Thursday, September 5, 2013

"There's an old saying: Don't... change... anything... ever."

I'm finding that routine is becoming a bigger part of my life.  I used to fight it.  Now I only fight it on days like today when I have to take a different train.  It's not a comfortable experience.  The cars are a different style, the seats are weird, and it's really, really crowded.  I know one fictitious former San Francisco homicide detective who would have an absolute fit.  But not me, I'm content to just whine a little.

Today, on Must See TV Thursday, I bring you, "Mr. Monk Writes a Blog".  If you're a fan of the show then that's really funny.  If you've never seen it or don't like Mr. Monk, then you will think that's dumb and probably not bother to read the rest of my post.  Unless you are like Mr. Monk - in which case you will be forced suffer onward, despite your feelings, because you just HAVE TO.  

If you don't care for Monk I suspect it's because you started with the very first episode or only catch occasional bits and pieces on cable.  I'll admit it's an acquired taste that may take time to develop - sort of like an appreciation for soft, runny fromage - but, again like the fromage, it's worthwhile.  Especially if you write.

Mr. Monk is one of the most complex (and consistent) characters to ever be on television.  There have been complex or consistent, sure, but not both at the same time on this scale with such attention to detail applied to the supporting cast.  You can't get that from a single episode or sporadic moments.  You can only think OCD is funny for so long - if you miss the character then you've missed the point of the show.

Some significant points that you can learn from in your own story telling:

1)  The show is not about OCD.  It's a huge part of what controls the titular character, but his quirky behavior is never random.  Every issue he has relates directly to a story element. 

2) The show started as an offbeat, comical detective series.  It ended as a serious detective drama that had a couple of funny moments.  This transition was gradual and logical, the core audience didn't need to adjust (like Copperfield's disappearing Statue of Liberty) but taken at random, the shows seem a bit disconnected. 

3) The entire series is a love story.  This is not a show about murder.  It's about love.  Mr. Monk is haunted by his love for deceased wife Trudy, the only woman for him - someone who totally got him and still thought he was the greatest man in the world.  This is a hurt that permeates him, always there.  But it's also about the people that love Mr. Monk and while he needs them desperately, he is unable to reciprocate.  He is surrounded by friends that want to see him succeed.  I think it is absolutely amazing that they could run a show for 125 episodes, across 8 seasons with male and female leads who were devoted to each other.  Hardly ever a hint of romance between them, but the relationship that was constructed?  Amazing.  By keeping the mainline arc clean like that, they were able to introduce all sorts of crazy romantic installments without having to actually change the show.

4) Every character mattered.  Even the extras in the police station.  They all had depth and we found out about them - organically.  Randy had a band, man.  With an album.  Do you know what Tom Bosley's character from "Murder She Wrote" did in his spare time?

So I'm really slow.  I only just put together that "Castle" is a reboot of "Murder She Wrote".

“Monk” gets points because, as you watch, when one of the newbies (characters just meeting him) does something, you can't help but say, "He's not going to like that." or "Here come the wipes - yup!"  He's like that guy on the school bus that would put all of his buggers in a row on the seat in front of him.  You know exactly what he's going to do but still watch and still laugh - or cry - because that's someone's life.

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