So as I stand at the precipice of major life decisions, changes in age, and lower back pain, it's time to reflect on something that I assume to be (and yeah I could be wrong) of great interest to all of you: my stubborn belief that the TV show Monk is the most important work of art in the 21st century.
I've said this before. To some of you, I've said it too many times. Still, I imagine that those who know of my Monk obsession and those who just learned of it today have some questions for me. Questions I will now answer:
Isn't Monk an overly wholesome crime drama, with comedic elements and laughable mysteries?
No. Monk is a seemingly wholesome crime comedy, with dramatic/tragic elements and cleverly constructed and essentially disposable mysteries.
Hey Ali, isn't the character of Monk - a man who copes despite suffering personal and professional loss, displaying odd obsessive behavior - a doppelganger for your own actual and feared losses and iconoclastic quirkiness?
Yes. Of course he is.
What about the character of Sharona being replaced by Natalie in Season 3? Didn't that hurt the show?
Hell no. Natalie is a brilliant character - an "assistant" who ostensibly treats Monk with deference and respect but really kicks him in the ass when necessary whereas Sharona reminded me of my sister.
What makes the character of Adrian Monk different from, say, any other private detective or mystery-solving cop on TV?
First of all, Monk is an astutely drawn counterpart to the sex-obsessed womanizing crime solvers in essentially every other crime film or TV show. His loyalty to hid dead wife is admirable but borders on the absurd. His few failed attempts at hooking up with other women reinforce this seemingly sexless hero. But look closer - his (admittedly over-the-top) love for and connection to his car-bombed late wife is presented in such a stubbornly true and decisive manner that you know he had every kind of possible connection with her, sexual and otherwise. In other words, it's what you don't see that defines the guy.
What's your favorite Monk episode?
The one where he can't sleep and walks around late at night in the streets of San Francisco, which, believe it or not, are actually the streets of Santa Clarita. The Andy Richter episode and the Sarah Silverman ones are great too.
The one with Howie Mandel.
What draws you to the show?
All of the above stuff. Good writing. Amazing acting.
Yeah you know how the drama of The Sopranos was derailed by the excruciating overrated therapy scenes between Tony and Dr. Melfi (both characters are great by the way... just not together)? Well, Monk's scenes with his psychiatrist (mostly the recently deceased Dr. Kroger but also with the new guy) are some of the most compelling scenes of the series. Here, his neuroses are presented in an environment that is completely natural. What seems freakish to the outside world becomes fascinating and funny. What else? Oh yeah - Natalie is hot. And the other guys - Disher and Stottelmeyer - serve their purposes perfectly. And Harold Krenshaw is priceless.
How about ranking the seasons?
Sure. 3. 2. 4. 7. 6 1. 5.
But is it really the best?
I look at it this way. I watch it all the time. I watch the same episodes over and over again, similar to how I viewed Seinfeld in the '90s. Sometimes the show merely interests me. Other times, it transfixes. But I keep coming back to it. Over and over again.