The debut of Animal Practice drew more ire than almost any show not starring Rob Schneider has a right to—and not just from PETA, which was predictably, vaguely incensed. Sitcom tropes had critics rolling their eyes across the board. But I agree with our fair AV Club reviewers: This puppy’s got legs (ahem), even if it hasn’t quite learned how to walk yet.
The quasi-autistic but brilliant doctor (or lawyer, or detective, or artist) is now a standard ingredient in sitcoms, so George, as a character, has a lot to tackle. Justin Kirk does an able job—his delivery, deadpan and quick—prevents the ponderous Dr. House-ness from settling in too thick. For example, when he tests Doug via a game of Operation and Doug complains, “This is a game for three-year-olds!” George’s swift, low-key reply—“Wrong. It’s fun for all ages”—wouldn’t have worked as well if it had landed even half a beat later. You can see Kirk settling into the character groove, and it’s a fun thing to watch.
It’s too bad that “Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong” didn’t have much going for it, plot-wise, but the characters are all breathing a little more than they were in the pilot. (And of course, to some extent, that’s what always happens after the pilot.) This week, George promises to do the surgery on Doug’s beloved pooch Little Miss after a Frisbee mishap (“Frisbee: The deadliest fetch,” George mutters.) This is because Doug is too emotional to do the work himself and George considers himself to be unaffected by Doug’s tears. You can tell what happens next: George, helped by the feeling Svengali Dorothy, realizes that he and Doug are friends and not just coworkers. He gets too nervous to do the surgery, but gives Doug a brief hug at the end. It’s peppered with some good one-liners, but it’s not much framework to hang a joke on.
Dorothy’s plot is also a time-tested cliché. As an uptight administrator, she doesn’t understand why her coworkers all hang out without her and do Smurf shots. One failed juice-related ploy later, she basically coerces her subordinates into drinks under the threat of losing their jobs. She wins their respect after pulling a ridiculous drunk antic—getting hammered enough to adopt a pet pig from a mustached man in the bar.
And then, of course, there’s Rizzo the monkey, the true star of the show. He brushed his tiny monkey teeth, wore a mini-beret, and rode to work in a monkey suit. When a dog’s owner mentions that there’s money to be made in animal art, he takes a turn as a monkey painter. Maybe my favorite moment of the episode was when Angela mentioned that she taught Rizzo to Tebow, and he takes to one knee. The stream of tiny monkey outfits may be a cheap attraction, but man, is it a good one.
- Nice Spin Doctors diss, I guess?
- “You gave away your kayak?” George asks Doug. “The one you lost your virginity in?”
- George’s excuse for not going out with co-workers: “Last week I told them I had to go to bagel night. What is that?”