The Fourth Season
Monk is one of my favorite television series. Since its initial debut, I've been a fan. For those who are not familiar with the show, it is about an obsessive compulsive detective. Tony Shalhoub plays Adrian Monk, who is as brilliant as he is weird. He is a former detective with the San Francisco Police Department. Four years before the series' debut, Monk went through a tragic life changing event. The effects drove his obsessive compulsive personality to the surface and left him incapable of taking care of himself. And joining him since the middle of season three is his personal assistant and aid Natalie Teeger (Traylor Howard). With her help, Monk works as a private consultant to the police department. He has helped his friends Captain Leland Stottlemeyer (Ted Levine) and Lt. Randall Disher (Jason Gray-Stanford) solve some of the city's toughest and weirdest cases. For more details about the early seasons of this wonderful series be sure to check out my reviews of season one, season two, and season three.
Season four is the first season completely without Sharona Fleming (Bitty Schram). Sharona's last appearance in the series was episode nine of season three. In episode ten, Natalie Teeger stepped into the picture as Monk's new sidekick. Natalie and Monk make for two fine characters as they dredge through the ins and outs of Monk's crazy OCD's and assist the police solve some of the toughest crimes. Season four also features some classic episodes with great guest stars such as Jason Alexander, John Turturro, Laurie Metcalf, and Jon Favreau.
The season premiere episode "Mr. Monk and the Other Detective" guest stars Jason Alexander, best known for his role as George Costanza in the hit sitcom Seinfeld, as the competition. Alexander plays Marty Eels. Marty is a private investigator with a personality and lifestyle opposite to Monk. Marty is messy, sloppy, and lacks Monk's natural knack for solving crimes. But despite his messy appearance, Marty is able to solve a crime faster than Monk is. It baffles everyone and leads Monk to the only logical conclusion, he's cheating. The real fun from this episode is a combination of things. Alexander's portrayal of the messy detective is great and he has fantastic chemistry with Shalhoub. Also how the other characters handle the new kid on the block make this episode a classic.
In the following episode "Mr. Monk Goes Home Again", John Turturro reprises his role as Ambrose Monk, Adrian's agoraphobic brother. The last time Adrian saw Ambrose was in the hilarious season three episode "Mr. Monk and the Three Pies". In "Mr. Monk Goes Home Again", Monk investigates the murder of an armored car driver in the parking lot a few blocks from where he grew up (and where Ambrose resides). The case itself is odd because there was no money in the armored car and nothing was stolen. As Monk investigates the case, he learns it is connected to his bother. Monk and Ambrose also deal with a phone call that claimed their father would be returning that evening.
"Mr. Monk Gets Drunk" is a funny episode with a sad note. In this episode, Monk and Natalie go to the bed and breakfast where he and Trudy spent their honeymoon. It is a lonely tradition where Monk tries to relive every moment to the exact detail as they did years ago. While reliving the moment, Monk meets an obnoxious fellow named Larry who leaves his company to play in a poker game with the other guests. The next day, a man claiming to be Larry's brother comes looking for him, but the guests deny he was there. Natalie is convinced Monk is making him up as a way to deal with his loneliness. He must find out the truth about the whereabouts of the missing guest and why everyone was trying to cover up his existence. The fun part about this episode is when Monk drinks a little too much wine (he thought it was non-alcoholic) and gets drunk.
"Mr. and Mrs. Monk" touches on the long running series story arc about the mystery behind Trudy's death. In this episode, a woman with the same physical appearance of Trudy, surfaces in San Francisco. It is revealed she faked her own death and it breaks Monk's heart. It is a somewhat sad episode that still manages to get in a lot of laughs. "Mr. Monk and Little Monk" is an episode that follows two cases, past and present. An old crush from Monk's childhood finds him to help solve the murder of her housekeeper. As Monk goes through the case, he recalls the past when they were in elementary school and he solved his first case. There are some silly, yet important details about Monk's personality revealed.
In "Mr. Monk Bumps His Head", Monk meets a shady character who claims to have information about Trudy's death. However, as it turns out, he just planned on mugging Monk. During the struggle, Monk is hit on the head and passes out on the back of a truck. When he awakens, he finds himself in Montana with amnesia. Laurie Metcalf guest stars as the awkward and strange Cora, who convinces Monk they are recent newlyweds. The episode "Mr. Monk Goes to the Dentist" guest stars Jon Favreau. In this episode, Disher claims he witnessed a murder while heavily sedated at the dentist (Favreau). He conducts an unofficial investigation into it and finds no trace of a murder. Unfortunately, no one believes him and he quits the police department to start up his old band the Randy Disher Project.
All in all, season four of Monk delivers sixteen fine episodes that fans of the series and newcomers should have a lot of fun with. The season features several great guest stars and puts them in some funny and well-written stories with everyone's favorite obsessive compulsive detective.
1. Mr. Monk and the Other Detective
2. Mr. Monk Goes Home Again
3. Mr. Monk Stays in Bed
4. Mr. Monk Goes to the Office
5. Mr. Monk Gets Drunk
6. Mr. and Mrs. Monk
7. Mr. Monk Goes to a Wedding
8. Mr. Monk and Little Monk
9. Mr. Monk and Secret Santa
10. Mr. Monk Goes to a Fashion Show
11. Mr. Monk Bumps His Head
12. Mr. Monk and the Captain's Marriage
13. Mr. Monk and the Big Reward
14. Mr. Monk and the Astronaut
15. Mr. Monk Goes to the Dentist
16. Mr. Monk Gets Jury Duty
The video is given in 1.78:1 ratio anamorphic widescreen color. Like previous season releases, the picture looks good. There are a few distortions in the picture during heavy movement and some minor compression artifacts, but nothing too bad. Overall it looks good.
The audio track is given in English 2.0 Dolby Digital stereo sound. The audio track sounds clear and crisp, with a rather flat tone as the show is primarily dialogue. I found that the quality was more than sufficient and held to the same standards set by the picture quality. This release also has English subtitles.
For extras, there are two featurettes included. The first featurette is "The Monk Writing Process" (14:28). It features behind the scenes footage of the writers in action, as well as interviews with executive producer/header writer Andy Breckman, writers Tom Scharpling, Hy Conrad, David Breckman, Joe Toplyn, and Daniel Dratch, and actors Tony Shalhoub, Traylor Howard, and Ted Levine. The specific topics they cover include "The Writers and Their Offices", "The Writers and Their Process", and "Mr. Monk and the Big Reward". The second and final special feature is "Jon Perkins Behind the Scenes?" (3:36). It is a short clip with detective consultant Jon Perkins giving his two cents about his role on the series (helping with the realism of the detective work). Tony Shalhoub, Ted Levine, and Jason Gray-Stanford also make brief appearances.
Since the first time I saw Monk on television, it has been one of my favorite television series. With season four, this fact is only reassured. Season four features sixteen great stories that deliver genuine comedy, as well as some decent mysteries. Monk is fine television programming with topnotch performances from the main cast, excellent writing, and several great guest stars like Jason Alexander, John Turturro, Laurie Metcalf, and Jon Favreau. In the end, Monk: Season Four is worth every penny. Highly Recommended.