The doctors and nurses of "Animal Practice" are now on extended medical leave after airing the final episode on Nov. 7. NBC announced the low-rated show would be canceled after only three episodes. So what was ailing the show, and how can the network (and the show's stars) avoid future missteps?
Poor timing for premiereThe show got off to a poor start when NBC actually interrupted the closing ceremonies of the Summer Olympics in order to air the debut episode. Not only did that fail to convert the large number of Olympic viewers into fans of the show; it probably also soured them on the series.
Too many monkey jokesCrystal, a Capuchin monkey who also appeared in "The Hangover" sequel, played "Dr. Rizzo" on "Animal Practice": the pet of lead doctor, George Coleman (Justin Kirk), and mascot of the practice. While the monkey is naturally adorable, too many visual jokes in the early episodes depended on the monkey acting like a human. After a while, the "isn't that cute" factor was overwhelmed by the question, "Couldn't they come up with any other jokes?" The show should have taken a hint from the fictional series "The Law of the Jungle," which the characters watched. "LOTJ," said nurse Angela (Betsy Sodaro), was a show with a monkey in it, but it really was about the relationships. More attention needed to be focused on the relationships of "Animal Practice."
Not enough attention to ensembleIn the first episodes, which are all that viewers got to see before the show was canceled, the storylines revolved around Coleman and Dorothy Rutledge (JoAnna Garcia Swisher), the insecure young businesswoman who inherited the practice from her grandmother. Coleman's too-cool-for-school attitude was a little grating, and Dorothy's insecurity made her both bland and unbelievable. However, when Dr. Yamamoto (Bobby Lee) finally got to shine in the episode "Dr. Yamamazing," the show's potential became clear. Perhaps if early episodes had drawn on the strength of the ensemble, viewers would have gotten hooked.
Sarcasm doesn't blend with cuteThe writers blended sarcasm (from Coleman's character) with pop cultural references to shows like "House" and "Scrubs." But that level of dialogue, verging on pretentiousness, had to compete with silly visual gags involving the animals. Perhaps the show's creators looked at the popularity of Web sites like LOLcats and thought the American public would eat up a show that blended cute animals with smart humor. However, the show was struggling to reach a balance between smart and cute.