|Index||3 reviews in total|
Sharona returns to look into her uncle's accidental death, and Monk is soon caught up in what may be something other than an accident. The old guy took a spill on a golf course, but Monk isn't so sure that's what killed him. Sharona is beside herself, as the country club involved has offered her a very generous settlement that will more than cover Benjy's college. Sharona and Natalie spar over Monk, of course. We all know the actress who played Sharona in the first season left in a contract dispute, but there's no way to tell. It's like Bitty Schram never left the series. Monk, upon seeing Sharona for the first time in years, says "What year is this?" A fun episode.
Wait. Something's not right.....
How can an episode of Monk, which contains BOTH his lovely assistants, Natalie and Sharona, at the same time, on the same show, have only one lone user review (July 2012)?
And how can the description of this most excellent episode be so commonplace? It's written as though the return of Sharona is just another plot line in this 8th and final season of Monk. Hello?!
Here's the thing...
Is it not thoroughly understood that Monk fans loved both Sharona AND Natalie, not to mention the fine actresses behind the characters? Hey, initially we loved Sharona, and for some people, breaking up the dynamic duo of Adrian and Sharona was like breaking up.... well, you know. (hint: "dynamic duo"). But then the impossible happened. We fell in love with Sharona's replacement, perky Natalie Teeger. Traylor Howard fell into the role in season 3.5 every bit as naturally as Bitty Schram did in season 1. So here we are, the audience, men and women alike, loving two characters at the same time. :>
So what could be better than having both Howard and Schram appear TOGETHER in the same episode?? This is big news people! So let's see if we (the audience) can't get it together and tell the world, visa vi a few more reviews, that we loved this episode. It may not have been easy to make it happen! And, it was a good episode. Natalie and Sharona played off each other beautifully. Throw in Monk, and all of them together reminded me of the Three Stooges... with emotional battering substituted for a physical poke in the eye.
But seriously, you really get an opportunity in this episode to see how each actress adapted to the role in her own unique way, with Schram taking the no-nonsense tough-girl stance toward Monk, and Howard playing the compassionate, sympathetic assistant. Neither approach was better or worse, simply the right approach for each actress's core temperament. But what is really noteworthy here are the *similarities* between the two women. Both actresses take full advantage of the gifted writing, acting out the script with not only convincing performances, but enhancing their performance with *nuance*. For instance, there are many Ricky Gervais style "throw away" lines in the scripts, and what I am referring to is the many many one-liners that are not given a focused setup... just simply uttered (or muttered) by Monk's assistant. Both Schram and Howard get the lines off wonderfully, without out drawing undo attention to themselves. Sometimes I have to stop the DVD to compose myself after Sharona or Natalie squeeze in a short one-liner that leaves you howling. And then there's the looks they give Monk. Priceless. Either actress would have fared well in the silent picture days.
So how did the producers entice Bitty Schram to come in and do a guest shot, considering that there may have been hard feelings on both side when she departed? Well....
Here's what happened...
Andy Breckman was secretly in love with Betty. When she moved back to New Jersey after leaving the show at season 3.5 Breckman was heartbroken. He only had himself to blame however, as it was at his insistence that Betty demanded 100 Million dollars per episode.
For the next 5 years Breckman tried to get Betty back to the show, but David Hoberman blocked every attempt, because he had fallen in love with Traylor Howard. This left Breckman and Hoberman in opposition for that 5 years because Howard started showing sympathy for Schram and wouldn't date Hoberman until the issue was resolved. Bitty and Traylor finally stepped forward with a proposed solution. In their personal lives this meant something along the lines of a love quadrangle (whatever that is). On the show it simply meant writing in Sharona to appear as a guest star.
Duh! Why didn't they think of that sooner? They did, and both Breckman and Hoberman loved the idea, but as it turns out Schram and Howard secretly detested each other, but only as actresses, and refused to work together on set. Bitty thought she had played the best assistant Monk could ever have, and of course Traylor felt the same way about her own performance. Thus, animosity abounded.
Finally though the two actresses agreed to work together for one show only... just to see how it went. Breckman and Hoberman were ecstatic!
But if this is all true how come Howard and Schram had such good chemistry in the episode? Because they are PROFESSIONAL actresses, that's how. And it was worth the effort, because not only did the cast turn in a great episode, Traylor and Bitty got past their superficial contempt for each other and became gal-pals.
And everyone lived happily ever after.
Someone give me a wipe. I think I'm gonna cry...
Q: Dude, is all that love stuff actually true?
A: Not a single word. Except for the fact that Howard and Schram rock!
'Monk' has always been one of my most watched shows when needing
comfort, to relax after a hard day, a good laugh or a way to spend a
Season 8 up to this point was a mixed bag, with a few very good episodes ("Someone Else", "Voodoo Curse" and particularly "Foreign Man"), a few decent ones ("Favourite Show", "Happy Birthday Mr Monk" and "Goes to Group Therapy") and a few disappointing ones ("Critic", "Takes the Stand" and especially "UFO"). While it was not quite the amazing episode it could have been, signalling the long overdue return of Monk's first assistant Sharona, "Mr Monk and Sharona" is one of the very good episodes of Season 8.
It could have been better. There are a couple of puzzling lapses in continuity, with the writers seeming to forget that Sharona had a younger sister implied when talking about her uncle being her only relative (a whole episode revolved around her in Season 2 "Mr Monk Goes to the Theater") and Monk overcoming his claustrophobia in "Mr Monk Goes to Group Therapy" which was not what the closet scene suggested. There are a couple of scenes that came over as a little too silly, the closet scene (the whole scene in the house even) could have been funny or tense or both but was neither and rivalled Monk being mistaken for an alien as silliness at the most extreme and misplaced for Season 8. The denouement wasn't as clever as it could have been, the how, why and who aspect was clever but how it was all explained and such was staged a little too ridiculously and almost like a gimmick.
More could have been done with how Sharona's abrupt departure affected Monk, here he didn't just not seem upset about it it was like he was oblivious, since the departure was 4 and a half seasons ago that was very hard to buy. Natalie and Sharona's conversation and the hug were flashes of this happening, and it was done beautifully. Sharona is delightful and has everything that makes her a great character in the first place. With that being said, she didn't always seem in character, for a family death regardless of how little she knew him she was much too indifferent (Monk didn't know the man at all but showed much more urgency than her), accentuated in the repeated (and very cold) line about only meeting him twice. Can understand about her concerns about the money though, and don't think she came over as greedy.
However, there is a huge amount to enjoy in "Mr Monk and Sharona". While the mystery is an intriguing one, it is not as prominent and not as memorable as the character moments. Throughout the character moments were truly delightful. Particularly well done was the sparring between Sharona and Natalie. That sparkles in wit and humour but one does see their concern and care for Monk and also their contrasting personalities, Sharona being sharper and no-nonsense and Natalie more compassionate and sympathetic, this came over very believably. Disher and Stottlemeyer actually aren't underused here and their material is not beneath them. Disher is endearingly goofy but also sweet, while Stottlemeyer's argument with the rest of the characters is an episode highlight. He also has one of the best lines in his spot on analogy in comparing Sharona and Natalie, which sums up my thoughts on them perfectly and it has been the most perceptive he's been in a long time. The hug was very nuanced and moving, conveying a lot without having to do much, liked the grave scene and Sharona and Natalie's end conversation too.
What also makes "Mr Monk and Sharona" very good is how, like Season 8 was already showing, it resolved long-term issues. Season 8 started gradually seeing Monk making progress conquering phobias, and "Mr Monk and Sharona" gives closure for those who were unsatisfied by Sharona's departure and how half-heartedly she was written out. The whole Sharona or Natalie conflict also feels resolved. Really liked the unique way of how the crime is solved, instead of too early conclusion-jumping or doing things very methodically it's done in smaller stages which is unusual for 'Monk' and works so much better than in many latter season episodes.
One of the best things about 'Monk' has always been Tony Shalhoub, who was as Monk consistently one of the best things about every episode regardless of what material is thrown at him.. It was essential for him to work and be the glue of the show, and Shalhoub not only is that but also at his very best he IS the show. Have always loved the balance of the humour, which is often hilarious, and pathos, which is sincere and touching.
Bitty Schram captures Sharona's feisty, no-nonsense, caring and nurturing qualities very well and like she never left. Traylor Howard is down-to-earth, sassy and sympathetic, Jason Gray-Stanford is amusing and Ted Levine is able to give more dimension than any other episode of Season 8 so far (one sees him being serious about his job but one sees him as a loyal, sympathetic friend who is the voice-of-reason). The rest of the cast do well but no standouts as such.
The writing is quirky and wry, with some very funny lines from Monk but also some thought-provoking ones like Stottlemeyer's Natalie and Sharona comparison.
Visually, the episode is slick and stylish as ever. The music is both understated and quirky. While there is a preference for the theme music for Season 1, Randy Newman's "It's a Jungle Out There" has grown on me overtime, found it annoying at first but appreciate its meaning and what it's trying to say much more now.
All in all, very good but not quite great. 8/10 Bethany Cox
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