In sitcoms, the overbearing mother figure has a lot of uses. There are blustering men who become dribbling cowards in front of the iron ladies that birthed them. So I’m sure there’s a better precedent for Animal Practice’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Coleman?,” but the person who kept springing to my mind is 30 Rock’s Colleen Murphy Donaghy, played by the ever-amazing Elaine Stritch. Geroge’s dynamic with his cold-hearted mother is less acidic, but it seemed ripped directly out of the 30 Rock writers’ room, and watered down a bit.
Virginia (played by Annie Potts) cruises into the hospital with a sick cat she calls “Cat,” bristling with insults for her son. “It’s almost like a real hospital,” she says. Her 5-year-old cat, who George had no idea existed, has a very serious brain tumor. If he dies, George will have to replace the cat and actually spend time with his mother, so he works his utmost to save the kitty. Well, kind of. He replaces her cat with a healthier look-a-like tabby from the shelter. His mother is proud and touched, which means that George is wracked with guilt, despite his previous resistance to real human emotions. When he goes to confess the truth, it becomes obvious that the cat was a plant: His mother never had one, she just used her neighbor’s terminally ill kitty to ensnare her son into a guilt trap. “I’m fun-mean,” George explains to his colleagues. “She’s just mean-mean.”
See? Shades of Jack wishing Colleen would die. The end solution is George agreeing to visit her more, plus giving her a turtle. Meanwhile, Dorothy is having trouble living in her grandmother’s shadow. Her conflict with the nurses—eliminating their dartboard and foosball table in the breakroom—leads to the nurses starting a slowdown. Because this is a quirky animal hospital, the nurses all act as if someone was playing them at half speed. “I don’t kick ass. I nurture ass,” Dorothy confesses to new vet Jill, and, yeah, that’s pretty much her character. She buckles pretty quickly. Jill gets her grandmother’s office.
The zaniest storyline this week involves Yamamoto, whose departing wife pushes him into some sort of mental break. “You look like a Paul Giamatti movie, man,” Doug tells him. Yamamoto goes through a series of elaborate, crazy plans to find a pigeon poisoner, only to fail horribly. He’s moving in with Doug as he goes through his separation. “Just FYI, I like to free ball it at the breakfast table,” he warns. Oh man, my kingdom for more Yamamoto and Doug scenes.