USA Network show moves into its last season with the quirky, germaphobe detective

[6 August 2009]

By Rick Bentley

McClatchy Newspapers (MCT)

PASADENA, Calif. — The final episodes for one of television’s most quirky detectives, “Monk,” start airing this week.

Emmy-winning actor Tony Shalhoub, who plays the character Adrian Monk, says “this is the right time” for his USA Network show to end. The first of the final 16 episodes airs Friday.

“It’s a natural evolution of things,” says Shalhoub during an interview. He and co-star Traylor Howard slipped away from filming to meet with journalists. “We will have done 124 episodes by the end of this season. We have explored a lot of different areas and gone down some really strange and funny paths.”

The end means the departure of one of the quirkiest and most memorable detectives in TV history. Adrian Monk has managed to solve countless crimes on the streets of San Francisco while dealing with laundry list of phobias. That gave the show a perfect balance of drama and comedy.

Shalhoub says the show is not ending because of a lack of good material; he thinks these final episodes are some of the strongest to date. Friday’s show has Monk acting as a bodyguard for an actress whose life is in danger after writing a tell-all book.

“Monk” will end while being one of the highest-rated original scripted series in basic cable history. Despite the strong ratings and scripts, Shalhoub believes all things must come to an end.

Fans won’t be left hanging about the murder of Monk’s wife, Trudy. The writers have assured Shalhoub that the mystery will be resolved. Both actors would give away no other details of the final shows.

But the USA Network has revealed the guest stars for season eight will include Elizabeth Perkins, Rena Sofer, Dylan Baker, Meat Loaf, Bernie Kopell, Jay Mohr, Daniel Stern, Alex Wolff, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Eric Balfour, Kelly Carlson and Reed Diamond.

Although Monk has been the star, he says the series has worked for all these years because of the two actresses who worked beside him through all of the mysteries and quirks.

Sharona Fleming (Bitty Schram) played Monk’s nurse for three years before Howard took on the role of Monk’s assistant Natalie Teeger in 2005. Joining the already-established show meant Howard had to quickly try to find the right acting rhythms to fit in. She credits Shalhoub’s sense of humor for making her feel comfortable in the role.

Shalhoub offers plenty of praise for Howard.

“Her instincts are so good,” he says. “She has such a lack of vanity as a person and actress. She has an instinctual sense when to come forward and make a stand or when to lay back. She does it is a seamless way.”

Shalhoub and Howard agree they’re leaving a dream project. They say the flexibility of the writers with the tone of “Monk” resulted in deeply emotional serious moments and wildly insane comic scenes — all while still solving a clever mystery.

Fans who have followed the exploits of Monk all these years have watched his trademark way of looking at a crime scene. The detective has always extended his spread hands — palms forward — out in front of his face. He then looks at the world through the space between his digits.

There’s method to what appears to be just a touch of madness. Even Howard did not know that Monk’s signature moves with his hands were the result of long thought by Shalhoub about the character. He has never revealed that information until now.

“I came up with that,” Shalhoub says. “One aspect was because I was trying to figure out how Monk sees the world. Looking through my fingers slices the physical world into smaller pieces that are easier to focus on. I call them Monk’s ‘slivers.’ The fingers moving is also Monk counting the sequence of events. How things must have — or could have — occurred in this room. It became his way of sequentially understanding a crime scene.”

After the serious explanation, Shalhoub smiles and adds,” And, it is also schtick. What do you do with your hands?”



9 p.m. EDT Friday

USA Network

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