INTO THE NEXT STAGE: A Reason to Watch ‘Animal Practice’

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By GUY AOKI

When the first episode of NBC’s new comedy “Animal Practice” debuted right after (or before the real ending of) the closing ceremonies of the Olympics this summer, I noted that regular Bobby Lee — who plays Dr. Robert Yamamoto — mumbled his lines. And I didn’t care for his new hairstyle or mustache either. But lately, he’s been a major reason to watch the Wednesday night show.

Two weeks ago, we saw a lot of physical comedy as Yamamoto tried to bring Dr. Coleman (the main character, played by Justin Kirk) coffee and repeatedly walked into glass doors, falling flat on his back and burning himself.

We learned that when Yamamoto was young, his cheap father — instead of paying for a babysitter — sent him to endure human-sized puppets at a theater for hours on end, so Yamamoto has an irrational, deep-seated fear of puppets. In the hospital, he sees a creepy-looking blonde male puppet with glasses, and he freaks out.

Later, a nurse tries to help him take control of the situation by placing the puppet on his hand and asking Yamamoto to make it talk. It seems to work until the resident monkey walks into the puppet, which is lying on the floor. Yamamoto comes by, sees the moving puppet, and begins running into glass doors again. Pretty funny.

Last week, the main story focused on Yamamoto as he was asked to perform surgery on Mayor Bloomberg’s Great Dane, which was hit by a cab. After he succeeds, his face is plastered across a New York Post-looking tabloid with the words “Yamamazing!” emblazoned on the front page. Suddenly, he’s popular and becomes a more in-demand surgeon than Coleman, who becomes jealous. It all goes to Yamamoto’s head, and he begins wearing sunglasses and doing press interviews.

When a nurse realizes they’re missing a sponge, Coleman assumes Yamamoto left it in the dog. The mayor’s aides are furious and threaten Yamamoto, but Coleman uncharacteristically takes the blame, saying he did the final stitch-up and made the mistake. Yamamoto, now humbled, goes back to believing he’s a failure. But Coleman realizes his pet monkey stole the sponge and Yamamoto returns to his new pompous self … until he’s hit by a gurney.

Unfortunately, I get the feeling television viewers never forgave NBC for sticking this series’ premiere in the middle of the closing ceremonies of the Olympics because when it finally debuted in its regular Wednesday night slot, it was to low numbers that have continued to fall.  Last week, the show was down 15% to a measly 1.1 rating among 18-49 year olds (anything below a 1.5 is not good) and just 3.9 million viewers overall. In fact, by the time you read this, the show may be off the schedule. We’ll see how patient the network is, but it deserves a second look. Check it out Wednesdays at 8 p.m. for as long as it lasts.

Is the Rest of the World Crazy or Is It Me? Department: Last week’s episode of “Hawaii Five-O” had to be one of the worst of all time. For the first 25 minutes, we mostly saw McGarrett (Alex O’Loughlin) and Danno (Scott Caan) out at sea, first on a fishing boat, then in a raft after a crook takes over their ship, then on another ship where they find the crook’s victim shot to death. At first, Danno whined about being forced to go fishing with his partner. Then he blamed McGarrett for picking up the crook who then forced them — at gunpoint — to jump ship and fend off sharks in their raft. Then Danno complained about the dead body on the new ship.

Ai yi yi! I was getting a headache. I predicted the ratings would plummet. Who could stand watching this for long? So I was shocked when the preliminary ratings came in and the show was up 10% in the 18-49 age range. What’s more, on Facebook, my own sister told me she loved the bickering. If that wasn’t insulting enough, her friends agreed, then my own niece said: “Uncle Guy: No. Just … no.”

This Monday’s episode wasn’t much better in that it opened with a scene with one of my “favorite” actresses, the person I affectionately call “lizard woman,” the would-be celeb who liked to show up on the red carpet with her boobs hanging out, posed for Playboy, then later admitted to being depressed. No kidding. Bai Ling played a fortune teller in Chinatown who tells a white woman she would be “touched by death.” Her accented English was so thick, I couldn’t make out half of what she was saying. After the woman’s boyfriend is decapitated during a run with his horse, the team goes to question her. Then she doesn’t reappear. Thankfully.

Once again, the victim and those surrounding him were white. The backdrop was an equestrian center with the rich white crowd you’d expect to see in that environment. Can’t get any more white than that. Again, what screams “Hawaii” more than a constant sea of white people?

Finally Some Respect? Department: On last week’s episode of “2 Broke Girls,” we saw a different side of Han Lee (Matthew Moy), the accented Korean owner of a restaurant who’s constantly put down for his size and demeanor by most of the cast. When a man tried to hold up the place, Han came out, initially acting his timid self, then pulled out a gun and confidently said, “I don’t think so, homeboy! You’re in my house now, bitch!”

The two main characters, the waitresses, marveled at this side of him they’d never seen. But by the end of the episode, it was back to old wimpy Han: When an usher caught him sneaking into the movie theater without a ticket, he began to pee in his pants.

This week, Han acted like a mouse. After gossiping about the girls to others, he scurried away when they overheard him. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Rebellious Teen Department: Tim Jo, the Asian son of the main alien couple on ABC’s comedy “The Neighbors,” got to shine last week. His parents crash the party of the main human couple, who’ve invited their friends from their old neighborhood. Of course, the aliens act strange and embarrass the hosts. Reggie Jackson (Jo) later tells his dad (Larry Bird — they’re all named after professional athletes) he hates him for not assimilating enough. Furthermore, he resents him for moving to Earth without even asking for his input. It was nice than an Asian American got to be the hip one, for once. In the end, they reconciled.

Kalinda and Nick of “The Good Wife.”

Really? This Is on CBS? Department: “The Good Wife” has been heating up with the introduction of Nick, the husband of Kalinda Sharma (Archie Panjabi). The Brit finally tracks down the legal research assistant and tries to persuade her to come back to him. At first, she tells him in no uncertain terms that she wants nothing to do with him. They even draw guns on each other. Later, while making breakfast, they pull knives! Then in another scene, they’re in bed together. What is wrong with these people?!

The cast of NBC’s “Animal Practice,” with Bobby Lee, second from right.

Last week, we caught Kalinda in bed with federal agent Lana Delaney. Just when they’re about to get hot and heavy, Kalinda gets a message and says she has to leave. Delaney complains she feels like just a warm-up act for someone else. Kalinda denies it, but she’s probably right. Nick spies the two of them together, and when Kalinda walks into her favorite bar, he’s already talking to Delaney. When Kalinda and Nick excuse themselves to talk in private, he calls her a lesbian slur, and she decks him.

“The Good Wife” airs Sunday nights.

Another Disappearing Act Department: Over the past few years, NBC has been infamous for announcing TV series that never actually make it to air. “Day One” was announced first as a series, then downgraded to a miniseries, then a TV movie, but was never broadcast. “Next Caller,” a mid-season replacement show about a crude disc jockey (Dane Cook) that featured Korean American Joy Osmanski as the show’s producer, has just been canned. None of the four episodes shot will air. It’s a shame. I was looking forward to seeing this, although it’s strange that NBC already has a DJ-starring comedy in Matthew Perry’s “Go On.”

The Curse of Jack Soo Continues: Last time, I wrote that Ray Fukumoto criticized me on Rafu.com for saying the late actor’s co-starring role in the 1964 sitcom “Valentine’s Day” was “quite a get.” I didn’t understand what the big deal was, as “get” meant “quite an accomplishment” to me.  Now, he’s accusing me of mischaracterizing what he meant:

“Regardless of your ability to twist words to your own favor, let me say this regarding your column today. You took the word ‘get’ that I used out of context. The context is that what I was pointing out is that you slighted his other accomplishments. For the record I didn’t even know he was in the ‘Valentine’ series mentioned … My emphasis was not on ‘Valentine’ but rather ‘Barney Miller,’ which you didn’t mention.

“I believe you misrepresented my intent and words. You are of the media, please police yourself … As for ‘get’ I simply took it for getting something, nothing more.”

I am giving you more space than you deserve, but let’s get something straight: Your intention was clear. After giving me a lesson on Soo’s career, including “Barney Miller,” this is what you wrote: “My only criticism seem [sic]to revolve around your knowledge and or understanding of the JA community. Your use of the word ‘get’ slighted the contribution Jack Soo had for [sic]the JA community and I took umbrage with it. You seemed to have denigrated his memory and accomplishments. Please in the future be a bit more generous in your research. Thank you.”

I think you need to police your own words, Ray. It’s clear as day what you were complaining about … and it wasn’t “Barney Miller.” In any case, in the future, it seems — based on two upset commenters — if, when mentioning Soo’s name, I don’t list his long list of credits, one of his fans will be furious.

PSY Shy Department: The Korean rapper has been stuck at #2 for four consecutive weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart, unable to dethrone Maroon 5’s “One More Night.” The new chart will be released today. If PSY everymakes it to #1, he’s promised to make a spectacle of himself, dancing “topless” in a very public way. Yayy?

Till next time, keep your eyes and ears open.

Guy Aoki, co-founder of the Media Action Network for Asian Americans, writes from Glendale. He can be reached at [email protected] Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.

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2 Comments

  1. Thank you for the space. One thing is for certain, words written regardless of intent can always be misconstrued. Thank you for taking the time to answer, peace.

  2. Roger Yamashiro on

    Guy Aoki seems to have so little to say it’s amazing. What’s your next column going to be about, Guy? Hawaii Five Oh? Your aunt’s Kapoho book? And maybe another mention of the time you were on Politically Correct to round it all out? You only have to do one of these things once or twice a month. Couldn’t you report on something a bit more original than your Asian American TV watching adventures and whether or not Bobby Lee’s shtick worked for you last week or if John Cho outdid himself in your opinion the week before that? (People at the Shimpo, do you not get that this guy is monotonous? He even took up space for the third or fourth time here nitpicking over the same Ray Fukumoto comment.) And, Guy, how about a little more research before begrudgingly “reporting” on a subject you don’t know or really wish to know about like Gangnam Style. We can look it up on Wikipedia too. Or we can read it about it from someone who cares. How is it that in all this time you couldn’t have done more brushing up on Jack Soo? I believe the answer is that your interests are just too limited. Now, Rafu Shimpo people, that doesn’t mean that we readers wouldn’t mind hearing from Guy less frequently. Like maybe once our twice a year. But try to spread Guy any thicker than that and he repeats and bores. How about asking Ray Fukumoto to do a few columns in Guy’s place. Ray seems to know, care about and appreciate a big part of JA history and culture that Aoki could apparently not care less about.

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