Image from 'Monk'
The USA Network’s first hit show, Monk, is nearing the end of its eight year run. It’s a time for appreciating a show that became somethig special by daring to be simple, writes S. T. Karnick.

Tonight brings the third-to-last episode of Monk, the excellent USA Network detective series. The network had announced last year that this season would be the last, and the producers announced that the various story lines involving the central characters would be resolved.

These latter include the solution of the murder of Monk’s wife, Trudy, Monk’s possible return to the San Francisco police force, Capt. Stottlemeyer’s rocky love life, former assistant Sharona’s love life and unfinished emotional business with Monk, and other such travails. The show has done a fine job of balancing these personal elements with the weekly mystery stories over the years, and it is indeed satisfying to see them resolved one by one.

During the past couple of weeks, for example, Leland Stottlemeyer has gotten married, and Sharona reconciled with Monk and vice versa. Both of these episodes were quite affecting. In another recent story, Monk went before a police review board to consider reinstating him to the SFPD. In the end, Monk won over the lone holdout on the three-person board, but he was not given his badge back nonetheless.

It appears, however, that in tonight’s episode he will indeed be reinstated as a police officer, although of course there will be complications, as the case involves a serial killer in an unexpectedly challenging case, according to the USA Network’s Monk website. And according to USA, the final two episodes will bring a resolution of the case that has been pending throughout the run of the series: who killed Monk’s wife, Trudy, and why.

Such a resolution is in accord with the show’s modus operandi throughout its eight seasons. Monk always solved the case and ultimately always made things, not right, but better than they were, with the truth known and justice delivered.

I certainly understand the desire on the part of the cast and creative staff to move on to other things. And I’m sure there are those who will say that the show has had enough of a run and thus an end to it is for the best. I suppose they’re right.

Nonetheless, I’ll miss Monk when it’s over two weeks from now, and I’ll hold out hope that the producers will be willing and able to deliver the occasional one-off TV movie they way shows such as Columbo, Murder, She Wrote, and Diagnosis: Murder stayed on after their series runs.

And even if, as with those shows, the follow-ups aren’t particularly great, I’ll still appreciate them, because I just enjoy being around the characters and watching decent people trying to do some good in the world. As Preston Sturges wrote in Sullivan’s Travels, "It isn’t much, but it’s better than nothing in this cockeyed caravan." Amen to that. Long live Monk.

–S. T. Karnick