Sunday, February 24, 2013

TV on DVD Review: Monk - The Premier Episode

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Puzzling comic mystery
Cons: Exposition slows down the story as we are introduced to the characters
The Bottom Line:
How Monk got started
Typical pilot issues
Still entertaining

Monk is on the Case

When an assassin takes a shot at a mayoral candidate, the current mayor insists that Monk is brought in as a consultant on the case. Adrian Monk (Tony Shaloub) has been consulting for the police department for three years trying to get over his intense fears and obsessive-compulsive disorder enough to return full time to the force. While he's always had to fight these issues, they have been made worse by the unsolved murder of his wife. Still, his curses are also gifts that help him notice little things others miss. Right away, he makes a connection between this case and another murder he is working on that otherwise would appear unrelated. Aided by his nurse/assistant, Sharona (Bitty Schram), he digs deeper. But can Monk figure out what is going on?

I came to the party rather late, not watching until season 2. I was quite anxious to see the pilot because I wanted to get the complete background on the character. By the time I finally did see it, I had seen almost every episode of the show, so I did know the basics of what I needed to know. That meant I could just sit back and enjoy the story line.

I am a mystery fiend, and I especially love a good puzzle. Monk is wonderful for that, and this episode is no exception. I should have seen the ending coming, but, as usual, was taken completely by surprise. There are some wonderful laugh out loud moments as well as Monk tries to deal with the real world. I especially enjoyed it when Monk rearranged the pins on the precinct board to make them more orderly. Still, as always, they writers manage to walk the line between making fun of Monk and finding funny things for Monk to do because of his problems. It's a fine line, and I appreciate that the writers can walk it.

The episode does fall into the traps of most series premiers. Since we need to know about our characters, story is often slowed down for exposition. While it would have been helpful the first time around, by the time I watched it I didn't need it. Fortunately, we were treated to the back-story in small doses, so it didn't slow the story down for long. Also, the actors and writers are still trying to define the characters. While not as sharp as they are later in the series, they're quite acceptable here.

I'm not completely sure why this DVD was put out. Maybe it was to test the waters or hold over fans until season one was released. Either way, all you get here is the two part pilot episode. No extras whatsoever. Since it's included again in the complete season 1 set, if you are a fan of the series, just pass right on by.

Monk is one of the most original and entertaining shows currently on TV anywhere. While not perfect, this is a great intro to the character and tone of the series. If you only want an intro to see if you like it, get this disc. Otherwise, save your money for all of season 1.

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