I think it was some time at the beginning of this year that my nightly habit of watching television news at nine o'clock, gave way under the intense and constant pressure of seeing and hearing P M Narendra Modi 24x7. There was a kind of incestuous thing going on between him and the news channels which led to an excess of one man one voice. I have a personal problem with excess. It brings me out in a psychological rash. So one fine January night, when the news channels were doing their usual number with their usual lack of moderation, I switched off. Staring into the darkness of the television screen, I asked myself why I was ruining this precious hour of my time. If I wanted drama, why go to news? Why not entertainment? That is how Monk, Adrian Monk, entered my life. I had missed several episodes of him by then; perhaps even a whole season. But with a show like that, it didn't matter. Every episode stood alone and I was Monk-hooked.

Monk was an extraordinary comedy-drama-mystery series starring the super-detective Adrian Monk. Cursed with 312 phobias, he was blessed with a talent that allowed him to see dots that others didn't, and connect them as others couldn't. Once a homicide detective in the San Francisco Police Department, he had now spent many years out of the force but was still working with them as a freelance consultant.This is what had happened. He had believed himself incapable of being loved until the lovely, gentle Trudy fell in love with him and married him. A few years into the marriage she had died when a bomb exploded in her car. Monk, who had never failed to solve a murder, failed to find her killer. He became distraught. His obsessive compulsive disorder intensified and his phobias grew in number. But such was his passion for his work that, when pushed to the wall, he overcame every phobia and quirk to turn into an attacking machine. He threw himself at garbage dumpsters, stood in the path of aeroplanes taking off, jumped across scary stretches of water into speeding motor launches and even took on the criminal captain of a submarine which was diving to the lowest reaches of the sea in order to destroy him with his well-known claustrophobia.

There are sleuths and there are sleuths. But there was something more to Monk than any other sleuth I have seen. And I am not referring to his phobias which included germs, pointed objects, milk, crowds, vomitting, heights, mushrooms and small, enclosed spaces. Monk was what I can only describe as a comprehensively human drama series. It had eternal love, compassion, sentiment, tenderness, heartbreak, rage, friendship, forgiveness and laughter, all in the midst of a lustful, greedy, hypocritical world that led people to commit monstrously cold-blooded murders. The warm group dynamics of the regular cast of four, marked by some great acting, was raised many notches higher by Tony Shalhoub's finely nuanced performance as Monk. Episode after episode he brought fresh conviction to his role, his facial muscles often saying more than the words that he found difficult to bring out.

Andy Breckman, the creator of the series, did not once shortchange us or wing it. He was as meticulous about detail as his star sleuth. He introduced unobtrusive clues along the way that finally led Monk to put two and two together to solve the case. Not the least of the pleasures that the series provided came at the beginning and end of each episode with the theme song, "It's a jungle out there / Disorder and confusion everywhere / No one seems to care / But I do." Randy Newman who wrote and composed it, sang it in a tense, nervous voice that exactly replicated Monk's perpetual state of being.

Sadly, Monday and Tuesday brought us the two episodes that together formed the finale of Monk. On Monday Monk was poisoned. The doctor said he had at most three days to live, after which he would vomit and die. Vomit? Even as he was wracked by pain and coughing fits, Monk asked if the order couldn't be reversed, like death first and vomitting later? But on Tuesday the mystery of the poison and Trudy's murder were solved; and Monk, restored to health, was  making a new beginning.

Am I bereft? Is my nine o'clock slot empty now? No way. Culinary skills will replace sleuthing skills. Masterchef Australia is on.

Published On : 03-06-2015