This week’s Animal Practice, “Clean-Smelling Pirate,” relied heavily on a puppet for a lot of its laughs, and I have to say, I was really disappointed with the actual puppet prop itself. It may seem like a weird thing to start with, or to be so focused on, but I really think its important for something so prominently featured to be designed better than Dr. Rick was. His mouth didn’t even move! That should be the most important part of any puppet! And a huge flappy lower jaw would have done a lot to add some laughs to a few scenes that were otherwise lacking this episode.
Not every scene was humorless, however. There’s a lot to like about Animal Practice still, especially in the chemistry between the three lead actors. George and Doug bounce off each other well enough, and I’m finding myself more and more attached to JoAnna Garcia Swisher’s uptight Dorothy with each week. Her little hand motion when she said “I call her Ang” as an aside had me laughing out loud, and it was just a little, perfect character moment.
Unfortunately, lacking in such moments is Juanita, who plays a significant role in tonight’s Dr. Yamamoto subplot, but still feels like an empty shell only there to round out the trio of sideline characters. I feel like I know nothing about her, and while this episode made some steps in the direction of actual characterization (she likes helping people, I guess?), it’s still too little. And it doesn’t help that she’s paired up with the most annoying person in the cast. Maybe it’s some weird personal tick, but I absolutely can’t stand Bobby Lee’s performance here, and the writing certainly doesn’t help.
Surprisingly, I’m not as bothered by Angela, who has serious potential to be overused and under-funny. She’s still kind of a mess of unaffiliated character traits, but Betsy Sodaro plays it with enough conviction that I’m at least a little won over.
The one thing that really has to go if Animal Practice is going to turn into something better than what it is are the hamfisted emotional climaxes. Two weeks in a row, now, we’ve had George dramatically learning to access his softer side thanks to Doug, and neither time did it feel earned or genuine. I understand the desire to inject some sweetness into a sitcom, and it’s certainly not a bad idea, but the writers need to mix it up a little, try to hit some other beats beside “Dr. Coleman is an uptight loner who gets in touch with his feelings.”
It’s not all bad, though. There’s still some sharp writing, and the show finds a way to use just enough of the animals without feeling like an Animal Planet clip show, and Crystal the monkey still shines as Dr. Rizzo. Her crawling into the puppet at the end was the funniest part of the episode, and a nice way to tie up both Dr. Yamato’s side plot and Rizzo’s runner of trying to find places to sleep.
Do y’all agree? And are you already convinced enough to be with Animal Practice for the long haul, or does the show still need to do more to earn your admiration?