Most cult TV dies pretty quickly, but Adrian Monk has been charming viewers with his quirky detecting for five seasons now. The fifth season occasionally crosses the line into cartoonishness, but overall it's still an entertaining, amusing little detective show... with the world's only OCD detective.
In the opening episode, a movie is going to be made about Monk's (Tony Shalhoub) life and amazing abilities, with well-known actor David Ruskin (Stanley Tucci) as Monk. But Ruskin turns out to be the world's best method actor, as he observes Monk doing his detective work -- and starts to acquire Monk's OCD and personality. Sometimes acting can be TOO good.
But Monk's problems don't cease when he's paralyzed by a garbage strike, and the strike leader is murdered. Other cases include a mysterious electrocution in a gym shower, being blinded by a murderer, a stint as a private eye, a college reunion, a disastrous rock concert, a leper, posing as a butler, a radio host whose wife died while he was on the air, and he competes against technology to find a serial killer.
On the personal front, Monk gets reacquainted with his father, who left the family when he was a child, and he also tries to deal with Dr. Kroger's early retirement, by solving the crime that prompted him to leave. And he helps Randy (Jason Gray-Stanford ) out when the latter inherits a farm -- and a mysterious death.
The fifth season does sag a little in the middle -- the retirement and rocker episodes have Monk's OCD becoming almost cartoonishly comic. But most of the rest of the episodes are quite good, with the typical unsolvable cases, unbreakable alibis, and inexplicable phobias from poor Monk.
Writingwise, there's nothing to complain about -- solid writing, solid plots full of difficult mysteries, and Monk undergoing lots of stress as he tries to deal with his many phobias. The dialogue is top-notch ("There's never hope. I wish I drank. Is it wonderful?"), and the writers allow all the regular characters to shine now and again, including Randy and Stottlemeyer (who have a kind of big-brother/little-brother vibe).
Tony Shalhoub is just amazing here, as Monk tries to navigate the dangers of a dirty, random world. He's absolutely hilarious when poor Monk has to square dance, feed chickens, and single-handedly tries to clean up San Francisco. But he also gives us some truly beautiful moments, such as when we see Monk watching his wedding video, quietly crying.
Traylor Howard continues to give a solid performance as Monk's assistant, while Ted Levine and Gray-Stanford round off the regular cast as the kindly Stottlemeyer and naive Randy. Alice Cooper has a fun cameo, and Tucci is absolutely great as a Monk-impersonator. And Sean Astin gives a glorious performance as a murderous, spoiled rich brat.
The fifth season of "Monk" has a few episodes that are lacking, but most of them are still excellent, suspenseful little mysteries. Definitely worth seeing.