seriously, the pilot has a monkey driving an ambulance. Under what circumstances WOULDN’T I watch again? Plus, I got the sense from both the slightly tinkered pilot and from the TCA press tour panel that the creative team isn’t unaware of the refinements they want to or need to make to transform this into an ongoing series. That being said, I can’t imagine anybody being passionately excited for “Animal Practice” off this pilot alone.

Take Me To The Pilots ’12: ABC’s ‘Last Resort’
Take Me To The Pilots ’12: CBS’ ‘Vegas’
Take Me To The Pilots ’12: The CW’s ‘Beauty & The Beast’
Take Me To The Pilots ’12: ABC’s ‘666 Park Avenue’
Take Me To The Pilots ’12: NBC’s ‘Chicago Fire’
Take Me To The Pilots ’12: FOX’s ‘Ben and Kate’
Take Me To The Pilots ’12: CBS’ ‘Elementary’
Take Me To The Pilots ’12: The CW’s ‘Arrow’
Take Me To The Pilots ’12: ABC’s ‘The Neighbors’
Take Me To The Pilots ’12: NBC’s ‘Revolution’
All of last year’s Take Me To The Pilots entries