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REVIEW – Monk: Season 7

June 5, 2011

  Videovista have my review of season seven on Monk.

Given that Monk (in the UK at least) is a daytime TV detective series that appeals mostly to old people, I think it is fair enough to say that it is somewhat off the beaten path in terms of stuff I normally think and write about.  Hell… it’s not the type of thing I normally watch let alone review!  However, despite it being quite formulaic, quite repetitive and really not particularly intelligent, I rapidly found myself warming to the way in which the writers were able to take a small number of ideas and themes and keep returning to them again and again without those ideas ever coming across as in anyway tired.  Given that most of my genre-related reading and watching tends to focus upon works that transcend and question genre boundaries, I found it fascinating to watch a TV series that is quite content to play within the boundaries of the genre:

While Murder, She Wrote, The Father Dowling Mysteries and Diagnosis Murder may all feature crime-fighting pensioners; only Monk tells the story of a character whose life genuinely resembles that of an older person. Weighed down by fears, doubts and a variety of weird mental compulsions that make it difficult for him to deal with the realities of 21st Century life, Monk lives the sort of awkward and fragile existence common to older people.  He even has a carer and struggles with ‘new-fangled’ technology such as the Internet. While Monk may ultimately be little more than lightweight fluff that shamelessly panders to a demographic of which I am not a part, I cannot deny that I enjoyed watching it.  You simply have to marvel at a series that does so much with so little!

2 Comments
  1. June 5, 2011 5:08 pm

    Having seen rather more of Monk than a single season, I found it a very good review that accurately captured the show’s dynamics, strengths, and weaknesses.

    Incidentally, I was particularly impressed by one of the points you mentioned, the
    show’s success at presenting its main character sympathetically, and without condescension and mean-spiritedness. I’ve found that exceedingly rare in American television and film depictions of “genius” and mental illness. (The approach seen in the hugely overrated sitcom The Big Bang Theory – which I find full of unsympathetic characters, as well as condescension and mean-spiritedness – is rather more typical.)

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  2. June 5, 2011 8:51 pm

    Hi Nader :-)

    I’m glad you liked the piece. I have seen more than one series. I know that I owned the box set at one point but I don’t think I ever got further than watching part of the first series before it was spirited away by one of my nephews.

    I think that the way in which the series ‘flexes’ our sympathies is a side-effect of the fact that, at the end of every episode, the series hits the reset button and everything goes back to normal. This means that, even if Monk is a prick in one episode (and he is in a number of episodes in series seven though one in particular) you know that, come the end-credits, everything will be back to normal so nothing he does ever really changes the way you feel about him. Nevertheless, the fact that the writers manage to pull this sort of stunt time and again without it ever feeling forced or artificial really is a testament to how good they are at their jobs. Walking that sort of a tightrope with your audience’s sympathies requires quite a complex understanding of both the character and the audience.

    I was amazed at the way in which the series never feels exploitative despite the fact that they systematically play Monk’s problems for laughs. Again, this shows how firm a grasp the writers have of their character… it really is an impressive (if ultimately unambitious and limited) piece of writing.

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