To celebrate Monk—Season Three on DVD, Judge Ryan Keefer re-alphabetized his DVD collection and made sure all of the discs inside faced the same way, with no exceptions.
Our reviews of Monk: Season Two (published August 24th, 2005), Monk: Season Five (published August 22nd, 2007), Monk: Season Six (published July 16th, 2008), Monk: Season Seven (published July 27th, 2009), and Monk: Season Eight (published March 16th, 2010) are also available.
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?
Facts of the Case
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"
• "Mr. Monk and the Panic Room"
• "Mr. Monk and the Blackout"
• "Mr. Monk Gets Fired"
• "Mr. Monk Meets the Godfather"
• "Mr. Monk and the Girl Who Cried Wolf"
• "Mr. Monk and the Employee of the Month"
• "Mr. Monk and the Game Show"
• "Mr. Monk Takes His Medicine"
• "Mr. Monk and the Red Herring"
• "Mr. Monk vs. the Cobra"
• "Mr. Monk Gets Cabin Fever"
• "Mr. Monk Gets Stuck in Traffic"
• "Mr. Monk Goes to Vegas"
• "Mr. Monk and the Election"
• "Mr. Monk and the Kid"
The Rebuttal Witnesses
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.
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