Universal // 2004 // 705 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Ryan Keefer (Retired) // August 24th, 2005
Obsessive. Compulsive. Detective.
Monk burst onto the scene in 2003 as a clever combination of a traditional whodunit TV show and a quirky, offbeat sitcom. The title character is a San Francisco detective whose phobias are almost as rampant as the crimes he's trying to solve. Will Monk and its kitschy title song by Randy Newman still hold up as the show starts its third season?
Adrian Monk (Tony Shalhoub, Spy Kids) is a gifted police detective who closes cases using some creative thinking which more often than not proves him right. After his wife is murdered, Monk is transformed into someone with full-blown obsessive compulsive disorder, petrified by just about anything, especially germs. He loses his job as a detective when his illness becomes too much for him or his colleagues to cope with. He still helps the department with cases, consulting with Captain Leland Stottlemeyer (Ted Levine, The Manchurian Candidate) and Lieutenant Randall Disher (Jason Gray-Stanford, Mystery, Alaska). In the meantime, he goes to therapy regularly (and frequently) and has a caretaker for his affairs. During Season Three, he has two. First is Sharona Fleming (Bitty Schram, One Fine Day), who eventually moves back to New Jersey and is replaced by Natalie Teeger (Traylor Howard, Son of the Mask) and her daughter Julie.
It seems as if in every interview Shalhoub conducts, he always has to answer this question: "How are you and Monk alike?" That must drive him crazy, but he manages to carry the character on his shoulders quite capably. Monk's mannerisms and routines seem like solid, believable parts of the character, and the moments when he manages to show an emotional side (especially in scenes with Julie) are surprisingly touching for a sitcom. In the supporting cast, Gray-Stanford plays the geeky junior detective well, but it's Levine's performance as Stottlemeyer that seems to be the toughest to pull off. He's got to be given a ton of credit, going from one extreme (as a cross-dressing serial killer in The Silence of the Lambs) to a bit of a straight man in this show. He's got the face of someone you don't want to mess around with, but some of the comedy he does is good too, because it's a little unexpected. The stories themselves are somewhat formulaic; one can only revisit the whodunit genre so many times before it gets a little bit stale. However, the show presents some ongoing character development, and the manner in which Monk manages to solve each case illustrates how creative his problem solving is. The crimes are intricate and absorbing, with an almost Encyclopedia Brown-like fascination to them. Monk's OCD brings him to see beyond the scope of normal deductive logic. If you gave Hercule Poirot a lot of industrial-strength phobias, you may very well have Adrian Monk.
The nice thing about dealing with a television show that does not produce a normal full season's worth of episodes is that the studios don't have to crowd six episodes onto a disc as is the case with other shows. There are four episodes on each of the four discs of the set. As is the case in some episode summaries, the following may be treading in spoiler territory; consider yourself warned. The episodes are:
* "Mr. Monk Takes Manhattan"
Smells like a vacation episode, but it's not. At the end of Season Two, Monk managed to find a lead in the murder of his wife, so he went to New York to research it. While he finds out some vital information, the case unfortunately remains open.
* "Mr. Monk and the Panic Room"
Tony Shalhoub meets Jodie Foster? Not quite. Throw in Carmen Electra (Starsky and Hutch) and a monkey, and you've got 44 minutes of jocularity.
* "Mr. Monk and the Blackout"
Monk feels a minor spark of attraction to a spokeswoman for a power company, but there are three murders that need solving. In a clever nod to the movie that put Levine on the map, the final scene includes some night vision goggles before the case is solved. Also, Brad Hamilton himself (Judge Reinhold, Beverly Hills Cop) shows up in this episode.
* "Mr. Monk Gets Fired"
Due to an error on Monk's part, his role with the department is taken away from him. While Monk tries to figure out what to do with himself, Sharona returns to her job, but murders have been committed and remain unsolved, so some secret detective work is in order to get Monk back on the force.
* "Mr. Monk Meets the Godfather"
After a murder of some mob figures, Monk has to solve the crimes not only for the police, but for a mob boss (Philip Baker Hall, Magnolia) who wants the murders solved for his own reasons.
* "Mr. Monk and the Girl Who Cried Wolf"
Sharona takes a break from dealing with Monk, and the temporary nurse that takes care of Monk is with him to help solve the murder of a writing instructor's husband. The instructor teaches Sharona's class, and Sharona thinks that some of the circumstances mirror a story she wrote. Fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer will note that Emma Caulfield appears as the prime suspect.
* "Mr. Monk and the Employee of the Month"
The employee of a store (that has no relation to Wal-Mart, I promise) is found murdered and one of the employees at the store is a former partner of Monk's. Both Monk and Stottlemeyer attempt to reconcile their feelings about the former cop as they try to solve the case, in an episode directed by Scott Foley (Felicity).
* "Mr. Monk and the Game Show"
With the help of his late wife's father (Bob Gunton, The Shawshank Redemption), Monk appears on a game show to help reveal a crooked TV host's plans.
* "Mr. Monk Takes His Medicine"
Monk starts taking his medication and all of the quirks and twitches he possesses go away. Unfortunately, those quirks are part of his success in closing cases, and he has a decision to make.
* "Mr. Monk and the Red Herring"
Monk solves another murder, sure, but the big event within this episode is Monk meeting his new assistant, Natalie, after finding out that Sharona has moved back to New Jersey to be with her ex-husband.
* "Mr. Monk vs. the Cobra"
Monk has to find out who killed the author of a book profiling a famous martial arts star and finds himself in a precarious position. Will Natalie notify Stottlemeyer in time before Monk's suspect does further harm?
* "Mr. Monk Gets Cabin Fever"
Monk witnesses a man in a Chinese mob being murdered, and has to stay in a FBI safe house as a result. At the safe house, a neighbor is found murdered, so Monk has to deal with the mob AND solve a murder. That's some extreme multitasking.
* "Mr. Monk Gets Stuck in Traffic"
Truth in advertising here, as a body is found in the middle of a highway. The resulting traffic delay inspires Monk to try and find out if it's a murder and who was responsible.
* "Mr. Monk Goes to Vegas"
Well, the title is self-explanatory, as Monk and Natalie go to Vegas, and Stottlemeyer and Disher go too. While Stottlemeyer manages to hit it big gambling, a woman is found murdered, and Monk believes the casino owner (James Brolin, Catch Me If You Can) is behind it.
* "Mr. Monk and the Election"
This one is somewhat silly, as Natalie runs for a school board seat in a local election. While she does this, Monk thinks that she may leave him, but there is someone who wishes to sabotage the election and maybe kill Natalie in the process.
* "Mr. Monk and the Kid"
In what is probably the most tender episode of the season, Monk finds a small boy who is the center of a crime scene. He takes the boy under his wing while attempting to solve the murder, and feelings of fatherhood stir in him.
There's still a little bit of give and take that Monk and Sharona had that Monk and Natalie are trying to work on. Sometimes the show seems to want to show Monk's stereotypical OCD tendencies. But overall, there are no substantial complaints about the show. The episodes that focused on Monk's character were the nicest of the show, and more should be done on this topic.
Monk is fast becoming a show that quality actors appear on for roles that are either changes in pace or for pure enjoyment. It provides some laugh out loud moments, and there are even moments of tenderness and poignancy from time to time also. If there was a show that screamed to be on network TV right now, this would be it.
The court finds Adrian Monk not guilty and hopes for continued prosperity of his TV show. Now if you'll excuse me, I've got some cleaning to do.
Review content copyright © 2005 Ryan Keefer; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 705 Minutes
Release Year: 2004
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Cast and Crew Reveal Their Favorite Scenes
* Character Backstories
* Profiles of Adrian Monk and Natalie Teeger
* Details of Monk's Phobias
* Official Site