Appointment television is a rare thing these days and it seems that Must See TV has went the way of Seinfeld. It used to be that there were certain nights that it seemed you and all of your friends were watching. The whole family used to watch together even further back when. Today it's rare when something can bring the whole family together, and in some cases, you just can't allow little ears and eyes to witness some shows. And the great shows are more scattershot and all over the dial. Thanks to TiVO, DVR and On Demand TV, many people just record their shows and watch them when the time is right. Netflix makes it as easy for those folks who don't have TiVO or cable or satellite.
Occasionally we've been known to recommend current television shows here on the Shelf, but more often than not there isn't much good television to recommend. I have my favorites: NCIS, The Unit, Law and Order: Criminal Intent, Numbers, The Amazing Race. Now, we don't watch television all the time in the Loophole household. Sometimes it's more about a certain night when certain shows are on. Many times when the Little Loopholes have been tucked in and the Mrs. and I are tuckered out we end up saying- "there isn't anything on- let's pop in a DVD."
We don't get the USA network, but we've seen episodes of the USA series Monk and Psych when they ran on NBC during the Writer's Strike, and I wish they would have continued that particular example of corporate synergy. Fortunately, the shows have been released on DVD and the current season shows are available online on Hulu and USAnetwork.com. Recently, Universal released Season 6 of Monk and Season 2 of Psych
Monk: Season 5
16 episodes on 4 Discs
Wide Screen Format
Release Date: 7-08-08
Stars: Tony Shalhoub, Traylor Howard
Ted Levine, Jason Gray-Stanford and Hector Eliazondo
According to the series creator and executive producer, Andy Breakman, (stated on Season 2 extras) the show Monk is character driven and based on the character model of Sherlock Holmes (Monk), Watson (Sharona/Natalie) and Lt. Lestrade (Capt. Stottlemeyer). As he says, it's a great model to work with, and it allows for multiple variations. Clearly the inspiration leads further into not only the relationships and interactions between the characters, but also into the inner workings of mind of the main character. Adrian Monk is a brilliant and quirky detective, who lost his wife in a car bombing years ago. Always suffering from certain aspects of obsessive compulsive disorder and phobias, he had them under some reasonable control until his wife was killed, after which they went full blown. Monk was suspended from the force (he is often mentioned as "inactive") and refused to leave his house for years. With the help of his therapist and his private nurse Sharona, Monk began to come back out into the world- driven to solve his wife's murder and get back on the force. While his OCD and phobias are very much a part of his everyday life, his brain and unorthodox way of noticing and seeing little things make him an invaluable consultant to the police on their most difficult cases. Later the character of Sharona left the show and Monk hired a new assistant, Natalie who is still with him today. Also the actor playing Monk's therapist, Dr. Kroger (Stanley Kamel) passed away last year, which they worked into the storyline this season in a very touching way. The always great Hector Elizondo plays Monk's current therapist, Dr. Bell.
Always entertaining and funny, the mysteries on Monk are really secondary to the characters. The mysteries are clever, but the show is really driven by Monk and the other characters. Season 6 is no exception- the 16 episodes have taken Monk even further into his condition, but also explores the lives of the other characters. Guest stars show up from time to time, but make no mistake- Tony Shalhoub is the star attraction. His performance as Monk brings not just the OCD and fears and foibles, but the warmth and authenticity of the character to life. He has traces of Holmes, Columbo, Clouseau with traces of Jack Benny's radio personality (some of Monk's stinginess is directly reminiscent of Jack). Season 6 continues the great run of the show, and it's very family friendly- no bloody corpses, bad words or other nastiness here. Great mysteries, great acting and more importantly great character driven stories- just what the Doctor disordered.
Psych: Season 2
16 episodes on 4 Discs
Wide Screen Format
Release Date: 7-08-08
Stars: James Roday, Dule Hill, Corben Bernsen,
Timothy Omundson, Maggie Lawson and Kirsten Nelson.
Psych debuted in 2006 following the Monk time slot. It is almost a "sister show" in the sense that it shares the comedy-drama-mystery format and is also very character driven. Shawn Spencer's (James Roday) dad Henry (Corben Bernsen) was a great cop for the Santa Barbara, CA PD, who always thought his son would follow in his footsteps. His son possesses the same observation gifts and deductive reasoning skills that his father had, but ultimately Shawn was more interested in... whatever else interested him at the moment. Henry is now retired and has given up on this dream, but Shawn has been drawn into the line of work in a very different way. After seeing a report on a crime on television, he gives a tip to the police, which lead to the solving of the cases. The police got suspicious of Shawn and named him as a suspect. In a corner, Shawn claimed to be a psychic- and at the risk of getting in trouble for "faking it"- Shawn keeps up the psychic act and with his best friend Burton "Gus" Guster (Dule Hill) he gets called in to work his "psychic" skills on difficult cases. While his psychic act is a cover, and a way to often mock and have fun at the expense of certain characters, his observational and deducting skills often lead him to find and notice clues others cannot.
Season 2 carries on the antics of Shawn and Gus, and continues to bring in more of Shawn's dad and the other supporting characters. Shawn and Gus are hilarious and pop culture junkies and especially kids of the 70s and 80s will pick up on the many jokes and references. Shawn has grown a bit from being an aimless guy who gets bored when things are too easy (perhaps, because he's too smart for his own good) to being driven to get the "big cases". The relationship between the best friends Shawn and Gus is central to the show, as well as Shawn's complicated relationship with his dad, Henry, who reluctantly helps Shawn solve some cases. He mostly bemoans Shawn's "psychic" act and keeps mentioning how Shawn will yet again give up on another "project". But slowly, over the course of season 2 and into season 3, you see some softening and begrudging mutual respect. The Season two set is rife with extras, which are sometimes as funny as the show and fans of the show will get a lot of the inside jokes and references. Side note: series creator Steve Franks also wrote the great theme song as well. Great stuff.
Also here is a fun bit of trivia: Tim Daly (Tony Shalhoub's cohort in Wings) made a fun guest appearance as himself at the end of Season One of Monk. Not to be out done, fellow Wings co-star, Steven Webber, recently guest starred on Psych as Shawn's Uncle.
You probably have been watching, but in case you aren't may I recommend that you check these two shows which have shot up on the Loophole Top TV list! And for goodness sakes- go back to the first seasons and work your way up. Season 6 of Monk and Season 2 of Psych receive a big thumbs up as Shelf Classic television- maybe even appointment (on your schedule) television.
Both DVD sets receive 5 stars (Groucho glasses)
Stay tuned- more reviews and stuff on the way!
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