Just watching the commercials on USA showing Tony Shalhoub's obsessive-compulsive detective Adrian Monk packing up his stuff and carrying away all those neat little boxes makes me one sad little couch potato.
Tomorrow night marks the beginning of the eighth and final season of "Monk," and I for one feel like I'm about to lose a very dear, sweet, quirky old friend.
I could go on for an hour listing all the things I love about Monk -- both the character and the show. Prolific use of wipes. Hatred of nature. Aversion to milk. Appreciation of round numbers. Randy Disher Project. The Natalie vs. Sharona debate (sorry, I'm on Team Natalie.)
Friday's premiere episode is a great start to "Monk's" farewell season. In it, San Francisco's most revered (and dysfunctional) detective must help a childhood idol, played by Elizabeth Perkins (right), who is being threatened by a deranged stalker. Perkins plays a grown up "Marcia Brady type" who appeared as a child in a popular "Brady Bunch type" show. Monk's charming obession with the show is deeper than the average TV fanatic's, since "The Cooper Clan" served as a sort of surrogate family during Monk's lonely adolescent years. (The "Cooper Clan/Brady Bunch" sequence shown in promos could have been lame, but ended up being one of the best parts of episode).
It's all very funny, and I won't give anything away except to say that Monk's naivete about sex and his disgust for those who have it, never fail to crack me up. The concept of Monk idolizing someone who ends up being, shall we say "loose," is a comedy gold mine. (I'm personally dying to know what was on page 73.)
Perkins (Emmy nominated for three consecutive seasons for her role on "Weeds") is as great as you might expect in the episode. And Shalhoub, who has been Emmy nominated eight times himself (he has won three times, plus one Golden Globe), always plays Adrian Monk with the perfect balance of humor and tragedy.
And apologies to all you purists out there, but Traylor Howard's Natalie Teeger (left) is just way funnier to me than Bitty Shram's Sharona, and she shines in this episode as well. I liked Sharona just fine, but always thought her to be a little on the caustic side. I find Natalie a much more nurturing companion for Monk, and Howard is simply a funnier actress. She's underrated and underappreciated. I fully expect to get hate mail on this, but I'm standing my ground.
Speaking of Sharona (right), she will return in a guest spot later this season, which is a great idea. Looking forward to it. As long as it's one show and then we get back to Natalie.
UPDATE: We've also just learned from Michael Ausiello that Virginia Madsen will join the show this season, playing a love interest for Captain Stottlemeyer. (I may still prefer his wacky, homicidal realtor girlfriend Linda Fusco, played by Sharon Lawrence in season 5).
More importantly, in the interest of closure, the last five episodes of the show will focus on Monk finally solving the mystery of his beloved wife Trudy's murder.
I'm happy for Monk to get some closure, but my Friday nights are going to be lacking without him.
"Monk's" 8th season kicks off Friday night August 7 at 9pm on USA (encore at midnight), but there's also a Monk marathon on Friday from 6am to 4pm.
Watch it. You'll thank me later.