Monk, the television show about obsessive-compulsive detective Adrian Monk, ran from 2002 - 2009.  We encountered it in 2007, thanks to Netflix and the suggestion of a friend, and completed the eighth and last season this month.  Part mystery, part comedy, and part fantasy, Monk ranks as the only television show for which we have seen every episode.


The Pros

I love recognizing our own quirks and foibles in the character of Monk.

Mystery has always been one of my favorite genres, and I'm not too fussy about realism and consistency, especially when the intent is also comic.

Although Monk is about crime, loss, and disability, it is not dark, but hopeful.

The characters are likeable.  In most movies and TV shows the characters are unlike anyone I know, and unlike anyone I would like to know.  I'd be happy to have the Monk characters in our neighborhood—except for the disturbing tendency of those around them to murder or be murdered.

The writing is of variable quality, but we found only a handful of episodes unsatisfactory.  Overall it's fair, imaginative, and well done.

Monk knew when to quit.  As they say, it's better to leave while people are still sad to see you go than after they've tired of you.  Unlike many shows—I remember specifically The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and Star Trek (the original series) from my youth—Monk managed to draw the curtain before it became obvious that the writers had run out of ideas and the actors were sick of each other.

The series ended well, unlike the final episode of M.A.S.H., which still haunts me.

With respect to sex/violence/language issues, the show was purposely kept "at a 1970's level."  I find understatement and implication to be far more powerful than explicitness, and in any case there's far too much of the latter in real life.  If I wanted to hear the kind of talk prevalent on most current shows, I'd go back to volunteering in our local high school.

The Cons

The 1970's is not far enough back for sex/violence/language levels, as far as I'm concerned.  Sometimes it seems amazing to think that my own family lived and grew and managed to be quite articulate without ever using profanity in any form.  In most cases, I found the occasional, mild expostulations in Monk appropriate in context—the genre itself not being something the grandkids would watch, anyway—but I do find offensive the repeated use of "oh my god," with no more meaning than "like" or "um."

The show is formulaic; I'll admit it.  But I like the formula—and it's hard to avoid in the mystery genre if you're going to write more than one or two books, so it doesn't bother me. 

Is Monk important to watch?  No.  But for what it is, it is good.  And, come to think of it, if it's not important to watch shows like Monk, it's at least important to support them.  Dark, depressing, explicit, and frightening movies and television shows are forming the imaginative structure of the minds of a large number of people; a contemporary vision of hope and humor through difficulty may, indeed, be important for them to experience.

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, May 15, 2010 at 11:27 am | Edit
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