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Tuesday, February 19, 2013
 
Monk

I've been watching the DVDs of this series (the only way to watch television) the last couple of weeks, and find them terrific. The show features Tony Shahloub as Adrian Monk, a brilliant detective and mental basket case. Monk is a caricature of an obsessive-compulsive type.

The stories generally take the form of a howdunnit rather than a whodunnit. Monk frequently identifies the murderer rather early in the show ("He's the guy!") and the remainder of the show is him trying to figure out how the killer's apparently airtight alibi is actually phony.

 Shahloub's acting is sheer genius; he is a master of the physical comedy that his character requires. And the rest of the cast plays off each other well. Ted Levine is Captain Stottlemeyer, a chief of detectives who hires Monk on a consulting basis. He has an exasperated air with Monk's obsessions and the goofy suppositions of his Lieutenant, Randy Disher. Disher, played by Jason Grey-Stanford in turn tries to hit on Monk's assistant (and former nurse) Sharona Fleming (Bitty Schram). I have just now gotten to the part of the series (third season) where Sharona leaves for good and is replaced by Natalie Teeger (Traylor Howard), so it's hard to say yet whether that chemistry will last.

About the only negative I can find in the series is that it doesn't have a very good sense of place. The show is set in San Francisco, but aside from a few establishing shots of the Transamerica Pyramid and the occasional cable car, you don't get the feeling that much of the show really happens in the City by the Bay. There's no fog, no cold, no wind. In an early episode, it is remarked that the weather that day was 95 degrees, which would be an exceedingly rare event in San Francisco. I lived there for three years and never once needed air conditioning.

And, notable in probably the gayest town in America, there are almost no apparent homosexual characters, either recurring or single episode. In one show only, a character is referred to as "playing for the other team," which causes Monk some confusion until Sharona explains that, "He's... you know."
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