Adrian Monk, lead character of the TV show Monk, is (clean) hands-down the best detective on TV today. Why is Monk better than Horatio Caine, Olivia Benson, Lily Rush, or that guy Gary Sinese plays? What would lead someone to say in all the pantheon of TV detectives currently on the air, Mr. Monk is #1. Here are some reasons why Monk is the best detective on TV today.
1. He doesn’t need science. I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of watching all these CSI-type shows where a full ten minutes of any given episode is comprised of montages of people doing lab work. “Oh, look how he stuck that q-tip in that test tube!” Riveting television. Adrian Monk doesn’t get into science and lab work, he just goes to the crime scene, observes the heck out of everything, and then, at the end of the episode, remembers a key action, statement, or other clue that wraps everything up….which means viewers don’t have to watch anyone playing with q-tips, instead they get fun story.
2. Sex. In this day and age, the adage “sex sells” has been taken above and beyond the extreme. A colleague of mine recently explained the murders in the first six episodes of this season’s CSI:New York, and pointed out how each involved a 20-something woman, scantily clad, getting killed. Turn on just about any cop show on TV and you will have huge chunks of every season devoted to young, usually untalented , bikini models getting killed or people dying in some other sexed-up way. I mean, where would SVU be without it’s sexually based offenses? Well, it would be Criminal Intent, but, anyhow… If you’re tired of all the overdone, often-exploitative stuff on other shows, watch Monk at work. That man is about as asexual as a ken doll. But how can you blame him -what with Trudy only being dead the nine or so years….The show itself follows suit with its lead character’s actions. In fact, I think it would in fact be illegal for a show to be any less sexual than Monk.
3.Surprise, High-Quality One-Liners. Since the days of Joe Friday’s “just the facts” style went out of mode, every good detective has to know how to deliver a one-liner. Lennie Briscoe was the master. Mike Logan, now on Criminal Intent, does a good job carrying on the legacy (as does Alex Eames, for that matter.) One might question how Monk, notoriously humorless, can compete in this category. But that’s the great thing about him, when it comes time to throw down with a line that leaves the criminal speechless, Monk is so there. Sure, it may not be a funny line, per se, but he gets his tough guy ‘tude going, just fine. In one episode, a murderer trying to get away with his crime is trying to walk past Monk and says “You’re in my way.” Monk looks him dead in the eye and says “Yes, I am.” That was a sweet line.
4. Memory. Gil Grissom may know bugs. Bobby Goren may have a weird knowledge of languages. And art. And medicines. And medical conditions. And, well, okay, he reads a lot, whatever. But Monk, man, there’s no detective on TV today who remembers minute details from the crime scene the way he does. There’s no guy who can recall throwaway lines that catch the killer up. Monk’s OCD brain may drive him to distraction when it comes to tiny details, but it also helps him catch killers. No detective’s memory is so crucial to his or her show’s contrived endings working out as Monk’s is to his show. So, that’s saying something.
5. Rep. Just about every other TV detective is simply a face in the crowd of big city cops. But Monk? Man, he’s the best detective in his whole city of San Francisco. People from all over the state, in fact, know him by reputation. If you’re going to be the best detective on TV, you have to cause fear to rise in the hearts of perps who know you’re on their trail. True,a solid 80% of the criminals on SVU seem to have some personal knowledge of Benson, Stabler, Fin, or Munch, but, we’ll chalk that up to coincidence. Monk, on the other hand, has the biggest, baddest rep of any detective on TV. He’s like that malpractice lawyer on those low-budget ads whose name is enough to get the insurance companies to settle.
6. Cleanliness. If you’re going to be a detective, you’ll need to make sure you don’t contaminate any crime scenes. You will never catch Monk dripping a steak and cheese sub on some paper work, spilling his coffee on evidence, or putting off a persnickety witness by being messily dressed. Sure, Monk might alienate someone by trying to wash her windows during an interview, or he might trying to make sure all the crime scene photos are exactly evenly spaced on your white board, but, in general, neatness helps solve crimes. It’s a known fact. And what detective wouldn’t like a handi-wipe after being around a grizzly murder scene.
7. Variety of cases. Monk has found ways to solve all sorts of bizarre cases including those where the murder was committed by a dog and a monkey, ones where the murderer used candy bars, another where he used pies. He has solved murders involving a guy who was about 700 pounds and another where the victim was about 100 years old. He has gone undercover as a butler, a teacher, an office drone, a newlywed, and even hung out at the circus. Take that Horatio Caine!
So, in summary, in many important ways, Adrian Monk, can easily be determined the best TV detective working today.