I got OCD enough about Monk to watch and write notes for all 125 episodes of the series, but it was a slow fuse to obsession. During the time it was in production, the old man and I would likely as not stop to watch him when we were channel surfing. It was funny and entertaining, but didn't really capture my imagination. I didn't even realize that the series was finished till I saw the DVDs on the shelf. A dozen or so episodes of casual viewing had me invested enough to hit Netflix up for the last DVD of the series to finally find out the answer to the big fat question of the series. Who killed his wife? By the time I'm getting that far, the dramatic pathos underlying the series kicked in, and here we are.
They made art here. Some aspects and episodes work better than others, but the Monk series is a thing of high beauty. It works on multiple levels as a crime drama, where they had some of the most ingenious criminal gimmicks ever on video. The writers loved to set up impossible crimes, and then work backwards to come up with some kind of "at least vaguely plausible" explanation, as the series creator expressed it. This stretching resulted in some excellent and fascinating twists. Also, however, this resulted in most of the weakest moments of the series when they stretched so far that the premise frayed and broke. Now and again, an improbable to impossible plot device can really challenge the viewers basic suspension of disbelief. That's probably about my only major complaint against the show.
The show is most often considered as primarily a comedy. They certainly got a lot of comic mileage out of Monk coping with his OCD, and even more out of other people having to cope with Monk's obsessive behavior. They also got a lot of good comedy out of the ditzy Lt. Disher, especially when he tried coming up with theories like he thought Monk would.
But murder victims even aside, there was great pathos to the Monk character that ultimately drove the show. He was tormented by both the absence of his beloved Trudy, and his inability to solve the case. His wife was murdered, and he didn't know why. It came up frequently throughout the series, but you might not quite catch the depth of that by casual viewing while surfing. That makes a big cumulative impact if you watch eight years of the show. By that time, you too have been living with it for years.
Plus, there was his burning desire to get his badge back, which he lost for psych discharge during a four year state of being "near catatonic" and apparently barely able to leave the apartment after Trudy's murder, as his nurse Sharona described it in the pilot. This was rated somewhere below the dead Trudy issue, of course. But his desire to re-gain his badge represents for Monk's shame issues, which were seemingly fairly heavy but rarely discussed as such. A lot of this stuff probably wouldn't seem quite so funny if you were thinking about it in terms of Monk's shame. He's ashamed -maybe sometimes just a little bit rightly- of what could be taken as his weakness and un-masculine character. This angle is addressed very specifically and centrally - and actually ultimately quite impressively manfully in "Mr. Monk and the Astronaut." The genius was totally, 100% aware of how inappropriate and foolish a lot of his behavior was, but couldn't seem to help himself a lot of the time. He was ashamed to have lost his badge in a psychological discharge. These deep shame issues drove a lot of comedy in the show, but of course a lot of dramatic suffering and anguish as well.
Somewhere around halfway through watching the series, another significant shading of the series crept up on me: Adrian Monk is often quite a damned jerk. The writers often presented him acting like a schmuck, childishly indulging himself and being abusive to other people. He was given to a great deal of childish narcissm, routinely showing absolutely unmistakably knowingly chosen lack of concern for even his closest associates.. Even if you presume that he had some little weird blockage of empathy some of the time, this genius would not be able to not intellectually understand and know how to compensate. There's just a lot of pure petty stupid self-indulgence.
You might not always be able to control your feelings, but over the course of a series you might find yourself thinking that he's taking advantage of his condition as an excuse for bad behavior. He milks every drop of sympathy for his suffering, then calculates how much further he can push his petty indulgences as the price for his unique genius services. Alright, I'll have Lt. Disher stop what he's doing and walk behind this postal carrier from this drop box through the rest of the day to make sure he gets back to the post office without dropping whatever little dumbass thing you're mailing. This kind of crap is not just self-indulgent and wasteful of people's time, but absolutely disrespectful. If I were Lt. Disher, I would very much resent this. How much of this stupid behavior is beyond his control, and how much is just Monk's inner schmuck? Picking at that question has been one of the top things that has fascinated me with the show over the length of watching the whole series.
Then there's the whole underlying idea of Trudy in the show and in Monk's mind. His continuing obsession with her, including his "Trudy kit" that he needs to travel ("Mr Monk Meets His Dad") strikes me at some point as being not just unhealthy, but positively morbid. By the time I watched the whole series, I was taking it that way quite a bit more than the writers seem to intend. I really despise Morrissey and the Smiths. The only song of theirs that made any impression on me (a bad impression) was "Girlfriend in a Coma." Yeah, it's awfully damned convenient that he's got a girlfriend in such condition. That way, this little wussy doesn't have to actually manfully perform. Adrian Monk is a far more sympathetic figure than Morrissey, but sometimes I found myself thinking similar thoughts about him, most particularly during "Mr Monk Falls in Love." Oh gee, I can't make out with this perfect awesome loving woman - I'm a married man. That's extremely uncharitable I know, but damn it man. On the other hand, it's arguably extremely charitable how much Adrian's distinctly unhealthy, morbid if largely involuntary obsession gets painted over as a demonstration of True Love.
In the course of the series, Trudy Monk ultimately seems more like an ephemeral idea haunting Monk than a real person in her own right. Her life story is distinctly inconsistent. Did she fall in love with Detective Adrian Monk per "Mr. Monk Goes to the Ballgame" or as college kids at Berkeley, per the depiction in "Mr. Monk and the Class Reunion"? Did this girl born in 1962 graduate from Berkeley with Adrian in 1981 at age 18? How did she have a law professor and all the story from the finale before meeting Adrian at what mathematically (and actually by the looks of the young actress) looks to have been about age 16 at the latest. Was she killed instantly, as would seem likely and per the newspaper stories in the pilot - or did she live long enough for Adrian to hold her hand per his vivid memories in "Mr. Monk and the Genius"? Now this all probably mostly documents minor writing errors, but then again you can constructively consider those details to represent something of a blur in Adrian Monk's mind.
The exact details of her looks and sound and demeanor were different from one appearance to the next. Some of that was something of an accident in that several different actresses played this (in screen time terms) minor recurring character over the years (though mostly and particularly in the finale by Melora Hardin). But the creator was probably right when he said that this accident of the production process was ultimately actually to the benefit of the show. There's whoever the real living Trudy Monk might have been and how she actually physically looked and thought and acted, but most of her appearances and what was ultimately more real was the idea of Trudy as this spectre both generating his rage and suffering and his great comfort and symbol of love and safety, goodness and happiness. It would seem rather unlikely that an actual living human could ever be as perfect as he imagines this dead one to be, which point is confirmed by her videotaped message in the series finale.
Which leaves me lingering over how the human mind remembers things, and integrates them, changes them subtly over time till you get old and you start to question your own memories. How much of what I "remember" about first grade or my first love represents what actually happened 40 years ago versus how much of it is my own mental editing and production of the movies of my mind. What parts were really Trudy Monk, and what parts were Adrian's powerful imagination?
SEASON 1 NOTES
SEASON 2 NOTES
SEASON 3 NOTES
SEASON 4 NOTES
SEASON 5 NOTES
SEASON 6 NOTES
SEASON 7 NOTES
SEASON 8 NOTES
THE INDISPENSABLE MONK
MONK PHOTO GALLERIES
VACUUM CLEANER DANCE
MONK'S BIKE RIDE
DENOUEMENT This is the climax of the series. You shouldn't look at this page until you've seen it.
TRUDY MONK PHOTO GALLERIES
TRUDY MONK IMAGES 1 2 3 4
STELLINA RUSICH PLAYED TRUDY IN SEASON 1
TRUDY MONK'S FIRST HAUNTING - PILOT IMAGES 1 2 3 4
TRUDY MONK VS OTHER WOMAN IMAGES 1 2 3 4
LINDY NEWTON SPECIAL APPEARANCE AS YOUNG TRUDY MONK
TRUDY AND ADRIAN MONK'S FIRST MEETING IMAGES 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
MELORA HARDIN PLAYED TRUDY FROM SEASON THREE FORWARD
TRUDY MONK'S MEDICINE PILLOW IMAGES 1 2 3 4
MEETING TRUDY MONK'S PARENTS 1 2 3 4 5 6
IMPOSTER TRUDY MONK IMAGES 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
BURIED ALIVE WITH TRUDY MONK IMAGES 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
TRUDY AND ADRIAN MONK'S LAST HOUR IMAGES 1 2 3 4 5
TRUDY MONK MURDER IMAGES 1 2 3 4 5
LAST VISION OF TRUDY MONK IMAGES 1 2 3 4
TRUDY MONK VIDEO GIFT IMAGES 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
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