Reviews

Monk: Season Six

Andrew Winistorfer

If season seven doesn’t prove more interesting, I’m ready to wash my hands (repeatedly) of Monk.


Monk

Distributor: Universal
Cast: Tony Shalhoub, Ted Levine, Jason Gray-Stanford, Traylor Howard, Stanley Kamel
Network: ABC
First date: 2002
US Release Date: 2008-07-08
Amazon

At this point, people who have no interest in ever watching Tony Shalhoub’s obsessive-compulsive detective Adrian Monk, know exactly what the show is about: Monk is afraid of germs (and nearly everything else) and also happens to be a brilliant detective. Thanks to tons of ads showing Shalhoub straightening out lamps and the like, and a smattering of Emmy’s (he’s won three officially, but judging by how many times I’ve heard “Emmy Award Winner, Tony Shalhoub” I’d assume that figure was 437), the character of Monk (and his idiosyncrasies) are probably more well-known than the show where the character exists.

Which is exactly why, in its sixth season, Monk seems tired and stagnant. Much of the sixth season, 16 episodes collected in this DVD set (augmented with a handful of mostly self-congratulatory commentaries), is devoted to Monk’s quirks and the reaction of people around him to said quirks. Luckily, the one formula the producers changed is rotating in a guest-star for nearly every episode in order to keep things (relatively) exciting.

As always, the episodes here revolve around Monk and his near-super ability to solve complex crimes with minute amounts of evidence. He's almost like adult Encyclopedia Brown, but instead of solving who stole the football player’s letter jacket, Monk is figuring out who used a set of dog’s teeth and a brick to kill a woman. Monk’s foibles are often prominent -- in one episode he has to figure out who killed a woman on a nude beach, and apparently harbors a prejudice towards nudists.

Monk: Season Six finds the introduction of nearly a guest star an episode (ranging from the cool: Snoop Dogg, Sarah Silverman and Alfred Molina to the annoying: David Koechner, Diedrich Bader and Howie Mandel) and increasingly ridiculous plotlines. Snoop pops up in an episode that takes its inspiration from the Tupac and Biggie murders (about eight years too late to be relevant), Monk has to invade a San Francisco cult lead by Mandel, Monk has a fight with his long time friend, Leland Stottlemeyer (played by “Put the lotion in the basket” Ted Levine) over Stottlemeyer’s girlfriend probably being a murderer, Monk’s arch nemesis may be a real-life superhero, and Monk tries to find a killer who is targeting women named Julie Teeger, which happens to be the name of his assistant's daughter (played by Traylor Howard).

It’s not like Monk has always been a highly plausible show (would the police department for a large American city really allow a guy who has to touch car antennas obsessively still attend murder investigations?), but the storylines here remove Monk further and further from a reality it needs to be grounded in to make the show seem somewhat likely.

But in the end, the only thing that grounds these episodes is in the 867th telling of Monk’s various oddities (hey, did you remember he was afraid of drinking milk? Here’s another reminder). This repeated focus on Monk is stretched pretty thin during the sixth season, but it’s mostly because the writers have written themselves into a corner.

They refuse to develop Monk’s character outside of being obsessive-compulsive, they already dried up the “Monk can’t find good help” storyline (in season three), and he refuses to move on emotionally from his wife Trudy’s death. The investigation of her death is a frequently recurring topic in Monk, and is trotted out whenever things get slow, in this season’s case, a two-part season finale that has more bang than any of the previous 14 episodes.

In the finale, Monk is framed for a murder and goes on the run. Although there are some close calls that nearly reveal who killed Monk’s wife (including the return of Monk’s on-again, off-again enemy “Dale the Whale”, previously played by Tim Curry, but Ray Porter, who plays the dad in Suite Life of Zack and Cody, plays him here), but nothing is really exposed. A romance (maybe involving his assistant, as is briefly flirted with in this season when Natalie hits on Monk a handful of times), a curing process for Monk’s problems, or finally killing off the “Who killed Trudy” storyline would be a welcome twist as the show passes the 100 episode mark.

There’s no denying that Monk is a “different” TV show, one that turns a typical format (the cop procedural) on its ear. But what once served to make Monk different from other shows, now makes it too similar to its own past. If season seven (now airing on USA on Fridays) doesn’t prove more interesting, I’m ready to wash my hands (repeatedly) of Monk.

5


Music


Books


Film


Television


Recent
Film

Buridan's Ass and the Problem of Free Will in John Sturges' 'The Great Escape'

Escape in John Sturge's The Great Escape is a tactical mission, a way to remain in the war despite having been taken out of it. Free Will is complicated.

Books

The Redemption of Elton John's 'Blue Moves'

Once reviled as bloated and pretentious, Elton John's 1976 album Blue Moves, is one of his masterpieces, argues author Matthew Restall in the latest installment of the 33 1/3 series.

Music

Whitney Take a Master Class on 'Candid'

Although covers albums are usually signs of trouble, Whitney's Candid is a surprisingly inspired release, with a song selection that's eclectic and often obscure.

Music

King Buzzo Continues His Reign with 'Gift of Sacrifice'

King Buzzo's collaboration with Mr. Bungle/Fantômas bassist Trevor Dunn expands the sound of Buzz Osborne's solo oeuvre on Gift of Sacrifice.

Music

Jim O'Rourke's Experimental 'Shutting Down Here' Is Big on Technique

Jim O'Rourke's Shutting Down Here is a fine piece of experimental music with a sure hand leading the way. But it's not pushing this music forward with the same propensity as Luc Ferrari or Derek Bailey.

Music

Laraaji Returns to His First Instrument for 'Sun Piano'

The ability to help the listener achieve a certain elevation is something Laraaji can do, at least to some degree, no matter the instrument.

Music

Kristin Hersh Discusses Her Gutsy New Throwing Muses Album

Kristin Hersh thinks influences are a crutch, and chops are a barrier between artists and their truest expressions. We talk about life, music, the pandemic, dissociation, and the energy that courses not from her but through her when she's at her best.

Music

The 10 Best Fleetwood Mac Solo Albums

Fleetwood Mac are the rare group that feature both a fine discography and a successful series of solo LPs from their many members. Here are ten examples of the latter.

Music

Jamila Woods' "SULA (Paperback)" and Creative Ancestry and Self-Love in the Age of "List" Activism

In Jamila Woods' latest single "SULA (Paperback)", Toni Morrison and her 1973 novel of the same name are not static literary phenomena. They are an artist and artwork as galvanizing and alive as Woods herself.

Film

The Erotic Disruption of the Self in Paul Schrader's 'The Comfort of Strangers'

Paul Schrader's The Comfort of Strangers presents the discomfiting encounter with another —someone like you—and yet entirely unlike you, mysterious to you, unknown and unknowable.

Music

'Can You Spell Urusei Yatsura' Is a Much Needed Burst of Hopefulness in a Desultory Summer

A new compilation online pulls together a generous helping of B-side action from a band deserving of remembrance, Scotland's Urusei Yatsura.

Music

Jess Cornelius Creates Tautly Constructed Snapshots of Life

Former Teeth & Tongue singer-songwriter Jess Cornelius' Distance is an enrapturing collection of punchy garage-rock, delicate folk, and arty synthpop anthems which examine liminal spaces between us.

Books

Sikoryak's 'Constitution Illustrated' Pays Homage to Comics and the Constitution

R. Sikoryak's satirical pairings of comics characters with famous and infamous American historical figures breathes new and sometimes uncomfortable life into the United States' most living document.

Music

South African Folk Master Vusi Mahlasela Honors Home on 'Shebeen Queen'

South African folk master Vusi Mahlasela pays tribute to his home and family with township music on live album, Shebeen Queen.

Music

Planningtorock Is Queering Sound, Challenging Binaries, and Making Infectious Dance Music

Planningtorock emphasizes "queering sound and vision". The music industry has its hierarchies of style, of equipment, of identities. For Jam Rostron, queering music means taking those conventions and deliberately manipulating and subverting them.

Music

'History Gets Ahead of the Story' for Jazz's Cosgrove, Medeski, and Lederer

Jazz drummer Jeff Cosgrove leads brilliant organ player John Medeski and multi-reed master Jeff Lederer through a revelatory recording of songs by William Parker and some just-as-good originals.

Books

A Fresh Look at Free Will and Determinism in Terry Gilliam's '12 Monkeys'

Susanne Kord gets to the heart of the philosophical issues in Terry Gilliam's 1995 time-travel dystopia, 12 Monkeys.

Music

The Devonns' Debut Is a Love Letter to Chicago Soul

Chicago's the Devonns pay tribute the soul heritage of their city with enough personality to not sound just like a replica.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.