‘Animal Practice’ Star Tyler Labine: ‘It’s Not the Monkey Show’

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By now, viewers have probably become well acquainted with the sight of Crystal the monkey on NBC’s Animal Practice.

She has been the focal point of the network’s marketing campaign for the new fall show, which makes an early debut Sunday when the network airs its first episode after the Olympics closing ceremonies.

And while the cast have been vocal about being enamored with not only Crystal, but also most of the various animals they share the show with, one castmember wants to make something very clear…

“I think they have a built in promotional tool here, but I don’t want people to get the wrong idea,” Sons of Tucson and Mad Love actor Tyler Labine, who now plays Dr. Doug Jackson on the comedy, tells reporters during a visit to the set this week while they filmed their second episode.

“I keep getting approached, ‘Oh, you’re on the monkey show.’ Well, I’m on a show that has a monkey featured on the show,” he continues. “It’s not the monkey show. I think it’s a lot more clever. It’s not that shticky show that I think is coming across just because we’re using the monkey as a promotional tool.”

The comedy revolves around an animal hospital and its colorful staff headed up by Weeds star Justin Kirk as Dr. George Coleman, who’s much more interested in what the animals are feeling than their human owners.

It also features Reba star JoAnna Garcia Swisher as an old girlfriend who has come back into George’s life, Mad TV’s Bobby Lee, Upright Citizens Brigade alum Betsy Sodaro, and former NBC show School Pride host and veteran actress Kym Whitley.

Even with a talented cast and the executive producers behind Community, Arrested Development and Happy Endings onboard, Labine expressed early worries that the show was going to trade in reality for animal hijinks.

“You know what ‘that show’ is,” he explains. “If it was going to be that show where there are no boundaries, no reality anymore, it’s just sort of whatever is funny, whatever visually makes people laugh, whatever we can do without being sued.”

“[But], it’s not, they’re not doing that,” he continues. “They’re writing clever actual bits for the monkey, which is kind of cool to see too. So, that’s the show that we’re making as opposed to the show that’s coming across.”

Clearly, though, the animals are a necessary element of the show. And Labine was a lot more upfront about the travails of working with the creatures than his castmates were on the set visit.

“Any environment where you get to pet dogs all day is great, but when you try to get animals to hit marks it can be a little bit trying,” he says. “It’s still fun, we’re working out the kinks. Hopefully, we’ll get the best animal actors out there.”

In fact, when viewers watch Sunday’s sneak preview of the series, there will be one scene featuring Labine and an animal costar that never made it into the show. His character was supposed to be giving a rectal exam to a beagle.

“I wasn’t going to, you know, enter the beagle, but he doesn’t know that,” Labine says of the scene. “He started jumping off the table every time… So, we basically ended up not doing the scene. So, things like that will probably happen again.”

While NBC airs the pilot episode on Sunday after the Olympics, it will debut Animal Practice’s second episode on Wednesday, Sept. 26 at 8 PM.

Will you be tuning in to Animal Practice after the Olympics? Tell us in the comments section below.