Mr. Monk’s Last Case: A Monk Mystery Movie is now streaming on Peacock. However, some newbies may be a bit confused as to who Monk is, why this reunion film is a big deal and what happened to the character. So, here’s a quick primer for Monk and his misadventures!
Premiering on the USA Network in 2002, Monk quickly became a hit that began the “blue sky programming” era for the cable channel. It also made them a big ratings success, with Tony Shalhoub winning three Emmy Awards for Best Actor in a Comedy Series for the title role.
Adrian Monk had once been a top investigator for the San Francisco Police Department until his wife Trudy (Melora Hardin) was murdered in a car bombing. In his grief, Monk gained a crippling case of obsessive-compulsive disorder with phobias for germs, heights, snakes, crowds…well, basically everything. This is a man whose reaction to a dead body won’t be the damage done to it but rather dismay at how one shoelace is untied while a single button is off-balance.
However, this obsession with details also makes Monk an even better investigator, seeing things others miss, which allows him to crack the case. Every episode was highlighted by Monk putting it together and revealing the truth at the end. Often, he (and the audience) knew from the start who the killer was, he just needed to prove it.
He was a consultant for the SFPD who put up with his bizarre behavior as long as he kept solving otherwise baffling murders. The show was inventive in the mysteries while never ceasing to find ways to make Monk’s behavior funny and heartfelt.
Who starred in Monk?
Shalhoub was the main star, of course, with Bitty Schram as Sharona Fleming, his caretaker who often had to handle Monk’s odd behaviors. She left in season 3, although she made a brief return in the show’s final season. She was replaced by Natalie Teeger (Traylor Howard), who, with daughter Julie (Emmy Clarke), was a bit kinder with Monk but still tried to give him some “tough love” to get him out of his funk.
The other main characters were Leland Sottlemeyer (Ted Levin), the police captain who oversaw Monk’s cases. While often driven crazy by his antics, Sottlemeyer was grateful for his help in solving so many murders. Lieutenant Randy Disher (Jason Gray-Stanford) was the eager young cop helping out, a bit naive at first but growing in his sharp skills as the show went on.
Stanley Kamel played Dr. Charles Kroger, Monk’s therapist, who had the daunting task of keeping him on a path to recovery. Tragically, Kamel died of a heart attack in 2008, with his character also said to have died. Hector Elizondo played Dr. Neven Bell, his later shrink. There was also Harold Krenshaw (Tim Bagley), Monk’s OCD-afflicted neighbor, and John Turturro as Monk’s brother Ambrose, an agoraphobe who was worse than his sibling.
After eight seasons, the show finally ended with “Mr. Monk and the End,” with our titular protagonist solving Trudy’s murder at long last and putting her spirit to rest. He also met Molly, Trudy’s daughter with another man, who encouraged him to keep up his work.
Natalie was still at it as Monk’s assistant while Sottlemeyer retired. Randy (now with Sharona) became chief of police for a New Jersey town.
This sets up the new reunion movie as Monk (obviously shaken up by the COVID-19 pandemic) investigates the death of Molly’s fiance, leading to what could be his last case.
All eight seasons of the show are available on both Prime Video and Peacock. Also, Peacock’s YouTube channel has the 2020 short “Mr. Monk Shelters In Place,” with the entire cast showing how they deal with the pandemic and noting how they all finally understand how Monk has felt his entire life.
So this is a good primer for Monk to showcase the inventive fun of the show and Shalhoub’s wonderful performance making it all work.
Monk seasons 1-8 are streaming on Peacock and Prime Video.