Having finished the complete Monk series, the natural thing to do when I have a blog like would be to make a list of my favorites. We’ve done it before with Columbo.
The big question for me was the number. Monk himself would prefer ten or something divisible by it. I decided on 20, but couldn’t quite narrow it down to that. So, we’ll have 20 and five honorable mentions.:)*
To prepare for this, I went through the entire list of episodes and picked out potential candidates for the list and picked out 35 episodes from which cut. The first four Seasons of Monk where the source of 24 picks and the last four but eleven. When I winnowed the list down to 20, 15 episodes from Season 1-4 made the list and only 5 from Seasons 5-8. However, the second half of the series does dominate our Honorable mentions:
Mr. Monk and Actor (Season 5, Episode 1): One of Monk’s cases is going to be made into a TV movie and a classic method actor (Stanley Tucci) with a habit for getting too much into character is set to play Monk in the telefilm. As he follows Monk around Tucci’s character begins to become Monk. The 2nd half of the series featured many episodes in which humor storylines overwhelmed the crime story. This one was different in that it actually worked, thanks to an Emmy-winning performance by Tucci which sells the episode.
Mr. Monk and the Bad Girlfriend (Season 6, Episode 4): Monk suspects the Captain’s girlfriend of murder. The problem is that the murder was so cleverly committed that Monk himself is a witness to her alibi. This episode combines some great elements including some great tension between Monk and the Captain and a clever solution to the problem. Also, it’s somewhat noteworthy as mystery programs rarely make recurring characters as a murderer.
Mr. Monk and the Kid (Season 3, Episode 16): A missing toddler is found carrying a severed human finger. Through a process of deduction, Monk figures out a kidnapping is going on and the finger belongs to the victim of the family. This has a decent mystery plot and a hilarious scene where Monk’s fear of nudity ruins the handover of ransom money. However, the real genius of this is the touching relationship between Monk and the little boy who he takes into temporary custody due to some issues with the boy’s regular foster parents. The presence of the boy awakens long-dormant paternal feelings that has Monk thinking of adopting the boy. Monk, however, must confront what it really means to love in a poignant and moving end to the 3rd season.
Mr. Monk and the Foreign Man (Season 8, Episode 2): Monk is annoyed by a Nigerian man making noise across the street from his apartment, but when he confronts the man he learns that the man is in this country as his wife was struck down by a hit and run driver. This changes everything and Monk resolves to help the husband, even to the point of tolerating the man’s smoking. (Albeit, Monk impromptu invents the smoking bag and advises the husband that’s how smoking is done in America.) The mystery was good for Season 8, but nowhere close to the show’s zenith. However, the show’s poignant dramatic moments and the comedy made it a keeper.
Mr. Monk and the Candidate (Season 1, Episodes 1 and 2): Where it all began. This episode does a fabulous job setting the stage for what is to come. We are given a good mystery in which our hero must prove himself in the beginning of his private consulting career after three years away from the Force after the death of Trudy. This episode, more than any other, has a Monk as a man with something to prove. The story was one of only three two part episodes in Monk history and the writers took excellent advantage of it to give us a good mystery and a solid character sketch of Monk, whose balance of fear and courage and brilliance and madness were on full display. The episode also shows the strengths and weaknesses of Monk’s first assistant Sharona Flemming. Sharona’s big weakness was her ability to attract the wrong type of men. When Adrian exposes her date as a fraud, her pride makes her temporarily quit before returning to help Monk solve the case and set the stage for dozens of mysteries to come.
Next week: 16-20
*If anyone’s wondering why I only did a top 10 for Columbo, remember our Columbo top 10 list was only of the 40-odd 1970s episodes while Monk had triple that.
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