Nellie Andreeva

EXCLUSIVE: There is a change at the helm of NBC‘s upcoming comedy series Animal Practice (formerly Animal Kingdom). Gail Lerner, who joined the show after the pilot as executive producer/showrunner, is departing, with Marco Pennette coming in as new showrunner. The gig is tied to a development deal for Pennette at Universal TV. To accommodate the change and give Pennette time to get up to speed, I hear that the series’ planned hiatus has been pushed up by a week. Animal Practice, which just wrapped Episode 3, was supposed to start Episode 4 right away and take a hiatus next week. It will take the week-long break now instead.

Created by feature writers Brian Gatewood and Alessandro Tanaka, Animal Practice is a single-camera office comedy centered on a “House”-like veterinarian (Justin Kirk) who loves animals but usually hates their owners (especially the new woman who runs the clinic). On the Universal TV/American Work-produced series, Pennette will serve as an executive producer alongside Gatewood, Alex Tanaka, Ravi Nandan, Scot Armstrong and the pilot’s directors Anthony and Joe Russo. UTA-repped Pennette is a sought-after showrunner who is credited with helping get ABC’s Ugly Betty off the ground and was a key writer-producer on Desperate Housewives. This past season, he created the ABC comedy pilot The Manzanis starring Kirstie Alley and has another comedy with the Cheers alumna in consideration at TV Land, which he will do if the script goes to pilot.

Animal Practice is a high priority for NBC, which previewed the pilot of the show the night of the closing ceremony of the London Olympics. The stunt angered some fans after NBC opted to air the pilot before the ceremony’s final performance by The Who. Animal Practice premieres on Sept. 26. This was the first showrunner gig for Will & Grace alumna Lerner, who recently served as a co-executive producer on ABC’s Happy Endings.

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