Judge Erich Asperschlager will return in, "Mr. Asperschlager and the Case of the Missing Blurb."
Our reviews of Monk: Season Two (published August 24th, 2005), Monk: Season Three (published August 24th, 2005), Monk: Season Five (published August 22nd, 2007), Monk: Season Seven (published July 27th, 2009), and Monk: Season Eight (published March 16th, 2010) are also available.
It's a jungle out there.
Detective Adrian Monk and his 312 phobias are back for a spic-and-span sixth season filled with action, adventure, and an impressive collection of guest stars.
Facts of the Case
Monk: Season Six has sixteen episodes, spread across four discs:
• "Mr. Monk and the Rapper"
• "Mr. Monk and the Naked Man"
• "Mr. Monk and the Bad Girlfriend"
• "Mr. Monk and the Buried Treasure"
• "Mr. Monk and the Daredevil"
• "Mr. Monk and the Wrong Man"
• "Mr. Monk and the Man Who Shot Santa Claus"
• "Mr. Monk Joins a Cult"
• "Mr. Monk Goes to the Bank"
• "Mr. Monk Paints His Masterpiece"
• "Mr. Monk Is On the Run: Part 1"
• "Mr. Monk Is On the Run: Part 2"
Perhaps addressing complaints that the fifth season delved too deep into the compulsions of a certain "special" detective, Monk: Season Six gets back to a mix of head-scratching mysteries and character-based humor.
This year, the cases are more bizarre than ever. Monk becomes the most reviled man in San Francisco after shooting Santa Claus. He infiltrates a cult to solve a murder only to discover things are better in their compound than in the outside world. During a three-day bout with insomnia, Monk witnesses a murder that doesn't appear to have actually happened. After six years, it has to be hard to keep Monk's mysteries-of-the-week fresh, but the writers deserve credit for crafting some of the series' most memorable cases. Of course, being creative has its risks. More than a few mysteries push the boundaries of credibility and coincidence. My advice: suspend your disbelief accordingly and enjoy the ride.
This set is easy to recommend on sheer variety, with compelling characters old and new forcing Monk out of his comfort zone in hilarious ways. Besides third-tier regulars like Monk's psychiatric arch-nemesis Howard Krenshaw and comedian Sarah Silverman's return as Adrian-ophile Marci Maven, the sixth season is full of famous faces. The Snoop Dogg episode "Mr. Monk and the Rapper" ranks among the series' most memorable episodes (in part for Dogg's hip-hop re-imagining of the show's theme song). "Mr. Monk and the Naked Man" features Alfred Molina (as a high-strung tech mogul), Angela Kinsey (from NBC hit The Office), and Diedrich Bader (Oswald from The Drew Carey Show). And although I'm pretty sure Howie Mandel's appearance in "Mr. Monk Joins a Cult" is the result of NBC owning both Monk and Deal or No Deal, it's a blast seeing the real-life obsessive-compulsive playing opposite his fictionalized counterpart.
But this season isn't just about the guest stars. All of the major characters get the chance to shine. Natalie (Traylor Howard, Son of the Mask) spends most of the season worrying about her daughter Julie (Emmy Clarke, My House in Umbria), and with good reason: not only might she be the next victim in a murder spree, she's started dating. Captain Stottlemeyer's (Ted Levine, The Silence of the Lambs) happy year start turns sour in a hurry when Monk accuses his girlfriend of murder. Randy Disher (Jason Gray-Stanford, Flags of Our Fathers)—sadly relegated to comic relief—shows off his musical "talent" this year, from dropping rap skills on an incredulous Snoop Dogg, to composing a fourteen-verse opus in honor of a fallen friend.
As always, though, the strength of Monk is Tony Shalhoub's career-defining performance as the title detective. This year, Shalhoub (Cars) gets plenty to do, flexing his acting abilities in more ways than just looking over a crime scene or snapping his fingers for a sanitary wipe. The sixth season examines the way Monk deals with other people. For a character who's spent much of his life in self-imposed isolation, having him interact with strangers and acquaintances allows the writers to explore different sides than we've seen before. In "Mr. Monk and the Naked Man," for instance, we see Monk react to something he doesn't like with hostility, instead of fear, for the first time—and his irrational desire to see nudist Chance Singer punished for a crime he may not have committed results in his being taken off the case. Monk also shows his less serious side, as evidenced in both "Mr. Monk and the Rapper" and "Mr. Monk Paints His Masterpiece."
The best of the "new" Monk, however, is his action-adventure persona in the two-part season finale. Pushed to the limit by an encounter with the man hired to murder his wife, he ends up as a fugitive, doing things you'd never see him do in a normal episode—like jumping out of a moving vehicle, or falling into the ocean. As fun as the action is, though, some of the best moments come out of the combination of Monk with cliches from The Fugitive-style movies and TV shows. During the manhunt, for example, the police dogs brought in to track Monk through the forest tire themselves out, sniffing him on every tree he felt compelled to touch. As a mini-movie, "Mr. Monk Is On the Run" is the jewel of this set, and the perfect way to cap off what is arguably one of the show's strongest seasons.
Past Monk DVD sets have been light on extras. Season Six amps things up a bit, though not quite as much as the listed bonus features make it sound. Monk: Season Five was the first set to have any kind of commentary (for the black-and-white episode "Mr. Monk and the Leper"). Season Six takes a Monk-like step beyond its predecessor, adding a series of "video commentaries" for seven of the episodes to a lone audio commentary (for the memorable mid-season episode "Mr. Monk Stays Up All Night"). The three minute videos are interviews with writers for the episodes "Mr. Monk and His Biggest Fan," "Mr. Monk and the Naked Man," "Mr. Monk and the Bad Girlfriend," "Mr. Monk and the Birds and the Bees," "Mr. Monk and the Buried Treasure," "Mr. Monk and the Wrong Man," and "Mr. Monk Stays Up All Night." Though the lack of full episode commentaries seems like a cop-out, the video interviews offer up concise memories and behind-the-scenes anecdotes that have just as much meat as your average audio commentary. Considering how short they run, however, there's no excuse not to have them for all sixteen episodes—especially the season finale. Here's hoping they fix that in season seven.
Like the past five sets, all sixteen episodes are presented in anamorphic widescreen and look just as good as they did on TV. The 2.0 stereo mix doesn't give your speakers a whole lot to do, but it's a fine way to enjoy the show's brilliant Randy Newman-penned theme song.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Though the Season Six writers did an admirable job of concocting some of the wackiest mysteries yet, the solutions are often pretty obvious, if you're a long-time viewer of the show. Once you've decoded the basic Monk formula, it's not hard to see where an episode is headed. Solving the mysteries from your couch might be part of the show's appeal, but that doesn't mean it should be so easy.
The other downside to this season's convoluted mysteries is that their resolution often relies on happenstance. A random noise at the doctor's office, for instance, unravels one case. An unrelated tee-shirt solves another. I understand the writers have less than forty-five minutes to tell a story, but sometimes Monk can feels like Encyclopedia Brown in its too-convenient solutions.
Monk: Season Six isn't perfect (don't tell Monk), but the sheer variety of mysteries, stories, and guest stars make it one of the show's best seasons yet. It's full of character-driven humor, adventure, and fun—and it comes just in time to prepare fans for the start of season seven. If you own the first five seasons on DVD, get out there and buy this one, too. I mean, you wouldn't want to leave an empty space on your shelf now, would you?
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Scales of Justice
• Episode Commentaries With Cast and Crew
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