Release Date: July 8, 2008
3 ½ ½/
Starring: Tony Shalhoub, Traylor Howard, Ted Levine and Jason Gray-Stanford
Monk: Season Six is a 4-disc DVD collection of the most recent season of the USA Channel series starring Tony Shalhoub as a quirky but effective detective with a major obsessive-compulsive disorder. Released in time for the now-airing 7th season, this set includes all 16 episodes of the prior year, along with a few bonus features. The show itself is a fun take on the detective genre, partly a throwback to shows like Columbo and partly a running commentary on its own conventions and fans. The mysteries are usually clever in one way or another, and the show isn’t afraid of the occasional moment of seriousness.
The DVD set comes listing bonus features of “Episode Commentaries with Cast & Crew.” I regret to inform you that this isn’t completely accurate. One episode (“Mr. Monk Stays Up All Night” gets a scene-specific commentary, but that’s it. Several other episodes get “video commentaries”, which are actually just quick non-anamorphic video introductions running 3-5 minutes each. It’s nice that a little time was taken to put together some extras here, but it’s more than a little misleading to tell fans of the show to expect full video commentaries when they are not part of the package.
As with my earlier series reviews, I will take the discs in order, detailing what episodes and features can be found on each. THERE ARE SPOILERS HERE, in the interest of letting fans of the series know where they can see key developments.
This disc contains the first four episodes of the season:
“Mr. Monk and His Biggest Fan” – Sarah Silverman returns as Monk’s uber-fan, who now needs his help as her deceased dog has been accused of murder. (The whole episode plays as a meta-commentary on the series’ internet fan community – including references to fan fiction and action figures.) (Andy Breckman provides a brief video introduction to this episode.)
“Mr. Monk and the Rapper” – Snoop Dogg guests in an episode showing what happens when Monk encounters the world of rap music...
“Mr. Monk and the Naked Man” – Monk investigates a murder on a nude beach. (Writers Tom Gammill and Max Pross provide a quick video introduction.)
“Mr. Monk and the Bad Girlfriend” – Monk runs afoul of Capt. Stottlemeyer when he suspects the captain’s girlfriend (Sharon Lawrence) of murder. The usual hijinks ensue, including a cleverly staged video clue. (Writer Joe Toplyn does a video introduction.)
When this disc is initially put in the player, you can see non-anamorphic trailers for Psych, Law & Order (multiple incarnations), Life: Season One, House and Eureka.
There is also a “Previews” menu, which brings up non-anamorphic trailers for the season sets for Battlestar: Galactica, Coach, Crossing Jordan, Eureka, House, The Incredible Hulk, Murder She Wrote, and Quantum Leap, along with a combined trailer for The A Team, Knight Rider and Miami Vice.
This disc contains the fifth thru the eighth episodes of the season:
“Mr. Monk and the Birds and the Bees” – Monk deals with a sports agent while trying to talk his assistant’s daughter about a touchy subject. (Writer Peter Wolk provides a quick video introduction.)
“Mr. Monk and the Buried Treasure” – Monk helps some kids follow a treasure map. (Writer/Co-Exec Producer Jonathan Collier does a brief video introduction.)
“Mr. Monk and the Daredevil” – Monk finds out that his biggest rival has been revealed to be the Frisco Flyer, which would seem to be a contradiction, as the man is more phobic than Monk.
“Mr. Monk and the Wrong Man” – One of the people sent to prison based on Monk’s detective work is cleared by DNA evidence. But Monk is never wrong when he draws his conclusions. Or is he? (Writer Sal Salvo does a video introduction for this episode.)
This disc contains the ninth thru the thirteenth episodes of the season:
“Mr. Monk Stays Up All Night” – This episode, the last one of the summer wave of episodes for the sixth season, finds Monk dealing with insomnia and wandering through the night. (A scene specific group audio commentary goes with this episode. Participants include Tony Shalhoub, Ted Levine, Jason Gray-Stanford, Director/Producer Randy Zisk and Executive Producer David Hoberman.) (A video introduction by David Breckman is also included.)
“Mr. Monk and the Man Who Shot Santa Clause” – Just in time for the holidays, Monk shoots a man in a Santa Claus suit, and is vilified for it.
“Mr. Monk Joins a Cult” – The title says it all – Monk joins the “Siblings of the Sun” as part of his detective work, with unintended results.
“Mr. Monk Goes to the Bank” – Monk’s safe deposit box is robbed and his dead wife’s bracelet is stolen, thus inspiring him to become personally involved in the cas.
The final four episodes of the season are presented on this disc, without any commentaries or introductions:
“Mr. Monk and the Three Julies” – Monk tries to find a murderer who is killing women with the same name as his assistant’s daughter.
“Mr. Monk Paints His Masterpiece” – Monk takes up painting and winds up with a patron during his latest case. This episode features the final appearance of Stanley Kamel as Monk’s psychiatrist.
“Mr. Monk is On the Run pt 1” – Monk is arrested for murder by a crooked sheriff (Scott Glenn) on somebody’s payroll. To help Monk out, Capt. Stottemeyer does the wise and caring thing – he shoots him.
“Mr. Monk Is On the Run pt 2” – Monk is in hiding in Nevada under the really inconspicuous name of “Leland Rodriguez” and doing really inconspicuous things like solving murders in a car wash. (Capt. Stottlemeyer’s comment when he reads this in the newspaper is classic: “Well, that’s just STUPID!”) Monk and his friends are able to trail the real murderer back to a man behind bars and a possible connection back to the murder of Monk’s wife.
VIDEO QUALITY: 3/5
Monk: Season Six is presented in an anamorphic 1.78:1 transfer that looks a bit grainy and a bit washed-out, but still presents a lot of solid primary color and what look like accurate fleshtones. (The limitations of the look are likely due to the constraints of the series’ lower budget – which allows less time and therefore a less polished look than most regular network series.)
AUDIO QUALITY: 2 ½/5 ½
Monk: Season Six is presented in an English Dolby Digital 2.0 mix that feels like what was originally available for broadcast. Given the nature and lower budget of the series, it is not surprising that there is no surround mix. Voices are clear and the music doesn’t overwhelm the dialogue – and for television, that’s usually as good as one can hope to hear.
The various episodes each have a few chapter stops, but there is no chapter menu. Subtitles are available in English on the episodes and the video introductions.
IN THE END...
Monk: Season Six is likely a must-buy for fans of the series, given what extras have been included and the convenience of the package. I woud prefer that the quick introductions not have been presented as full commentaries, but other than that, this is a nice collection of a fun series. And it can be quite an addictive series, as several friends of mine can attest.
July 26, 2008