September 16, 2007

FRESH IS OVERRATED:

Happy to Be Neurotic, at Least Once a Week (SUSAN STEWART, 9/16/07, NY Times)

Thinking up new “Monk” jokes is no easy task after six years. “It’s a contradiction, really, the idea of keeping it ‘fresh.’ There’s such a thing as over-freshness.”

Mr. Shalhoub says the show has “fermented” like a fine wine, a strong cheese — or a marriage. “I like that the writers are letting the characters finish each other’s sentences now.”

Mr. Shalhoub is now an executive producer of “Monk,” even as his performance continues to be the point of the series. “Monk” is a whodunit like “Columbo” or “Murder, She Wrote.” But its characterizations are complex, with emphasis on Monk’s struggles, as his assistant, Natalie (Traylor Howard), and his sometime employer Captain Stottlemeyer (Ted Levine) form an ad hoc family.

Mr. Shalhoub calls his acting style “subtlety takes a holiday.” Still, he is practically Shakespearean about the theme — “For a crime to occur, there must be disorder” — and deeply analytical about the details. When Monk studies crime scenes, for instance, he holds his hands before him, fingers splayed. “I’m looking between the fingers, because it actually isolates and cuts the room into slices, looking at parts instead of the whole.”

Mr. Shalhoub has his own back story for his character. “I’ve always thought of Monk as being a virgin. Prior to ‘The 40-Year-Old Virgin,’ I thought that.” Monk, he theorizes, was about to consummate his marriage when his wife was killed.

Do female fans find all that misery appealing? “About five years ago I was featured in People magazine’s Sexiest Men issue. I was in the category of ‘Surprisingly Sexy’ or something like that, which is another way of saying ‘Not Sexy,’ along with Donald Rumsfeld and hot guys like that.”

Sexy or not, Monk has netted Mr. Shalhoub five Emmy nominations for best actor in a comedy, and three awards. His excellence seems to be contagious. Just this month Stanley Tucci won an Emmy for his guest spot on “Monk.”

“I think other actors know how hard the Monk role is, and that’s what they respond to in the academy,” said Andy Breckman, the show’s creator. “We get great guest stars, because everyone wants to watch this man work.”

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 16, 2007 11:51 AM
Comments

I thought the season finale Fri. was excellent, as good if not better than anything previous in the series.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at September 16, 2007 11:13 PM
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