USA’s Monk came out early with its Christmas episode, the day after Thanksgiving. The episode was so-so, but the real holiday gift was the 30-second promo for the new season as Monk, p.i. It was a pitch-perfect mimic of the Magnum, p.i. opening.
Starting with the declarative downbeats of that familiar four-note opening, it completely captures the spirit of '80s cops shows—part T.J. Hooker, part Chips, with a little of Simon and Simon--and Magnum full out. The clip choice from the last six seasons is brilliant: Monk in the Ferrari when he briefly medicates for his depression; Stottlemeyer in organ grinder’s fez when the only person in the locked room with the dead body was the monkey; Natalie as Vanna White; Randy rolling in his desk chair with an esprit de Faceman from The A-Team. Whoever put it together is a first-class tv watcher.
Monk is going into its last season next year. I’m a fan of the series, through its different eras, though I prefer Sharona to Natalie. I wonder if they will solve the mystery of Trudy’s murder before they go.
The Sherlock Holmes angle in any guise is always interesting---we all want to solve the puzzles of ours lives, from the small details to the big questions. But what I really like about it is the premise of this painfully damaged man—who gave up for three years and didn’t leave his house—and then reconstructed his life as best he could. I think that kind of personal struggle resonates with many people.
The Christmas episode, "Mr. Monk and the Miracle," has to do with a fountain in a monastery that seems to be healing people. Of course its specific power is disproved, although Stottlemeyer insists that since drinking it he feels renewed.
Natalie keeps encouraging Monk to drink, since he is in pain all the time. Someone posted on a tvblog that Monk drinking from the fountain is one of the show’s most poignant moments.
But we don’t see that. Monk goes to the fountain and collects the water in a glass, and then just stands there as it goes to black, leaving it completely ambiguous whether he drinks it or not. Sometimes we need something from a story, and so we project it. That’s the interactive part of tv watching, no computer needed.