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Advent Calendar 2016 Box 19

Season 5 Episode 9
"Mr Monk Meets his Dad"

Originally broadcast November 17, 2006

I had my favorite show, then my wife's favorite show, and then my Mom's favorite show, so why not have my mother-in-law's favorite show, too? I watched a lot of Monk a few years ago, because it was on Netflix. Then they took it off Netflix, because reasons. I did make it as far as this episode, though, so I'm basically an expert.

What is the show?

Tony Shalhoub stars as Adrian Monk, an extremely eccentric and neurotic former Police, currently private detective working in San Francisco. He was let go from the police force some time before the show begins, after his wife was killed and he kind of went all crazy. His (literally) insane attention to detail makes him infuriatingly obsessive compulsive, an extreme germaphobe, nearly incapable of social interaction, and kind of a drag at parties. However, it also makes him an incredibly talented detective, noticing tiny details that most others would ignore. As he often puts it, "it's a gift, and a curse." Through the course of the show he slowly recovers his reputation and respect as he helps the San Francisco police department solve some sinister plots, capers, and murder cases.

Monk is essentially a retelling of the whole Sherlock Holmes mythos. Each episode follows a reasonably formulaic pattern - establish a sinister plot, establish some awkward social situation for Monk to deal with, Monk figures out whodunit, nobody believes him, bad guy almost gets away with it, Monk says "except" and throws down some tiny detail that proves whodunit, everybody has a good chuckle (except the bad guy, of course). We usually get some antics involving the two police detectives who work with him, and the young woman who is essentially his caretaker (I guess they are like his Dr. Who companions). It's the same old "troubled genius" trope that has been serialized on TV many times. This particular blend is light on the drama, giving it a fun, lighthearted, almost silly feel throughout.

The show ran for eight seasons, so it's more than just a retelling of an old trope. Each mystery is concise and just clever enough to be interesting. Monk's big "except" moment does a good job of staying on the good side of plausible. The show never tries to make you feel dumb. You can feel free to sit back, relax, and come along for the ride.

I wouldn't call it perfect, though. They try to make the other characters actually interesting, but Tony Shalhoub is still the only reason to watch the show (that's fine, though, because only about 2% of the show is not featuring him). Sometimes the dependence on Monk's eccentricities is a little obvious, too. For example, this Christmas episode opens with Monk obsessing over a plate of gingerbread cookies. It's obvious that he sees some detail that needs to be fixed, not because he wants to eat it. When all of the other characters were shocked that he threw one of the cookies away, it just seemed a little stupid. I knew he was going to do that, and I don't work with him every day.

Anyway, all that is just nitpicking. Monk is a great show, and it's worth catching if you can (except when they stupidly pull it off Netflix).

What is the episode?

In this episode, Monk meets his father (as indicated by the title of the episode). Monk's father abandoned him and his family when he was just a kid, so it isn't exactly a happy reunion. Monk is convinced to go along with his father on a long-haul truck delivery, and along the way they learn how to respect one another. Also they solve a murder.

It's only really a Christmas episode because it happens to be set during Christmas time. Nothing really Christmas-ey happens, but there's nothing wrong with that. The themes of family and setting aside your differences are very strong here, and as we've seen over the last 18 days, those are very Christmas-ey things indeed.

Where can you watch it?

It isn't on Netflix anymore (ugh), so you'll have to shell out some cash for the DVD's or the episodes on Amazon.

There really are plenty of fun shows to choose from for this list. We've had cartoons, sitcoms, variety shows, and now a detective procedural. I'm not usually into these kinds of shows, but Monk is just fun enough that I can overlook the tedium inherent in the genre. There are just two things missing from the list, though - a lawyer show and a hospital show. Well, we've looked at the police, so let's see the other side of the criminal justice system . . .

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