As a fan on the USA show, Monk, which aired from 2002-2009, there are a lot of great things to enjoy about the show itself. The performances are memorable, the writing of the characters are solid and three-dimensional, and the cases themselves can be entertaining and even intriguing at times. Heck, there’s even episodes paying homages to Noir and a series long arc about solving the murder of Monk’s wife.
Monk (Tony Shalhoub) is an ex-San Francisco police detective aiding Captain Leland Stottlemeyer (Ted Levine) and Lieutenant Randy Disher (Jason Gray-Stanford) in solving cases primarily in San Francisco and mostly of the homicide variety. Monk had a nervous breakdown after Trudy’s car exploded via car bomb and since, has suffered from a variety of psychological symptoms while trying to earn his badge back throughout the run of the show. Most notable are his Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and Eidetic Memory. His main helpers are Sharona Fleming (Bitty Schram) from Season 1 – 3 and Natalie Teeger (Traylor Howard) Season 3 – 8.
In the vein of classic murder mystery detective shows like Murder, She Wrote starring Angela Lansbury or Kojak from the 1970s, Monk ran for several seasons and often employed a case of the week method for its airings. The undercurrent was Monk’s need to solve the death of his murdered wife, which was touched upon several times but didn’t get as much focus throughout the run of the series as one would expect.
So let’s count down to the five aspects that are worth watching this show for.
1: Tony Shalhoub’s Performance as Adrian Monk
Most probably know Shalhoub from a variety of movie appearances including Men in Black, Thirteen Ghosts, Galaxy Quest, or as the voice of Master Splinter in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies by Michael Bay.
Shalhoub does a fantastic job showing what a great detective suffering from OCD can do throughout the series. From the matter of fact way he takes on listing his phobias or showing his disgust/struggles when encountering a scenario that legitimately challenges him, Shalhoub manages to make it seamless in the way Monk becomes a real person. For most of the series, I often forget that I’m not watching a real guy dealing with everything while trying to solve the crime du jour. One of his best traits is doing little things in the background that completely fit his character while others are talking and can make a scene worth watching just for his silent antics alone.
2: The Plots Are Entertaining
A lot of the cases aren’t super deep and don’t require a ton of thought but it’s always fun re-watching them after Monk’s, “Here’s what happened” spiel describes what it says regarding how the killer accomplished his or her feat. Sometimes little clues that seem innocuous on first viewing end up being the pertinent tip to Monk in solving the case, allowing viewers to start trying to look for little things and ‘become Monk’ themselves when trying to figure out the case.
Some of the episodes do tug on the heartstrings, especially those dealing with Monk’s trauma over Trudy or even his desperation to get his badge back and become an official part of the San Francisco Police Department again. There are even hints of surprisingly dark subject matter and dark scenarios in several cases. The entire underpinning of the introduction to Monk is that his wife died due to a car bomb in a garage!
3: Sharona and Natalie Play Off Monk Well, Yet Differently. Captain Stottlemeyer and Randy Disher Are Great Together
Both Bitty Schram and Traylor Howard are a lot of fun. Bitty plays the tough, doesn’t take guff New Jersey attitude very well and is a fun companion to Monk in enforcing him to do what he does and try to face up to his fears and do his job. She always shows some compassion and cares about him too. Traylor, as Natalie, is a bit more relaxed and tender but she too has a very well developed feel for standing up to Monk and refusing to back down when a situation calls for it. As a result of being around for so long, Natalie has a bit more overall balance than Sharona but it’s a great contrast in the evolution of the show.
Ted Levine and Jason Gray-Stanford have great comedic timing and Levine’s expressions, especially in relation to Jason’s comments or random theory related to the case in question, are particularly funny. Both have believable relationships with Monk and his assistants while having great chemistry together, which helps make episodes just focusing on the Stottlemeyer/Disher investigation not feel forced or boring in any way. In several cases, they become a highlight of the episode itself!
4: The Guest Stars as Suspects/Killers
Like most shows of this scenario, the show can only be as good as its bad guy(s) and Monk has a slew of memorable villains most notably the incredibly overweight Dale “The Whale” Biederbeck (Adam Arkin, Tim Curry, and Ray Porter). John Turturro is fantastic as Monk’s brother, Ambrose, and Tim Bagley as Harold Krenshaw, Monk’s nemesis at the office of Dr. Kroger, is particularly hilarious when the two are on-screen together.
Some of the guest roles vary from mental patients (Kevin Nealon) to self-insert roles (Willie Nelson) to obsessed fans (Sarah Silverman). The show has a lot of great little performances from a wide variety of actors including Sean Astin, Laurie Metcalf, and Gary Cole so often times the episodes are worth watching for the guest stars alone.
As the show progressed, it did begin to feel a bit overdone (e.g. appearances from Steven Weber, Snoop Dogg, and Howie Mandel) in the latter seasons but the producers did a good job keeping the show about the case of the week and the solving of it from Monk’s character.
5: It Was a Critical Darling and Spawned Other Media
Most of the time, I don’t care whether critics adore a show or not. Monk was a rare exception in that it did very well with viewers and especially the critics, in particular Tony Shalhoub whom won a Golden Globe Award in 2003, SAG Awards in 2004 & 2005, and Emmy Awards in 2004, 2005, and 2006.
Writer Lee Golberg also has written 15 novels based on the titular character and series while Hy Conrad wrote the last 4 novels, even basing Mr. Monk Gets On Board off an episode that was written but never filmed by the actual production company. The novels are a lot of fun and do a great job at capturing the feel of the Monk television show.
So here’s what happened, I wrote an article detailing five reasons to watch the television show, Monk. You, the reader, skimmed or read through the article and have come to a conclusion of your own based off one or more of the above criteria. If you have never seen the show and check it out, let me know your thoughts/reactions in the comments below. Have a favorite episode? Reply below in the comments!