Monk: Season 2

Monk: Season 2

Monk: Season 2 is extremely well written. It blends comedy and mystery more successfully than I have ever seen.

Monk: Season 2

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In fiction, including books, television and film, a perfect character is boring. There is little to do to help the audience identify with him.

USA Network has come up with the exact opposite of perfection in the form of Adrian (Tony Shalhoub) loving known by his legion of fans as the defective detective. Adrian is on disability from the San Francisco police department after the murder of his beloved wife caused his obsessive compulsion disorder to spin completely out of control. His legion of phobias and obsessive quirks resulted in his needing a full time nurse, Sharona Fleming (Bitty Schram). There is another thing about Monk, he is an absolute genius, no fact read goes unremembered, able to connect the most apparently disjointed facts and Monk can solve just about any crime. Since his particular skill set is useful he still takes freelance jobs with the police department to the chagrin of Detective Captain Leland Stottlemeyer (Ted Levin). There is a great interaction between these characters unlike anything that has ever appeared on television. Monk will become uneasy looking at a cup with pencils if all the pencils are not exactly the same length. He will panic over not having the right bottled water. Where Columbo lulled his adversaries into complacency with his apparent bumbling, Monk actually is a mess but he gets the job done. His nurse, Sharona has the incredible task of holding Monk together long enough for him to solve the crime. In one episode that takes place in the circus she admits to Monk that she is afraid of elephants. Monk’s reaction is to tell her to ‘suck it up’, such a dismissal of one little phobia from such a head case as Monk results in Sharona’s ire coming to full steam. She even takes up smoking just to annoy Monk.

Season two of this series is the best yet. It took all of season one to really establish the characters and their inter-relationships but with season two the show really took off. There is such humanity in these characters. Monk could have been written just as a comical, one dimensional character but there is his love for his late wife Trudy. He misses her and how she put up with is disorders. Here is a man suffering a real and deep loss. Sharona is a single mother of a pre-teenaged boy. The son looks to Monk not so much as a father figure but the quirky uncle we all have. While Sharona once worked as a nurse she made some bad choices included a hinted at prostitution period in her life. To the credit of the writers this is never a center point in the story. Sharona is perfect for Monk, a big hair Jersey girl with a brass exterior that is as protective over her boss as mother lioness. Stottlemeyer is also fleshed out as a character. His wife is a wannabe director if documentaries and Stottlemeyer is caught between his family problems and trying to help his old friend Monk. These are characters that may be exaggerations but they are true enough to pull the audience in and let us identify with them.

Tony Shalhoub is one of today’s great characters that has stepped into this leading role with ease. Known for his time on the television show Wings and his performances in both Men in Black flicks, Shalhoub is more than up to the task of bringing out the human side of Monk. He displays the inner conflict of Monk to perfection. He knows that he doesn’t fit in, he wants to but he just can’t. The same twist in his mind that makes him straighten out every painting he sees always allows him to see the connections between clues and the minutia found in the crime scene. Shalhoub gives us a character that is flawed by those foibles are what makes him a great detective. Coming from the tri-state area of New York and New Jersey I know people like Sharona. Bitty Schram gives this Jersey girl the strength to put up with him while at the same time there is a deep concern she shows for him. Shalhoub and Schram have incredible chemistry together and it helps to make this series a hit. Well, at least it did back in season two, apparently Schram has been let go for this coming season. Together they are the new Holmes and Watson. While shows like Law & Order: Criminal Investigation takes on a 21st century Holmes, here there are human flaws that abound, with all the media focus on disorders like ADD and ODC, this is a wonderfully rich ground for a mystery show. Ted Levine will with out a doubt be familiar to almost everyone. He was the serial killer Buffalo Bill in Silence of the Lambs and incredibly good as astronaut Alan Shepard in From the Earth to the Moon. He is a versatile and talented actor that shows that comedy is among the many genres of acting he has mastered.

This series is extremely well written. It blends comedy and mystery more successfully than I have ever seen. While the comedy is there the writers never forget the mystery. The clues are shown, with the DVD you can re-watch episodes and see that there was no real surprise reveals that ruin so many television mysteries. While his disorders are played for laughs it respects people with similar afflictions. He goes to therapy; he tries to listen to advice on coping. These writers consistently give the audience something rare on television today, an intelligently presented series that the whole family can watch. Sure HBO has become the leading force in televised drama but shall we say it is less than family friendly. This series is understandable on many levels. The kids will laugh at this silly man while the grown ups will be able to get into the character development and clues to the crimes.

As usual Universal has done an excellent job of presenting this DVD. The video is a clean, defect free anamorphic 1.78:1. There is excellent contrast and the color palette always fresh and natural. The audio is Dolby Surround that considering provides a full and balanced sound field. This series rapidly became a favorite with my family and I’m glad it is given the DVD release it deserves.

Movie Review of Monk: Season 2 by Doug MacLean of

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