The wildly popular USA Network comic-detective drama, MONK, is preparing for it's final 16 episode run starting Friday August 7. Last February, during the normal rating sweeps period by major networks, MONK drew a series high figure of 7.55 million viewers to NBC's sister basic cable channel, the USA Network. The first of eight Summer episodes will be "Mr. Monk's Favorite Show", in which he is excited to become a bodyguard for a former child star(played by guest star Elizabeth Perkins). Reportedly, Bitty Schram who left the series over a reported contract dispute will make a guest appearance in one of the final episodes.
The eight Summer episodes should run into nearly mid-September until the major Networks like NBC kick off their big fall seasons. USA's run of MONK has provided high quality new episodes of a program for the cable channel during the less than peak seasons or programming breaks by NBC. NBC did attempt to air repeat episodes of MONK and PSYCH during primetime once before, but with a disappointing ratings. Now NBC allows local channels to air old episodes late Saturday or Sunday night as syndicated shows. But as first run episodes for the USA Network, MONK has proven to be their first and largest hit original program so far.
So the big questions here are why is a very popular program with a growing audience of viewers being cancelled. It appears to be largely another cost cutting problem for NBC, USA and all other channels part of the NBC company . Although the program started off at a modest budget 7 seasons ago, the costs have continued to soar as the program became more popular and the audience expected more. It appeared that the smaller USA Network has been hard pressed to trim costs by ending their best program and developing a cheaper replacement for the future. USA might have convinced the producers of MONK that going out at the peak of popularity much like SEINFELD or MASH once did is the right way to end a great series. Yet it is a heartbreaker for fans of one of the greatest and most unique detective characters ever.
The strange and quirky detective character, Adrian Monk, had a strange enough history as well. Originally, as SEINFELD was ending, and Michael Richards starred in own quickly failed comedy detective prorgam, producers for the new MONK project looked to actor Michael Richards to play the lead in the series. They viewed him as the perfect actor to play the brilliant but troubled, Adrian Monk, traumatized by the explosion death of his wife as well as own mental health problems and subsequent firing from the San Francisco police force as a detective. Yet, Richards saw little value in the script and turned it down, which proved to be a terrible career move. Richards return to stand-up comdey turned into disaster after an incident of comedy turned into something viewed as racist by many in 2006, virytaully forcing Richards to retire from comedy and acting. After a search for a replacement actor for the MONK project, Tony Shalhoub, who sometimes played largely ethnic roles because of his own Lebanese-American ancestry was chosen. Shalhoub was largely a supporting actor in the comedy WINGS on NBC, playing an ethnic cab driver. But MONK was an opportunity for Shalhoub to do something new outside of this typecasting, although he has a far longer stage and film career than many of his fans really realize. For Michael Richards, missing the MONK role might have become a near career ender, while for Tony Shaloub, the role won him three Emmy awards.
Fans can probably expect some of the best episodes ever during the final season16 episode run, with eight Summer and eight Winter episodes. One surprising report is that a series finale where Mr. Monk finally brings down his wife's killer may even emerge. Mr. Monk will really go out on top it seems. Expect big things from this great series in the coming weeks.