Not unlike the Super Bowl, the closing ceremonies of the XXX Summer Olympics (7 p.m., NBC) should offer an enormous audience boost to whatever show follows. You’d think NBC would have something special in mind. Unfortunately, the network is airing a sneak peek of “Animal Practice” (9:30 p.m.), a frantically unfunny new sitcom that reminds us why NBC needs sports spectaculars to attract viewers.
‘‘Animal” sets out to answer the unasked question, “What if Dr. Gregory House practiced veterinary medicine?” Justin Kirk (“Weeds”) stars as Dr. George Coleman, a whiz when it comes to curing critters, but also a cynical, misanthropic womanizer.
After two-plus weeks of Olympic uplift, “Animal” kicks off with a cat attempting suicide. A series of sad-single-woman-with-cat sight gags follow, culminating in Coleman’s seduction of the cat’s lonely owner.
For a show about a crabby, superior snob, “Animal” tries desperately to be liked. The hospital is really a zoo, where the doctors drink, party and gamble behind closed doors, and Coleman’s capuchin monkey, Dr. Rizzo, is dressed in a lab coat and treated as a hard-partying colleague and equal. Yes, it’s a show with a dressed-up monkey.
• “Hell on Wheels” (8 p.m., AMC) returns for a second season. Happily, the post-Civil War railroad drama appears to have picked up the pace. But don’t expect it to abandon its dependence on familiar themes from classic Westerns. The new season begins with a train heist by embittered ex-Confederates and the beating death of a prostitute.
Former rebel Cullen Bohannon (Anson Mount) and freed slave Elam Ferguson (Common) enact bookend dramas of personal reinvention and redemption in a world dominated by money, personified by railroad tycoon Doc Durant (Colm Meaney) — often seen trailing clouds of sulfuric smoke, just in case you missed the “Hell” in the show’s title.
Sunday’s other highlights
• Increased attacks make for bad politics on “True Blood” (8 p.m., HBO).
• Scarcity inspires creative scrounging on “Breaking Bad” (9 p.m., AMC).
• Rape suspects become a killer’s targets on the first season finale of “Longmire” (9 p.m., A&E;).
• Crises rage on a personal and global level on “Political Animals” (9 p.m., USA).
• Matt’s weight becomes a concern on “Episodes” (9:30 p.m., Showtime).