Tuned In: One monkey doesn't make a show ... forever


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NBC offers a sneak preview of "Animal Practice" Sunday night following the Olympics closing ceremony. The half-hour pilot episode, airing at approximately 10:38 p.m. according to NBC.com, introduces Dr. George Coleman (Justin Kirk, "Weeds"), a New York veterinarian who loves animals but often loathes their owners.

But let's be honest, the show is really all about the animals. It exists for the same reason local newscasts lead with stories about animals in danger: Animals pull at viewers' heartstrings, and, more importantly from a TV exec's perspective, some viewers have a Pavlovian response that compels them to tune in when promised cute, furry creatures.

When it comes to "Animal Practice," that's just fine -- for now. The show may not be comedy gold, but it generates enough laughs to make it worth checking out before hitting the sack Sunday night. But is it a keeper in the long run? We'll see.

George bonds with his animal patients, but he's a terrible administrator, something his ex-girlfriend, Dorothy (JoAnna Garcia Swisher, "Better With You"), aims to remedy when she comes back into his life after her grandmother dies and Dorothy inherits the family business. "Animal Practice" none too subtly suggests the two will become a romantic item again, a disappointing prospect due to the cliched nature of will-they-or-won't-they romantic entanglements in prime-time TV shows.

More promising is the introduction of bizarro Angela (Betsy Sodaro), an enjoyably oddball nurse, who makes declarations such as, "You know, not all dogs go to heaven. Some of them just end up in the ground."

There are other human characters in addition to George, Dorothy and Angela -- actor Tyler Labine ("Reaper," "Mad Love," "Sons of Tucson," you name it) gets another shot as a vet who's awkward around women -- but, honestly, none of them holds a candle to Dr. Rizzo, a capuchin monkey played by Crystal, famous from roles in "The Hangover II" and "Community."

Dr. Rizzo rides on a remote-controlled vehicle, stages gambling events and intervenes on George's behalf on numerous occasions. This monkey steals every scene and is by far the most memorable character in "Animal Practice." That's great for NBC's promotional machine and for generating initial interest in the series, but if "Animal Practice" doesn't develop into something more than an animal showcase -- and quickly -- it's liable to go the way of past short-lived NBC simian shows "Mr. Smith" (1983) and "B.J. and the Bear" (1979-81).

'Shark Week' hits 25

Discovery Channel's "Shark Week" reaches its 25th anniversary this year when it begins Sunday at 9 p.m., boasting nine new specials, including:

"Air Jaws Apocalypse" (9 p.m. Sunday): A sequel to last year's special, this one follows a team's efforts to learn more about Colossus, a 14-foot great white.

"Mythbusters; Jawsome Shark Special" (10 p.m. Monday): Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman count down the Top 25 shark myths of all time.

"How 'Jaws' Changed the World" (9 p.m. Tuesday): The impact of the 1975 Steven Spielberg film.

"Shark Week's 25 Best Bites" (10 p.m. Thursday): A greatest hits special.

Jackie Evancho back on PBS

PBS's "Great Performances" airs a new pledge special, "Jackie Evancho: Music of the Movies," starring the local 12-year-old girl who wowed viewers last summer on "America's Got Talent."

Jackie will sing "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" ("The Lion King"), "My Heart Will Go On" ("Titanic") and "Come What May" ("Moulin Rouge") among other tunes, which will be available on an album due for release in October.

"Music of the Movies" debuts at 5:30 p.m. Sunday on WQED and re-airs at 9:30 p.m. Sunday, 8 p.m. Monday, noon Tuesday and noon Aug. 24, according to listings at WQED.org.

Channel surfing

PBS kids' show "Dinosaur Train" (9:30 a.m. weekdays, WQED-TV) will air four new episodes Monday through Thursday next week as part of "Big Big Dinosaur Week" featuring the largest of the dinosaur species and a new flatbed car on the train. ... Nickelodeon has ordered a fourth season of "Big Time Rush" to air in early 2013. ... In one of the worst scheduling blunders I can remember for a new series, Oxygen has now moved the second episode of "All the Right Moves" from Aug. 7 to Aug. 14 to Aug. 21, sapping any momentum the network's promotional campaign for the July 31 premiere had. ... AMC remains dropped from DISH Network due to a retransmission dispute, so AMC will make Sunday's season-two premiere of "Hell on Wheels" available to DISH subscribers online at www.amctv.com/hellonwheels4dish. ... Travel Channel will debut the final season of "Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations" at 9 p.m. Sept. 3; Mr. Bourdain will move to CNN with a new show in 2013. ... Ion will air reruns of CBS's "NUMB3RS" at an undisclosed time during the 2012-13 TV season; Ion also acquired rerun rights to "Law & Order: Criminal Intent," but no air date was announced. ... H. Jon Benjamin already voices two animated prime-time characters on FX's "Archer" and Fox's "Bob's Burgers," and EW.com reports on the next season of "Archer" an episode will feature a crossover that brings Bob into Archer's world. ... Comedian/actor Kevin Hart will host the "2012 MTV Video Music Awards" at 8 p.m. Sept. 6. ... The BBC has commissioned a 90-minute "Dr. Who" TV movie to celebrate the show's 50th anniversary next year. ... Following its success with a "Smurfs" movie (the sequel arrives next year), Sony is now developing a live-action/CGI hybrid movie based on 1980s NBC comedy "ALF."

Tuned In online

Today's TV Q&A column responds to questions about Nate Berkus, "Curb Your Enthusiasm" and "Bunheads." This week's Tuned In Journal includes posts on "Hell on Wheels," the "Dance Moms" spinoff starring Pittsburgh's own Abby Lee Miller, a new FX comedy and a preview to "The Closer" finale. Read online-only TV content at post-gazette.com/tv.

This week's podcast includes conversation about NBC's Olympics coverage and TBS's "Sullivan & Son." Subscribe or listen at http://old.post-gazette.com/podcast.

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TV writer Rob Owen: rowen@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2582. Follow RobOwenTV on Twitter or Facebook for breaking TV news.


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