On Final Night, "Monk" Makes TV History

The USA show may be ending but it has reshaped the concept of basic cable

By Maya Pope-Chappell
|  Friday, Dec 4, 2009  |  Updated 3:30 PM CDT
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On Final Night, "Monk" Makes TV History

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Quirky cop drama "Monk" may be coming to an end with its series finale premiering tonight, but it’s mark in TV history will remain forever. The USA hit drama featuring a detective played by Tony Shalhoub, who has obsessive compulsive disorder and an alphabet of phobias, reshaped scripted programming for basic cable networks.

TV historian Tim Brooks wrote in an e-mail to the Los Angeles Times that "Monk" started an "original series "arms race" with arch-rival TNT, and led to other original series like "Mad Men" on AMC.

"Now original scripted series [both dramas and comedies] are all over the cable dial," wrote Brooks. "'Monk' had a lot to do, I think, with sparking that."

"Monk" made another pioneering move when series repeats were aired on ABC and NBC in 2002 and 2004, becoming the first basic cable series to air in prime time on broadcast networks.

The show, which was originally written for ABC, almost didn’t happen because the creators Andy Breakman and David Hoberman couldn’t cast the lead. Producers then sought out Shalhoub, who was hesitant to play the part at first.

"I had a little bit of a tricky time seeing my way into it because the character on the page seemed so impossible and annoying," Shalhoub told the Los Angeles Times. "I wasn't sure how viewers would be able to get behind this character."

Shalhoub, who used to play the taxi driver on the 1990’s sitcom “Wings” continued, "I wanted to make sure we weren't going to exploit this disorder and make fun of it. At the same time, we wanted to make sure we weren't undercutting the inherent comedy of it. It was a tightrope walk."

On tonight’s season finale, "Monk", whose been haunted by his wife's death throughout the eight season show, will finally learn the truth of her murder.

 
 

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