The Steady Decline of Adrian Monk

Tue Apr 05, 2011 8:59 pm
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Comments: 6 Views: 5561
So Tony Shalhoub got another Emmy for his performance of Adrian Monk, the obsessive-compulsive private detective. In the Sunday’s Times there was a very positive article about Tony Shalhoub and Monk titled: “Happy to Be Neurotic, at Least Once a Week”. In it Mr Shalhoub comments: “... the show has “fermented” like a fine wine, a strong cheese — or a marriage.” It seems like everybody still likes Monk.

Except me. Actually, the show “Monk” has gone from being one of my favorite comfort shows to becoming almost un-watchable. I don’t even remember last time I watched one of the newer episodes without crinching or loosing attention half way through. And I really want to like Monk, I want to give him the benefit of the doubt. I think the premise of the show is great and I think they have made many good episodes. Just not lately. Or... not within the last three years.

Everything started great. It felt fresh, new, innovative. Monk was delightfully neurotic and Sharona, his assistant (Bitty Schram) was wonderfully hands-on, sarcastic and streetwise... She was always so funny in her thick Jersey accent and never really took Monk seriously. She dated the wrong guys, was easily impressed and and complimented him so well. Her little clashes with lieutenant Disher were a nice addition and helped define both their characters. Many of the episodes were about Trudy, Monk's dead wife which somehow gave the show an underlying thread which they leaned on many times.

I once heard the creator of the show talk about the name “Adrian Monk”. He chose that name because it had the same ring as “Sherlock Holmes” and he always liked the sound of that. I think the name is great too. There are so many things I like about the show. I like the theme song “It's a jungle out there”, it fits perfectly. I like the feel and the look of San Francisco. I like Monk's apartment. I like Captain Leland Stottlemeyer. I just wished they hadn't gone on and on.

Everything changed when Sharona left half way through the third season, apparently over a contract dispute. One episode she was there, the next she was gone. To replace her they brought in Natalie Teeger (Traylor Howard), a whiny, complaining, got-a-lot-to-proof assistant. Contrary to Sharona, she actually takes Monk's whims and phobias seriously. She's got a high pitch voice and she's anything but calm and put together. More importantly though, she's got no character. Sharona had lots of character – she had balls and an attitude, and she was gullible and funny.

While they tried to impose some of those same qualities on Natalie, by making her a single-fighting-mother, with an unlikely wild past resulting in too many odd jobs on her CV, they just didn't succeed.

Monk of course continued on and Tony Shalhoub does a wonderful job portraying him. His acting his very well put together. But after a while his charm and quirks just kind of drag on and they really cease to be funny. After a while, they become more bothersome and interfering. And they had to drop the focus on Trudy sooner or later. You can only make so many episodes about her, and after the first three seasons, her name slowly dropped off and was only mention occasionally.

I understand that it isn't easy to come up with new episodes after so long, and the writers must have a really tough time. Maybe that's when you should stop: when you're trying to squeeze every last drop out of a joke or a character and you have no more relevant, convincing stories left. Maybe that's a good time. But apparently I'm the only one who thinks so, since Mr. Shalhoub just got another vote of confidence, given his fourth Emmy.
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Comments
Mon Apr 07, 2008 2:48 pm
Name: Tina, madtija@gmail.com | Comment: I do agree that it has gotten worse and worse. The first season was extremely good, and I fell in love with the show immidiately. That would not have been the case if I started watching it in the fourth or fifth season. Man, I miss Sharona...

Thu May 08, 2008 7:50 am
Name: SP | Comment: I agree completely. Occasionally, there's still a very clever episode, but there are also some truly pointless ones.

Mon Oct 20, 2008 4:31 pm
Name: Dona | Comment: Hmm, I only started watching the show last year, but have seen all the episodes. I think it is as fresh now as it was in the beginning.

Tue Nov 23, 2010 5:51 pm
Name: K.J | Comment: I agree with Dona. And if you approach the character Natalie as a person trying to match up to Sharona's standards, you definitely won't like her. Natalie was not medically trained to deal with Monk's OCDs and therefore does it the only way she knows how to: baby him. And she does seem to look up to Monk, like a little sister, so I suppose that gives Monk a change from always being treated like an idiot (except when it comes to murder). :)
I'm not saying that Natalie is better than Sharona though. They're rather incomparable anyway. I'm just saying that Natalie has her perks to the show and completely belittling her in favour of Sharona is, well, not being very fair. :P
Also, it'll just feel surreal and TV-like if Monk gradually forgets about Trudy. I mean, he's human, and Trudy was (the love of) his life. Monk can't just do things because fans fancy it that way....

Thu Feb 24, 2011 2:59 pm
Name: shelbie | Comment: I LOVED the whole show it was amazing. I even like Natiley better than Sherona! It was great I loved the last episode!

Tue Apr 05, 2011 8:59 pm
Name: Nijis | Comment: I think Sherona was WAYYYYYYY better than Natilie. I agree that Natalie is "a whiny, complaining, got-a-lot-to-proof assistant". I wish that Bitty Schram would of stayed on. It was nice see her again in the eighth season, though.

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