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Reviewed by Ross Ruediger
onk” is one of those shows that just keeps trucking along, season after season, doing variations on the same. Its formula -- a detective/mystery series with an obsessive-compulsive central character -- is so perfect that the biggest mistake it could ever make is to mess around with the way it’s done. The mysteries themselves are rarely all that intriguing. Sometimes we know whodunnit, sometimes we don’t, and sometimes we don’t even care. What keeps the show going is Tony Shalhoub, whose performance as the personally flawed but professionally brilliant Adrian Monk is so endlessly amusing that he’s taken home the Emmy for Best Actor in a Comedy three times out of five nominations.
Indeed, “Monk” is actually a comedy series that just happens to use the detective template as a clever means to showcase the psychological problems of Adrian Monk, such as his obsession with the number 10, his aversion to germs and his fear of milk. It’s rarely deep and almost never complex. It owes a lot to the great (and often not so great) detective shows of the ‘70s and ‘80s, when you tuned in not to watch brilliant mysteries, but to bask in the comfortable TV presences of Tom Selleck, Jack Klugman, Angela Lansbury or Lee Horsley. Cue retro music: One of these things is not like the other! Which one of these, doesn’t belong?
Season Six offers up mostly typical “Monk” fare, along with the usual cache of fun guest appearances. It kicks off with the return of Monk’s biggest fan, Marci Maven (Sarah Silverman), last seen way back in Season Two. Her dog has been accused of murdering a neighbor – only problem is, the dog died right before the crime was committed. “Mr. Monk and the Rapper” sees Snoop Dogg playing a rapper (what else?) accused of murder. The episode’s great fun as Snoop covers the Randy Newman theme song, “It’s a Jungle Out There,” for the opening credits and participates in the episodic “Here’s how it was done” scene by rapping the real murderer’s scheme.
“Mr. Monk and the Naked Man” isn’t a very engaging mystery, but Monk’s dealings with the residents of a nude beach are priceless. The guy thinks nudity is a subversive plot against those who choose to wear clothing. In his mind, one of the nudists (Diedrich Bader) must be the killer. Why? Because he’s a nudist! “Mr. Monk and the Daredevil” is a good one. It sees the return of Monk’s nemesis, Harold Krenshaw (Tim Bagley), the only guy in San Francisco with more hang-ups than Adrian. Is it possible that Krenshaw is actually a local superhero akin to Spider-Man? Monk thinks not, but the city believes otherwise, and Harold isn’t arguing the point. Speaking of the city, San Fran gets into a furious uproar when Monk seemingly shoots Santa Claus in the poorly titled “Mr. Monk and the Man Who Shot Santa Claus.” That criticism aside, it’s a great outing in which Monk must prove to the city that he loves Christmas, when in actuality he can’t stand it.
“Mr. Monk Stays Up All Night” is a season highlight, and reminiscent of the classic Scorsese film, “After Hours.” Monk gets insomnia and spends the night on the town dealing with possibly fake murders, drug addicts and swindlers, all while searching for a woman he may or may not know. Another standout, “Mr. Monk Paints His Masterpiece,” shows Monk taking on painting as a hobby, but when an art dealer (Peter Stormare) is willing to pay any price, for anything Adrian creates, his artistic talent comes into question -- as do the dealer’s motives. “Mr. Monk Joins a Cult” is a surprisingly effective piece, that is exactly what the title suggests, and guest-stars Howie Mandel as the cult leader (and looking even more like Dr. Evil than usual). The two-part season finale, “Mr. Monk Is On the Run” is some serious “Monk” 101, and probably very important to the series’ ongoing arc, which has always shown Monk obsessed with finding the truth behind his beloved wife Trudy’s death. It’s something of a parody of “The Fugitive,” and features the return of Dale the Whale as well as Scott Glenn in a guest-starring role. (Glenn once upon a time co-starred with Ted “Capt. Stottlemeyer” Levine in “The Silence of the Lambs.”)
There are a few episodes that don’t work as well others, but as stated at the top, as long as Shalhoub is in prime form – which he always is – the stories hardly matter. It’s about how Monk reacts to all the insane situations he’s thrust into. The season also gives Monk’s shrink, Dr. Kroger (Stanley Kamel) some decent screentime in several episodes, which is fitting since Kamel suddenly passed away due to a heart attack in April. Kroger’s been an important element since the beginning of the series, and like Bitty Schram’s Sharona before him, it’s an element that’s going to change. Hector Elizondo will be in the psychiatrist’s seat in Season Seven. Let’s hope, as with the addition of Natalie Teeger (Traylor Howard), the producers don’t mess with the established formula, and use Elizondo as the doctor in the same way Kroger was always used – as the one person who can put up with Monk’s weirdness, mostly because it’s his job to do so.
Special Features: Very little in the extras department. There are numerous “Video Commentaries,” which are nothing more than the option of viewing a few minutes of behind the scenes gab before an episode plays. There’s exactly one commentary track – on “Mr. Monk Stays Up All Night” – that despite the presence of Shalhoub, Levine, Gray-Stanford and a couple behind-the-scenes guys, is incredibly dry and suffers from lengthy stretches of silence. The two-part finale was well-deserving of the commentary treatment, but alas, such material is as absent as dirt beneath Adrian Monk’s fingernails.