Sherlock Holmes, Columbo, Hercule Poirot -- genius detectives are usually a bit quirky. But no other is as quirky as Adrian Monk, the obsessive-compulsive detective.
"Monk: The Obsessive Compulsive Collection" compiles the first four seasons of this funny, likable little mystery series. Tony Shalhoub shines as everyone's favorite obsessive-compulsive detective, solving the case with his gift/curse and his willingness to go anywhere... that doesn't have germs.
Adrian Monk's wife Trudy was killed in a car-bombing, and the devastated detective fell apart completely. Years later, Monk (Tony Shalhoub) is partially recovered, but he still is obsessive-compulsive and has dozens of phobias. The only way he manages is with his assistant Sharona (Bitty Schram) -- and later her successor Natalie (Traylor Howard) -- babysitting him.
When a politician is nearly killed in a mystery shooting, the police are baffled. So Captain Stottlemeyer (Ted Levine) reluctantly calls in his old pal to solve the case. From then on, Monk is called in for dozens of bizarre, baffling cases. His excellent memory and his OCD ("It's a gift.... and a curse") allow him to see patterns and details where other people see nothing.
Among Monk's cases are going undercover at a prison, a killer dentist, a deadly Christmas gift, an elephant used as a lethal weapon, a billionaire mugger, saving Willie Nelson from a murder rap, trapping a black widow, the death of a 115-year-old man, the Mafia, martial-artists, murdered models, and a guy who leaped out of a plane -- and died by drowning.
But as quirky and bizarre as the cases is, it never stops hitting the heartstrings. Monk is still passionately devoted to his dead wife; in the whole series, he goes on two dates (both disastrous). He also becomes attached to a little boy and even tries to adopt him, and it's a credit to this show's writers that the ending of that episode isn't maudlin or sappy.
"Monk" is the sort of show that usually gets cancelled after five episodes -- it's well-written, amusing, and smart. So by TV standards, lasting four seasons is nothing short of miraculous. Like any long-running show it has its duds ("Mr. Monk Takes His Medicine" always makes me cringe), but the overall series shows no signs of decline in all four seasons.
There are gunfights and SWAT teams, like on any cop show, but the main focus here is on detecting. And the writers are skilled at coming up with all sorts of bizarre or unsolvable crimes, which only Monk could unravel. Not to mention the dialogue, which leans heavily on dry humour ("There's an old saying: 'Don't change anything, ever." "That's an old saying?" "I've been saying it for years...")
But the series wouldn't be what it is without Tony Shalhoub. He played weird roles in movies like MIB and "Galaxy Quest," and so he knows how to balance out Monk's weirdness and genius without leaning too heavily on either. When told to sit on the ground, he says nervously, "I can't. Animals do things on the ground. Terrible, terrible things."
Schram and Howard are both good as his assistants, and they're similar without being TOO alike -- one was a hardened New York gal, and the other is a rebel rich girl with a checkered employment past. And Levine and Jason Gray-Stanford round off the cast as genial cop Stottlemeyer and his earnest (if slightly goofy) sidekick Disher.
"Monk: The Obsessive-Compulsive Collection" shows us all of this excellent show (so far), with its uniquely appealing hero. It's a gift... and a curse.