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"Monk" Begins Final Season with a "Brady" Punch
August 6, 2009  | By David Bianculli
monk-shy.jpgWhen USA Network premiered Monk in 2002, the program was so unexpectedly delightful, many critics asked what it was doing on basic cable when it was good enough to be on broadcast network TV. Seven years later, as Monkbegins its final season, no one asks that question any longer...

From 2002 on, basic cable has given us The Shield, Rescue Me, Nip/Tuck and others on FX; The Closer, Saving Grace and Leverage on TNT; Psych, Burn Notice and others on USA, which branded its roster of original shows with the slogan "Characters Welcome." Tony Shalhoub's portrayal of Adrian Monk, the detective with a tragic past and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, was the network's original Character.

In 2009, as Monk prepares to take his tics and walk into the TV sunset, he still is.

Friday's final season premiere (9p ET, USA) has Adrian obsessing over his favorite childhood show: "The Cooper Clan," an obvious playful variant on The Brady Bunch. One of the series' former child stars, Christine Rapp (played by Elizabeth Perkins from Weeds), has written a tell-all book -- but the morning Monk is first in line for her local book-signing event, she's targeted for murder.


Christine's assistant, played by Rena Sofer, offers the starstruck Monk a job as the star's bodyguard.

"$1,000 a week?" Monk says, repeating and accepting the offer, but with a caveat: "I can't pay it all at once." When he's told they'll pay HIM, it's an even better deal.

The mystery is easy to crack, but the fun, as with the classic Columbo mystery series, is in watching the socially awkward detective rub up against the rich and arrogant, knowing all the while the persistent investigator will win in the end. At first, Monk is enthralled with the now very mature Christine, even though he turns down her offer to watch her change for a photo shoot.

"Shy," she tells her assistant, as Monk demurs with a smile. "I like that in a man."

After she leaves, the assistant mutters to Monk, "She likes ANYTHING in a man."

And once Monk reads the child actress' memoirs, he learns, to his horror, how true that is, as the book provides a list of sexual conquests. Bob Denver, with an asterisk. Cheech. Chong. Cheech AND Chong...


After that, he treats her with more disdain than admiration -- but that, too, is funny. So is a Monk fantasy "flashback," in which he envisions himself as an audience-fave member of The Cooper Clan. It's a hoot -- as is Monk, each week, as it plays out a very successful and impressive run on USA.

And there's that bouncy Randy Newman theme song as a bonus...




Chris Hutton said:

The Randy Newman song is TERRIBLE! The show's original theme was so much better. (This is coming from a person with two degrees in music!) [Dear Chris -- I was aghast when the show switched themes, too, even though I'm a big Randy Newman fan. Eventually, though, Newman wore me down. I even like the theme to "Cop Rock." What can I say? - David B.]

Comment posted on August 6, 2009 3:02 PM

Sarah said:

Monk was a nice little show and I am sad that it is ending but seven years is a nice long time. This sounds like its going to be just as fun and sweet as each past season and I am looking forward to it. Also as much as I love Monk I always thought Randy was one of TVs underapperciated characters. Sure he is a little strange and not the type of character people like but he always made me laugh and that really is the important thing when it come to TV greatness.

Just one thing I am wishing-that we find out who killed Trudy in the end. [Me, too -- David B.]

Comment posted on August 6, 2009 3:38 PM

Curtis said:

Technical question - Am I mistaken or did Monk actually premiere on NBC? The reason I think this is because I haven't had cable for more than ten years and I distinctly remember watching Monk on broadcast and then being disappointed when it moved to cable.

[Your confusion is understandable. Monk was a TV series produced by Universal TV in association with Mandeville Films and Touchstone Television. The Touchstone connection gave ABC right of first refusal on off-cable repeats, and when Monk was an instant hit on USA Network, ABC presented first-season reruns.
USA claims this was the first time a cable-produced series was picked up for subsequent broadcast by an over-the-air network, but that's not true. Fox was happy, for example, to repeat Showtime's It's Garry Shandling's Show long before.
But yes, you DID see Monk on broadcast TV -- but on ABC, not NBC, and only after it had established itself on cable. Sort of like CBS did last year by presenting the first season of Showtime's Dexter. -- David B.]

Comment posted on August 7, 2009 9:19 AM
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