Monk ended last night, and while the two-part finale was not really a great one, that mediocrity certainly seemed appropriate. The show itself was never really that good and the mysteries were of the type wherein close observation of the details of the case revealed the solution to the crime – all very Poe’s Dupin in terms of style and substance. But that’s not to say that the show wasn’t important. That, I believe, it certainly was.
Monk followed a formula most episodes, as the eccentric detective Monk – who operated as a consultant tot he police – would notice those details that escaped the police and tie together the pieces that others just weren’t able to. His abilities were presented as a type of genius, but his eccentricities seemed to be the thing holding him back from integrating into the rest of society, let alone holding him back from reinstatement back onto the police force which he once had been part of.
Those eccentricities, of course, were the result of his wife’s murder, which sent him off the deep end and led to all manner of neuroses. Through the seven years of the show he was never able to solve the mystery of her death, though he tried many times to do so. The finale brought closure to the case, and to the show, even if it was somewhat unsatisfying as a narrative.
I’m not particularly looking to get into the details of the finale, though, nor of the feelings of closure, nor what happened with all of the supporting members of the show. I’ll leave that to others. I’m more interested in the show’s legacy.
Two things come to mind, the first of which was Tony Shaloub winning three Emmys for lead actor in a comedy while playing a detective. I haven’t done one iota of research about this, I must admit, but I’m guessing that there haven’t been any other award-winning performances by an actor playing a detective, at least in the comedy category. But since then, all sorts of detectives have been showing up on tv, and not just in the absurd category (there have been plenty of those, for a long while now). The leads on Bones and House, while not exactly detectives are both essentially doing detective work and while these shows are drama, comedy is a central element in each of these shows. Overall, the movement of detectives into the comedy category is a compelling one in terms of the genre, and I’m wondering where it will go over time (God, I’m hoping it extends beyond Psych). There’s room for exploration in the merging of detective and comedy categories.
While James Gandolfini and The Sopranos were winning all sorts of winning Emmy awards and bringing HBO into the mainstream, Shalhoub and Monk were doing the same for USA. Which brings me to the second legacy of the show: what it did for the USA network. In my mind, it was Monk that really helped this network into a much broader viewing audience and critical acceptability (remember those late-night detective series they used to run in the 90s: a combination of mysteries and sex? Weird. And not good.)
Because of Monk, people check out USA. There’s lots of reasons that people watch HBO, and reasons better than The Sopranos – hey The Wire! – but there haven’t been that many good shows on USA. But people check it out. And I keep looking for comic detectives who don’t have to overrely on neurotic tics to be a “character.”
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