One of my favorite TV shows is Monk, a dramedy about an obsessive-compulsive detective (Adrian Monk) played brilliantly by Emmy-winner Tony Shalhoub. Imagine if Sherlock Holmes had been wracked with anxieties and phobias, and you’ve got the essence of the character. His over-the-top attention to detail makes him an excellent detective but also an enormous frustration to the people around him. Monk is one of the top shows on cable, and for good reason. Its a fun premise with great characters and lots of humor, and almost no sex or foul language (proving a show can be clean and family-friendly without being dull.)
But Monk started out as something very different. Jim Hill has written a fascinating article about the origins of the show over at his blog. I was surprised to read that the show was originally created over at Disney, with hopes of putting Michael Richards (Kramer on Seinfeld) in the lead role. They apparantly wanted lots of bumbling and slapstick. More Inspector Clouseau than Sherlock Holmes.
Personally I’m glad things didn’t turn out that way. Richards is a brilliant physical comedian, and I enjoy goofy slapstick if it’s done right (Mr. Bean, anyone?) But Monk wouldn’t work as a slapstick character. I think one of the reasons Monk is so popular is that most people can relate to him at some level. Almost everyone has at least a few little quirks, phobias, or eccentricities which we are secretly embarrassed about and/or which annoy the people close to us. Shalhoub understands this. Monk may be strange but Shalhoub also makes him very sympathetic. I could be wrong, but if Richards had played Monk my hunch is he would have been too cartoonish to be relatable.
You can watch Monk on USA Fridays at 9/8c. You can also purchase episodes on iTunes or rent them on DVD. Highly recommended.