Mr. Monk and the Actor
|"Mr. Monk and the Actor"|
|Episode no.||Season 5
|Directed by||Randall Zisk|
|Written by||Hy Conrad
|Original air date||July 7, 2006|
"Mr. Monk and the Actor" is the first episode of the fifth season of the American comedy-drama detective television series Monk, and the show's 62nd episode overall. The series follows Adrian Monk (Tony Shalhoub), a private detective with obsessive–compulsive disorder and multiple phobias, and his assistant Natalie Teeger (Traylor Howard). In this episode, Monk has to link two different cases while an actor hired to play him in a film emotionally disturbs him.
Written by Hy Conrad and Joe Toplyn, and directed by Randall Zisk, "Mr. Monk and the Actor" guest starred Stanley Tucci. The staff envisioned the episode after imagining the possibility of Monk becoming a famous detective. When the episode first aired in the United States on the USA Network on July 7, 2006, it was watched by over 5.1 million viewers. Critics gave it positive reception, praising specially Tucci's performance. It also led Tucci to win an Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series.
While a man, Jack Leverett (Greg Grunberg), is cheating on his wife with a woman named Michelle Cullman (Susan Ward), he finds a hidden camera and, fighting for the camera, kills her. The following day, Monk (Tony Shalhoub) announces to his therapist, Dr. Charles Kroger (Stanley Kamel), he will go on his first vacation since the murder of his wife, Trudy. Later, Monk goes to the crime scene to investigate and is informed by Captain Stottlemeyer (Ted Levine) and Lieutenant Disher (Jason Gray-Stanford) that a film about him will be produced. As method actor David Ruskin (Stanley Tucci)—set to play Monk in the film—is there to observe his mannerism, Monk tries to impress him.
The next day, Ruskin follows Monk again as he investigates a case at a pawnshop in which its owner was shot during a robbery. Monk is intrigued as to why the burglar entered through the wall and only stole a small amount of money and a wristwatch. After discussing if Ruskin's presence can harm Monk, Natalie (Traylor Howard) and Monk find the crime's weapon. Monk finds the same glitter he found on Cullman's hair in the gun and argues the thief stole the watch to replace his one, deducing that the same person committed both crimes.
Later, Stottlemeyer and Disher watch the film's shooting and Natalie's prediction is right: Ruskin has impersonated Monk to the point that he is unable to complete the sequence because he is hassled by the setting's disorder. He leaves the studio, goes to Monk's house to know what are his reasons to do his job, and explores Monk's files on Trudy's murder, grieving Monk. An afflicted Monk goes to Natalie's house, where he solves the case when he sees torn paper by Julie to prevent Natalie from reading it. The pawnshop is adjacent to a restaurant, where clients are drawn on the wall. On the crime's night, Leverett and Cullman were sketched and Leverett tried to destroy the evidence.
Meanwhile, Ruskin is at the Trudy's murder scene when a guard, believing Ruskin to be Monk, informs him Leverett is the killer. When Stottlemeyer and Disher arrive at Leverett's car dealership to arrest him, Ruskin has already arrived and is keeping him as a hostage. Monk enters the dealership and stops Ruskin but is emotionally shaken when Ruskin says he could have saved Trudy. At the end, he talks with Dr. Kroger and cancels his trip.
"Mr. Monk and the Actor" was co-written by Hy Conrad and Joe Toplyn, and was directed by Randall Zisk. The concept for the episode first emerged while the staff was working on fourth season episode "Mr. Monk and the Astronaut", and they wondered if Monk would become famous. The first idea was to use the same set and actors from "Mr. Monk and the Astronaut" to create an episode in which a made-for-TV film is recorded about that case. It was not done but writers still wanted to create an episode focusing on a TV film, which eventually became "Mr. Monk and the Actor". On its original script, it exceeded the runtime by about six minutes so a scene involving a child mistaking a gun for a toy was cut. It would be the murder weapon, and even though a six-year-old actor was hired for the scene it was not filmed.
Shalhoub and Tucci had been friends since they met each other at the Yale Repertory Theater in 1989 when they acted on John Guare's play Moon Over Miami. In 1996, they co-starred the film Big Night, which Conrad said was the main reason Tucci "always our first choice for the actor role." Tucci said it was a "funny thing" since the role of Monk was offered to him after Big Night but he declined it. Shalhoub affirmed he had requested Tucci to appear on Monk for a long time before this episode but Tucci always rejected because of schedule reasons. Another guest star for the episode, Peter Weller was on set to direct "Mr. Monk, Private Eye" and volunteered for the role of the actor who plays Stottlemeyer.
"Mr. Monk and the Actor" was first available via video on demand service on June 30, 2006, and its television premiere through USA Network was on July 7, 2006 at 9 pm EST. According to an USA's press release, the episode was viewed by an estimated number of 5.3 million viewers, while Nielsen Media Research indicated a viewership of 5.1 million and a 3.89 rating. Gary Levin of USA Today called it a "shy" if compared to season four premiere's figure of 6.4 million. USA, however, said it was the most watched scripted hour in basic cable ever from its time slot.
The episode was well-received; IGN's Colin Moriarty gave it a score of 9 out 10, it was deemed "excellent" by John White of The Digital Fix, and it was elected by The Futon Critic's Brian Ford Sullivan the 49th best television episode of the year. Kevin McDonough, a critic for the United Feature Syndicate, called it "a great episode" and compared it to a Seinfeld episode with a similar premise. Diane Werts wrote for Newsday, "Which one's nuttier? It's a toss-up, and a fascinating one with the terrific Tucci as Shalhoub's emotional tango partner."
Several critics praised Tucci's performance and his interactions with Shalhoub. A reviewer for Times Colonist commented "Watching Shalhoub pretend to be Monk pretending to be a suave, sophisticated sleuth is a delight in its own right. Watching Tucci take Monk's nervous tics to ridiculous extremes is even more of a delight, especially when its appears that Monk's nervous disorder may be catching." In contrast to other reviewers, Adam Finley of AOL TV elected the best moment of the episode Disher's reaction to the fact his role is played by a woman who dates Stottlemeyer.
Moriarty, Matt Crowley of The A.V. Club and Variety's Paula Hendrickson used it as example of how Monk can fit comedy scenes during dramatic ones. Ann Zivotsky, a writer for the North County Times, commented, "Watching Tucci and Shalhoub play this for laughs would have been enough for some shows, but the Monk writers take the opportunity to let the movie actor share with Monk the insights he's learned about the detective, which may help, or hurt, Monk." Finley and David Kronke of Los Angeles Daily News also highlighted the line "[Ruskin] wanted to play a character that wasn't so depressing and dark. He's in England doing Hamlet."
Criticism to the episode was done by Finley who said, "So much of this show is dependent on Monk's subtle mannerisms, but he exaggerates them to an absurd degree as he tries to impress the actor who's playing him." Similarly, Werts said "Shalhoub pushes a tad too far with the compulsions." Robert Bianco of USA Today was also critical of its "excessive quirks and overall credibility-busting silliness." Although praised Shalhoub–Tucci dynamic, Rich Heldenfels of Akron Beacon Journal criticized it as "the actor-imitating-life thing has been done before on TV and in the movies, and the gag well is pretty dry."
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