MONK (Season 1)

Starring: Tony Shaloub, Bitty Schram, Ted Levine, Jason Gray-Stanford, and Stanley Kamel.

Format: DVD - 4 disk set (12 one-hour episodes plus bonus material).

Also available on VHS

Genre: Mystery/drama/comedy

Reviewed by Cherie Jung

Personally, I think the second season of MONK is even better than the first, but I couldn't resist the opportunity to watch the series from the beginning. Originally, I didn't think I would like the show at all. I had seen the last twenty minutes or so of an episode, and nothing made sense to me, especially the eccentric Monk and his nurse, Sharona. A friend insisted it was the best series she'd ever seen and challenged me to try watching it one more time. So I did. And I was hooked.

For those not yet familiar with Monk, or the series, he is a former police detective from the San Francisco Police Department who suffers from a severe case of obsessive-compulsive disorder. He is afraid of germs (and doesn't like to shake hands or be touched by others) so his nurse always carries, or is supposed to always carry, sanitary wipes for those times when someone gets through his defenses and actually touches him. Or when he puts his hand in something nasty like "jail goo." He is afraid of heights, and, well, you name it and he's probably afraid of it. He can't stand for anything to be even slightly off kilter. Untidiness drives him to distraction.

Monk is working as a police consultant and seeking psychiatric counseling, hoping to improve enough to be reinstated on the police force. The way things are going, that isn't likely to happen very soon. In these early episodes, the police are reluctant to call him in for consultation but the mayor likes him and insists the police avail themselves of Monk's expertise.

There are quite a few true San Francisco settings, although I can't say that the entire filming is done locally. From time to time the background looks more like L.A. or Vancouver, B.C. than San Francisco but that's a minor quibble.

The series regulars have developed into a nice ensemble. Although Tony Shaloub steals almost every scene he is in, there is a fine supporting cast including nurse Sharona (Bitty Schram), police captain Stottlemeyer (Ted Levine), the captain's partner Randy Disher (Jason Gray-Stanford) and Monk's counselor, Dr. Kroger (Stanley Kamel).

Two of my favorites episodes from this set are "Mr. Monk and the Earthquake" which finds Monk displaced from his home due to an earthquake and forced to move into Sharona's sister's house along with Sharona and her son (talk about three being a crowd) and "Mr. Monk and the Airplane" which finds Monk and Sharona on a cross-country flight with Monk annoying nearly everyone on board with his insistence that a murder was commited back in the airport before the flight took off. Gary Marshal has a funny cameo as an extension cord salesman trapped in the seat next to Monk.

The second season is due to be released January 11, 2005. I can hardly wait! One of my favorite episodes coming up in that series involves a chimpanzee murder suspect and the most hilarious scene (it makes me laugh just thinking about it) of Monk "trapped" and gasping for air in a "sealed" safe room where the murder was committed.

The MONK (Season 1) set includes the pilot episode, "Mr. Monk and the Candidate." The pilot episode is also available on a DVD by itself but I recommend the four disk version. If you like the pilot, you'll like the rest of the series. No sense paying for the pilot episode twice. The set costs about $60.00 but many stores, including offer it at a reduced price.

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