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'Animal Practice' and its ancestors

Justin Kirk portraying George Coleman in a scene

Justin Kirk portraying George Coleman in a scene from the pilot episode of "Animal Practice." Credit: AP

NBC's new fall series "Animal Practice," which airs a preview Sunday at 10:38 p.m. (its regular premiere is Sept. 26), focuses on a New York vet (Justin Kirk) who gets along better with animals than he does with humans. But the show's breakout star may very well be Dr. Rizzo, who's played by Crystal, a monkey who also has appeared in "The Hangover II" and "Community." Perhaps Crystal will join these five others in the TV Simian Hall of Fame:

1. J. FRED MUGGS -- The "mascot" on the early days of the "Today" show (1953-57) and sidekick to host Dave Garroway helped attract viewers. The chimp's talents included a Popeye impression and playing piano with Steve Allen.

2. THE MARQUIS CHIMPS -- This trio of talented chimps appeared on numerous variety shows ("Ed Sullivan," "The Hollywood Palace"). But they also were the co-stars of "The Hathaways," a truly wacky 1961-62 comedy. A real estate agent (Jack Weston) and his wife (Peggy Cass), a theatrical agent, booked the chimps' show-biz engagements. In between gigs, the chimps lived in the Hathaways' home, where they essentially were treated as surrogate children.

3. BEAR -- He was co-star of the comedy "B.J. and the Bear" (1978-81), the companion to B.J. (Greg Evigan), a long-distance trucker who had met Bear while serving in Vietnam (the chimp brought B.J. food while he was a POW). He was named for University of Alabama football coach Paul "Bear" Bryant, whom B.J. considered the greatest coach ever.

4. BINGO -- This chimp on "The Abbott and Costello Show" (1952) wore a derby, long necktie and checkered coat -- the same outfit worn by his owner, Lou Costello, who found Bingo while working at Fields' Pet Shop. It's a toss-up as to which one was smarter.

5. MARCEL -- "Friends' " Ross Geller (David Schwimmer) rescued the illegal exotic monkey from a laboratory and, because he didn't want a human roommate, he adopted Marcel. The monkey appeared in only eight episodes, but made a lasting impression on all.


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