When it started eight years ago on USA Network, expectations weren't that high for the comedy/mystery show Monk. The program starred longtime character actor Tony Shaloub as obsessive/compulsive sleuth Adrian Monk, a brilliant detective whose fears and quirks, coupled with the death of his wife Trudy in a car bombing, had caused him to lose his job on the police force despite his brilliance.
Over its tenure, Monk became a huge hit despite offering cases that were seldom challenging and often downright easy to solve. They worked around that by focusing on Monk's numerous fears and generally irritating personality, and how others around him found ways to deal with him due to his crime-solving genius.
The show also included of comedic moments and occasional moments of genuine warmth, while helping USA launch similar light crime shows (Psych, White Collar) and also challenge TNT for basic cable supremacy.
But every show eventually runs it course, and Friday night Monk begins his final case. The two-part episode (8 p.m. both Friday and Dec. 4) will resolve some long-running story lines, most notably the question of who killed Monk's wife and why it happened. But they will also tie up some character loose ends, and also determine once and for all whether Monk will be on the police force or work as a consultant.
Since Shaloub is on record as saying he's ready for new challenges, the possibility of Monk reunion shows or future made-for-TV movies is a longshot one at best. Instead, viewers should prepare to say “so long” to one of this decade's genuine success stories, and one of the shows that's helped forever end the notion that cable programs take a back seat to network properties.
Key 'Criminal Minds'
Over the course of 99 episodes, Criminal Minds (Wednesdays, WTVF-5, 8 p.m.) has often featured some bloody and extremely violent cases. But Wednesday night's 100th program may prove the most shocking one aired since the show began in 2005.
It marks the return of arch-villain The Reaper (C. Thomas Howell) as he resumes his war on Agent Aaron Hotchner (Thomas Gibson) and his estranged family. The body count and gore will be high, and some shocking events will happen.
Though few details are being revealed beyond The Reaper's appearance, some critics who have seen it are a bit surprised that this was chosen for a pre-Thanksgiving airing.
Still, it doesn't matter how violent or graphic the show gets, it remains enormously popular. In fact CBS is reportedly now looking at a spin-off, something that's both an endorsement and a troubling proposition, since the last thing network television needs is more knockoff programming.
But whatever the case, look for Criminal Minds to remain a CBS powerhouse for quite a while. It's now also becoming just as prominent in syndication, now airing both on cable (A&E, ION) and independent broadcast outlets.
Any concert where the main headliner was Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin or U2 would be a great one. But one where all these people plus Mick Jagger, Sting, and Billy Joel are on the bill promises to be an unforgettable experience, and that's the case Sunday night when the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame concert airs on HBO (7 p.m.)
And there's more than that: Lou Reed, Metallica, John Fogerty, Ray Davies, Darlene Love and others are also on hand.
This is the 25th anniversary showcase for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and whether you agree with their selections and voting procedures or not, it's hard to argue with a lineup of this magnitude.