Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Good by Mr. Monk

Something over eight years ago Tony Shalhoub came up with an idea for a TV detective. This one would be obsessive-compulsive name Adrian Monk - sort of an anti-Columbo. He would also notice and remember everything. The networks passed but USA picked up the show. The show was a hit, such a hit that NBC showed Monk reruns.

Monk had a fair amount of back-story. He was a cop who had married in college. When his wife was murdered, he had a breakdown and had to leave the force. When the show started he was trying to get his badge back and doing police consulting to make ends meet. He also had a full-time nurse who accompanied him everywhere and handed him hand wipes whenever he touched anything (or anyone).

The early shows featured crimes that only Monk could solve because he noticed and remembered everything.

Somewhere along the way the format changed, possibly when USA adopted their "characters welcome" promotion. Monk episodes were no longer about the crimes. The crimes were just a way of placing Monk in new and (usually) uncomfortable positions. Often the crimes were an afterthought. At the same time Monk seemed to pick up new phobias weekly. The writing became lazy.

When it was announced that Monk was in his final season, a few questions remained - would he solve his wife's murder? Would he get his badge back? Would he become involved with his assistant?

The series finale is a two-part episode. Prior to that they answered the question about the badge - yes he got it back but he decided that he preferred consulting and resigned again. This was very disappointing since it was something he had been working for the entire run of the series. Just a couple of episodes earlier he had been meeting with the review board.

As for his wife's murder, it was pretty obvious from the first part who had her killed and the episode ended with him about to receive the final clue. The big question is if he will survive since he was poisoned in part one.

Even if the way that the series is closed is unsatisfying, at least it came to an orderly close. Many series, Columbo to name one, just trail off.

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