Animal Control starring fan favorite Joel McCale (Community) premiered on Fox in mid-February. The show is a workplace comedy exploring the not-so-glamorous side of first responders and city employees much in the style of Brooklyn 99 and Mr. Mayor (criminally underrated NBC sitcom starring Ted Danson as the Republican Mayor of LA and his Democratic right hand played by Holly Hunter).
On its face, Animal Control has a lot to offer. A cast of distinctive characters running after loose animals provides a lot of opportunities for stories and jokes. But does it deliver? The Conservative Critic asks: Is it entertaining? Does it have artistic/intellectual value? Is it liberal propaganda?
The Conservative Critic Meter Check: Animal Control
Overall rating: Good bones
Animal Control has assembled a cast with plenty of chemistry and talent around a concept that has room to for ample storylines, growth and good relatable jokes. McCale is familiar in his lead role as Frank Shaw who is the surly seasoned officer newly partnered with an enthusiastic rookie with a heart of gold. The rest of the ensemble holds their own and has strong matchups across a myriad of character relationships.
But the jokes are somewhere just south of genuinely funny. They draw a smile but they leave a laugh on the table. Additionally, some of the cinematography and scene construction is a little amateurish even for a simple sitcom format. There are quite a bit of medium shots which are teetering on closeups and characters shoved into confined spaces for extended periods of time (they’re in their trucks way too often).
Despite some of its short-comings, Animal Control has the bones to build something funny that viewers could enjoy for many seasons to come.
Is it entertaining?
Rating: It has some laughs, it could have more
Animal Control has a lot of cute concepts and funny situations. The dynamic between the surly seasoned officer played by McCale and the former professional snowboarder turned new recruit, Shred played by newcomer, Michael Rowland, is formulaic but as satisfactory as the dynamic always is. The a-bit-too-close-for-work partner duo of Amit Patel and Victoria Sands played by Ravi Patel and Grace Palmer respectively provide a particularly strong comedic core and it is likely that time and audience response will see those roles expand.
The show follows an easy plot structure: Animal Control gets a call, the characters respond and things do not go according to plan. Antics ensue. The predictability of the structure could be overcome by unique enough scenarios and enough story to give the episodes some level sort of running thread. Animal Control has begun the process of connectivity and certainly it appears as though it will “get there” in terms of the humor, heart and consistency required to carry a successful sitcom.
Does it have artistic/intellectual value?
Rating: Decent talent, a little claustrophobic
One of Animal Control’s best features is the cast. Not only is there incredible chemistry between all of the players but there is no performance standing out as the “weak link” and each member of the ensemble seems to bring their own “something special” to the screen. This is not a given as many new shows struggle to bring a cast together and ultimately it is their weak casting which will be their early demise (How I Met Your Father comes immediately to mind).
In particular, it is great to see Vella Lovell (Mr. Mayor) as Emily Price back playing almost the exact same character as Mikayla Shaw from her stint on Mr. Mayor. It’s a funny, charming, relatable character that Lovell performs well and with Mr. Mayor axed, it’s great to get another chance to see it come into its own and to see Lovell become the leading lady she was born to be.
Setting aside the not-quite-hysterical writing, there are some problems with scene construction and camera work. The whole thing feels quite constrained and claustrophobic. There are so many medium shots that teeter far too close to closeups (in fact, the nuance is so minor that they may actually be closeups) which is an awkward place to keep viewers for any extended period of time. The characters spend quite a lot of time simply talking to each other in the cabs of their Animal Control trucks. Not only is this more than a little boring, but it also gives viewers the feeling that they just want to get out and be free. When the characters aren’t in their trucks, they tend to be shoved in a tiny break room at their office. It’s simply not working. Animal Control could benefit from a bigger set and bigger ideas on where the characters interact with one another.
Is it liberal propaganda?
Rating: No agenda
There is nothing overtly or subversively political about Animal Control as of its second episode. Because it deals with first responders and police – this rating could change overtime.
Animal Control has put in a good start and is built on good bones. While viewers might not think it’s quite the laugh riot they might be looking for today, it has the potential to become something worth looking forward to each week.