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Adrian Monk is a fictional character portrayed by Tony Shalhoub and the protagonist of the USA Network television series Monk. He is a renowned former homicide detective for the San Francisco Police Department. Monk suffers from severe obsessive-compulsive disorder and multiple phobias, both of which intensified after the murder of his wife Trudy, resulting in his suspension from the department. He works as a private police homicide consultant and undergoes therapy with the ultimate goal of overcoming his grief, taking control of his phobias and disorder, and being reinstated as a police detective.

According to series co-creator David Hoberman, Monk is partly based on himself, and also on other fictional detectives, such as Lt. Columbo and Sherlock Holmes. Other actors considered for the role included Dave Foley, John Ritter, Henry Winkler, Stanley Tucci, Alfred Molina and Michael Richards. The network eventually chose Shalhoub because they felt he could "bring the humor and passion of Monk to life."

Both Monk and Shalhoub have garnered many accolades. Monk was included in Bravo's list of The 100 Greatest Television Characters of All Time, and Shalhoub has won various awards for his portrayal, including a Golden Globe Award, three Primetime Emmy Awards and two Screen Actors Guild Awards.

Character Development


Monk was originally envisioned as a "more goofy and physical" Inspector Clouseau type of character. However, co-creator David Hoberman came up with the idea of a detective with obsessive-compulsive disorder. This was inspired by his own bout with self-diagnosed obsessive-compulsive disorder; in a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette interview, he stated that, "Like Monk, I couldn't walk on cracks and had to touch poles. I have no idea why – but if I didn't do these things, something terrible would happen."

Other fictional inspirations include Columbo and Sherlock Holmes, and his obsession with neatness and order may be an homage to Hercule Poirot. Like Holmes and Poirot, Monk is accompanied by an earnest assistant with little or no detective ability, similar to Dr. Watson and Captain Hastings, respectively; Monk's two major allies from the police department, Captain Stottlemeyer and Lieutenant Disher (credited as "Deacon" in the pilot episode), are reminiscent of Inspector Lestrade and Chief Inspector Japp, Holmes's and Poirot's well-meaning but ineffectual respective police counterparts. In addition, Monk has a brother whose abilities are even more amazing than his, in the style of Mycroft Holmes.

When trying to think of a possible name for the character, co-creator Andy Breckman decided to look for a "a simple monosyllabic last name, with an unusual colorful first name". Along with the producers of the show, Breckman decided "Adrian Monk" sounded "kind of quirky and it was in keeping with the Sherlock Holmes mold." Ileane Meltzer, costume designer for the show, wanted to create a signature look for the character. With Shalhoub, she researched Inspector Clouseau, Lt. Columbo and Sherlock Holmes for inspiration. Meltzer created a "tight-fitted, uptight and buttoned up" look for the character because he was described as "a very uptight human being". She decided not to have Monk wear a tie, because they carry too many germs.


Shalhoub was cast because the producers felt he could "bring the humor and passion of Monk to life".
Co-creator David Hoberman revealed that the casting sessions were "depressing". USA network's executive vice president Jeff Wachtel stated that looking for the right actor to portray Monk was "casting hell". After two years of developing, the producers still had not found an actor to play the part. Although Michael Richards was considered, distributors of the show ABC and Touchstone worried that the audience would typecast him for more comedic roles after his previous work as Cosmo Kramer on the sitcom series Seinfeld. After Richards dropped out of the project, he went on to star in another series about a private detective, The Michael Richards Show, which was canceled after six episodes.

After the script for Monk was sold to USA Network, the network considered a small number of actors, including Dave Foley, John Ritter, Henry Winkler, Stanley Tucci, Alfred Molina and Tony Shalhoub. Eventually, the list was narrowed down to Tucci, Molina and Shalhoub. However, because Tucci and Molina were unavailable due to other projects, USA made an appointment with Shalhoub. Wachtel told Shalhoub that the role of Adrian Monk was a "career-making role", and that "this is the one people are going to remember you for". At first, Shalhoub did not know how to react; as he explained, "I was worried – this character is so irritating, how do you make him likable when he's in so many scenes of an hour-long show? Then I realized he was more like me than I probably like to admit, and I took it." To prepare for the part, Shalhoub did research with a Los Angelesmarker psychotherapist specializing in obsessive-compulsive disorder. Shalhoub only signed up for a small number of episodes, because he was doing film roles and did not want to be restricted to a long-term contract. After the show was positively received, he signed a full time contract.


In the script for the pilot episode, "Mr. Monk and the Candidate," Monk is described as being "a modern day Sherlock Holmes", only "nuts". In the introductory scene of the episode, he is examining the scene of a recent murder, and picks up several important clues, but frequently interrupts himself to wonder aloud whether he left his stove on when he left the house that morning. Monk has 312 phobias; the strongest of which are germs (mysophobia), dentists (odontophobia), sharp or pointed objects (aichmophobia), milk (lactophobia), vomiting (emetophobia), death (necrophobia), snakes (ophidiophobia), crowds (enochlophobia), heights (acrophobia), mushrooms (mycophobia), and elevators. In addition, new phobias develop at seemingly random intervals, such as a temporary fear of blankets. Because of his overpowering fear of germs, Monk refuses to touch door handles and other common objects with his bare hands, avoids contact with anything dirty, and always uses sanitary wipes after human contact, including basic handshakes. He is also unable to eat food that other people have touched.

Monk's phobias and anxiety disorders make him depend on personal assistants, who drive him around, do his shopping, and always carry a supply of wipes for his use. They also take an active role in organizing his consultancy work, and sometimes investigate cases themselves. His first assistant, Sharona Fleming (Bitty Schram), was a single mother and practical nurse by profession, hired by the police department to help Monk recover from the three-year catatonic state he lapsed into after the murder of his wife. After several years of loyal service, Sharona quit to return to New Jerseymarker and remarry her ex-husband. After her abrupt departure, Monk had a chance meeting with Natalie Teeger (Traylor Howard), whom he hired as his new assistant.

Monk carries out futile and endless attempts to make the world "balanced". Monk is fixated with symmetry, this goes so far that he cuts his pancakes into squares. He strongly prefers familiarity and rigorous structure in his activities. Monk only drinks Sierra Springs water, and while visiting Mexico, went without drinking any water for days because he was unable to find any Sierra Springs. Monk also has great difficulty in standard social situations (at one point, he goes so far as to write down common small talk phrases on note cards in an attempt to successfully socialize). While his obsessive attention to minute detail cripples him socially, it makes him a gifted detective and profiler. He has a photographic memory, and can reconstruct entire crimes based on little more than scraps of detail that seem unimportant to his colleagues. His trademark method of examining a crime scene, which Sharona used to call his "Zen Sherlock Holmes thing," is to wander, seemingly aimlessly, around a crime scene, occasionally holding up his hands, as though framing a shot for a photograph. Shalhoub explained that Monk does this because it "isolates and cuts the crime scene into slices" and causes Monk to look at parts of the crime scene instead of the whole.

Monk's delicate mental condition means that his ability to function can be severely impaired by a variety of factors. For instance, when entering a chaotic murder scene in one episode, his first impulse is to straighten the lamps, though he is frequently able to hold off his fixations when examining bodies or collecting evidence. Even though Monk's mental state in the series is said to be a result of his wife's death, he shows signs of OCD in flashbacks dating back to childhood. In order to deal with his OCD and phobias, Monk visits a psychiatrist weekly, and at several points, daily.

Over the course of the show (roughly 8 years), Monk has overcome many of his phobias and some aspects of his OCD. Though he hasn't been cured of many of them, if any at all, he has been able to put them in the back of his mind when involved in case work. Possibly due to this alone, Monk was recently reinstated as detective first class by his long time friend Captain Leland Stottlemeyer, in the episode, Mr. Monk and the Badge. Though he is very excited about his reinstatement initially, Monk realizes that becoming a detective again didn't mean that he would be happier. In a session with Dr. Bell, Monk realized he was always happy as a private detective and consultant to the SFPD as his own boss. After overcoming his fear of heights and singlehandedly capturing a murderer, Monk gave his badge back.

Character background

Trudy's death

Throughout the series, Monk mourns his wife Trudy (Melora Hardin/Stellina Rusich), who was killed by a car bomb he believes was meant for him on December 14, 1997. The death of his wife exacerbated Monk's already existing obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). One year later, the San Francisco Police Department granted him a psychological discharge. Monk calls it "a temporary suspension" and hopes to be reinstated. His grief over Trudy's death is intense and with him every day of his life; he has stated more than once that he is never truly happy and never expects to be truly happy ever again. Since Trudy's death, Monk has been consulting with San Franciscomarker police detectives on various cases.

As the series progresses, Monk makes several discoveries in his ongoing search for the man who killed his wife. He has not yet fully solved the case, although he has discovered that the car bomb was meant for Trudy and built by a man named Warrick Tennyson (Frank Collison), who was hired by a six-fingered man named Frank Nunn (Courtney Gains). In the sixth-season finale, he finally catches up with Nunn, who claims to be yet another pawn with no idea why Trudy was killed. This turns out to be part of a larger plot to have Nunn set up another bombing and then frame Monk for killing him; he is shot before Monk can have him arrested or convince him to surrender the name of his employer in Trudy's murder. Once Monk is cleared in Nunn's death, the police find correspondence from Nunn dating back to the era of Trudy's death. There are no names discovered, but there is a reference to the person responsible, referred to as "The Judge". "The Judge" has since been revealed as the judge played by Craig T. Nelson, who admits to the murder in a phone dialog in "Mr. Monk and the End, Part 1".In this same episode monk has been poisoned by order of "The Judge", and without a hope he decided to open the gift that Trudy gave him before her death. It is revealed that the gift was a videotape of Trudy revealing the truth about her death.

Childhood and family

Monk was born October 15, 1959. His parents were very strict and over-protective. Monk's father, Jack Monk (Dan Hedaya), abandoned the family when Monk was eight years old when he went out for Chinese food and did not return. Monk has an agoraphobic brother named Ambrose (John Turturro), from whom he was estranged for seven years following Trudy's death. Monk states that his mother died in 1994.

In the episode "Mr. Monk and the Three Pies," it is revealed that Monk was angry at his brother for never contacting him after Trudy's death. When the two were reunited, Ambrose admitted he did not call Monk because he believed that he was responsible for the incident. Trudy was getting Ambrose cough medicine and was in the store's garage when she was killed. Their father Jack, remained unseen in the series until the episode "Mr. Monk Meets His Dad." Jack explained that he did not return to his family because the message in his fortune cookie read "Stand By Your Man," which he interpreted to mean that he should follow his own path. Monk did not forgive his father at first, but warmed up to him while assisting him on a delivery job. At the end of the episode, Jack teaches Monk how to ride a bike — something he was not there to do when Monk was a child. Jack also mentioned that he has a son from another wife, named Jack Jr. (Steve Zahn). Monk later meets Jack Jr. and helps to clear him of murder.


Critical reception

Critical reviews of character Adrian Monk have been positive. Howard Rosenberg of the Los Angeles Times called Monk "TV's most original sleuth ever". In a review of the show's pilot, Tim Goodman of The San Francisco Chronicle stated: "With his history and his sympathetic but funny 'problem,' he [Monk] becomes one of television's most likable characters and floats a show that is, to be frank, riddled with improbability and simplicity". Monk is ranked number 99 on Bravo's list of The 100 Greatest Television Characters of All Time.

Shalhoub's performance in the series has also been praised. Michael Sauter of Entertainment Weekly called Shalhoub's performance "original and splendid". Nancy Franklin of the The New Yorker said that Shalhoub is "brilliant at conveying the tension between Monk’s desire to conquer his disorder and his dug-in defense of his behavior". Michael Abernethy of PopMatters describes Shalhoub's performance as "exceptional", and Melanie McFarland of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer states that Shalhoub is a "careful and nuanced actor". Alan Sepinwall of the Star-Ledger described Shalhoub as "the perfect fit" for the character.


Shalhoub has earned various awards and nominations for his work in Monk. He has been nominated for Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor - Comedy Series each year from 2003 to 2009, winning in 2003, 2005 and 2006. In 2003, Shalhoub won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor - Television Series Musical or Comedy; he was nominated for the same category in 2004, 2005, 2007 and 2009. He received the 2004 and the 2005 Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Comedy Series, with nominations in the same category in 2003, 2007, 2008 and 2009.

Notes and Sources

  1. Erdmann & Block, p.2
  2. Erdmann & Block, p. 6
  3. Erdmann & Block, p. 5
  4. Erdmann & Block, p. 3
  5. Erdmann & Block, p. 4
  6. Mr. Monk Goes to the Carnival". Byrne, Siobhan. Monk (5). 2002-08-02.
  7. Stewart, Susan. (2007-09-16) "Happy to Be Neurotic, at Least Once a Week", The New York Times. Retrieved on October 16, 2008.
  8. Wilkerson, David B. (2008-10-11) "NBC cable networks' big engagement", Marketwatch. Retrieved on October 16, 2008.
  9. Staff. (2008-04-10) "Shalhoub Pays Tribute To "Monk" Co-Star", CBS News. Retrieved on October 16, 2008.
  10. The episode "Happy Birthday, Mr. Monk" takes place on a Wednesday of the week of October 16, 2009. It is stated that his 50th birthday is the next day, which would be Thursday, October 15, 2009.
  11. " Complete 2008 Nominations List". Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, (2008-06-17) Retrieved on 2008-12-27.


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