Season 5

Starring: Tony Shalhoub
Universal Playback
RRP: 27.99
Certificate: 12
Available 17 September 2007

Adrian Monk was a genius analytical homicide detective, with the San Francisco Police Department, until his wife was killed in a bombing. Following his breakdown he returns as an advisor, unfortunately his breakdown has left him with an idiosyncratic set of ticks, phobias and OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder), which at points both helps and hinders him in his work...

Monk first aired in 2002 and continues to be produced today. It was an instant hit, mostly due to the bizarrely erratic portrayal by Tony Shalhoub, in the title role. The show was created by Andy Breckman, who has previously been a writer on Saturday Night Live as well as holding the writing credits for the films Sergeant Bilko and Rat Race, so as you can imagine this show has its tongue firmly in its cheek.

From a start in theatre Shalhoub has gradually built up an impressive set of work on both the small and big screen. He played the dishonest alien pawnbroker in Men in Black, the father in Thirteen Ghosts and an inept actor who helps save the day in Galaxy Quest and most recently in 1408. Monk, and Shalhoub in particular, has won numerous awards, in various categories it has won ten outright and been nominated for a further twenty-five.

The first thing to say about the series is that it is something which you will either love, and I count myself amongst those that do, or hate due to the amount of time spent over Monk's personal neurosis. In truth, having treated many people with OCD, its portrayal, like many things on the screen, is somewhat over simplified and used for comedic or dramatic effect rather than to give an insight into the life of an OCD sufferer. Not that I have a problem with this, anything that demystifies and normalises mental health issues has to be a good thing.

Its mix of suspenseful cop drama and comedy are almost faultless, and Season Five has a good balance between shows which are being played for mostly laughs and those which look at the darker side of Monk's work. Underlying every story is the touchy, and more than a little melancholic, portrayal of Monk's life. He has a support nurse, initially played by Bitty Schram, though the character was replaced by Season Five by Traylor Howard playing Natalie Teeger. Teeger gets dragged into his cases along with two colleagues - Lt Randell Disher, played by Jason Gray-Stanford and his old boss Captain Leland Stottlemeyer - who do what they can to support him. These characters form the nucleus of the Monk family.

As you can imagine with such a well respected show, finding well known actors to guest in episode was not going to be a problem. The first episode Mr Monk and the Actor boasts Peter Weller (Robocop). The second episode, Mr Monk and the Garbage Strike, has Alice Cooper. In Mr Monk meets his Dad, Dan Hedaya steps into the role of his father, and Sean Astin (Lord of the Rings) pops up in Mr Monk is at your Service... and the list goes on.

Overall, if the show appeals to you there is little that it can be faulted for. The scripts are inevitably witty and intelligent and the acting superb. At its best Monk is compulsive watching.

The set does come with some extras, predominantly the pilot episode of Psych, a buddy comic drama. Initially I thought that it was little more than an extended advert for the show, however after watching, it was a good choice, not only is the show good, but it will appeal to fans of Monk, it has that same irreverent tone. For Monk fans there are four webisodes. For those of you that are into commentaries, the black and white episode of Mr Monk and the Leper has just a thing, this show is included twice both in its original black and white film noir version as well as the colour version, giving seventeen episodes in total.

As you would expect, from a modern show, both the audio and picture are very clear. So if you've missed any from Season Five go out and do yourself a favour and buy it.

Charles Packer

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