Much has changed in the ever-evolving landscape of television since the early 2000s—new genres and formats emerged, the media shifted largely to streaming, etc. But one thing remains the same: Monk, a crime procedural series that originally aired on the USA Network from 2002 to 2009, captivates audiences as much as ever. Now, fans old and new can binge the show on Netflix.
The series relates the life and work of Adrian Monk (played by Tony Shalhoub—an actor inseparable from his character). A former detective for the San Francisco Police Department, Adrian suffers from severe obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) alongside a variety of phobias.
After the murder of his wife, Trudy, a tragedy deepening his compulsive behavior all the more, the detective’s mental health challenges cost him his job. However, regardless of these issues, Monk’s almost supernatural attention to detail—his keen deductive skills—mean he’s an exceptional consultant for the police, nonetheless. No one is quite like him when it comes to solving the most baffling cases.
Acclaim And Awards
The show is a detective procedural drama despite its unorthodox star and concept; each episode unfolds with the private eye employing his unique talents to unravel mysteries. His indispensable assistant and practically-minded nurse, Sharona Fleming, often accompanies the detective. Together, they navigate his phobias and the obstacles of daily life—as well as, you know, solving crimes.
Critics lauded Monk for its innovative mix of drama and comedy, a novel approach to the (until then) otherwise drab procedural genre. The show reaped numerous accolades, including eight Emmy Awards and a Golden Globe Award for Tony Shalhoub.
Among other assets, reviewers applauded the show for its clever writing, character-driven plots, and Shalhoub’s performance; the latter anchored the series and remained its most iconic aspect. The show that made Shalhoub globally recognizable also enjoyed high viewership ratings, eventually becoming one of the most-watched scripted series on cable television during its run.
The series, as a whole, benefited from a terrific cast. The show co-starred Bitty Schram as Sharona. Traylor Howard later replaced Schram as Natalie Teeger, who contributed her singular dynamic to the show. Memorably, Ted Levine played Captain Leland Stottlemeyer—the OCD-addled private eye’s former partner and friend.
Indeed, the show owes much of its success to the cast members’ chemistry and character development. Fans streaming the series today will readily recall their unique creative bond.
Shalhoub And Monk Become One
Like James Gandolfini’s Tony Soprano, or Peter Falk’s Columbo, Tony Shalhoub and Monk merge into one indelible, completely fused super-role we all know and love dearly. His portrayal earned critical acclaim and cult devotion. Shalhoub won multiple Emmy Awards For Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series.
The Original Idea
ABC conceived the first, vague incarnation of Monk as a detective series revolving around a character similar to Inspector Clouseau—but with OCD. Michael Richards, of Seinfeld fame, was initially sought but ultimately turned the opportunity down.
Here’s What Happened
Fans of the show will be quick to tell you that one of its most original and characteristic recurring sequences is the “Here’s what happened” scenes, which are nearly always shown ways shown in black and white. In said scenes, Monk—ever the genius—reveals how the crime at hand went down, invariably prefacing the explanation with the catchphrase: “Here’s what happened.”
Spin-Offs, Scrapped And Otherwise
The series’ success inspired expansions, some predictable and others less so. These include Little Monk, a 10-episode online series launched by the USA Network in 2009. As you can probably guess, the series ventures into the childhood of Adrian Monk and his brother, Ambrose, during their middle-school years. The show offered a backstory to the development of the detective’s skills and quirks.
A made-for-TV movie, Mr. Monk For Mayor, was also announced, written, then scrapped. The project was hotly anticipated, but budgetary constraints spelled an early doom. Thankfully, though, fans did receive another piece of related media: Mr. Monk Shelters in Place, a clever short film addressing, yes, how our favorite obsessive-compulsive detective copes with the COVID-19 pandemic. The short involved the original cast and supplied much-needed humor and nostalgia to fans during the challenging time.
The Monk Movie
Finally, and wonderfully, Tony Shalhoub himself announced on Dr. Loubna Hassanieh’s Unheard Stories podcast the production of Mr. Monk’s Last Case: A Monk Movie. The full-length movie project started shooting in May 2023 and saw the return of original cast members. Peacock then officially ordered the film, which premiered in December of 2023.
Stream Monk on Netflix today.