`Monk' returns for a fourth season

Star Tony Shalhoub says role helps him understand those with intense phobias

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July 08, 2005|By Tom Jicha | Tom Jicha,SOUTH FLORIDA SUN-SENTINEL

Tony Shalhoub has spent so much time in Monk's head that the obsessive-compulsive detective has gotten into the actor's head. "I never had a problem shaking hands," Shalhoub said. "Now I do."

As the USA series enters its fourth season, it hasn't quite gotten to the stage where Shalhoub whips out a tissue to wipe his hands after shaking someone else's, Shalhoub said. "But I do have the ugly thoughts."

Monk's ugly thoughts, a product of every conceivable phobia, make for some of the most beautifully unconventional detective work this side of Columbo.

Not only is Monk one of the most successful series in basic-cable history, but also the character has become a folk hero to people afflicted with OCD.

"People who have this problem have taken [Monk] as their hero," Shalhoub said.

This hasn't prevented less sensitive souls from making sport of Adrian Monk's demons. "People have made drinking games out of Monk's phobias," Shalhoub said. "I've heard some fans talk about having Monk moments or `Monking' out."

Monk moments again will be doled out in two blocks: nine episodes this summer, seven more

during the winter. The split season annoys some, since the show seems to have just arrived when it disappears again. Shalhoub has heard the complaints but says these viewers fail to see the bright side. "They don't have to wait so long between seasons."

The fourth season gets off to a rousing start with Monk seemingly meeting his match, a disheveled loser of a private eye with an uncanny knack for uncovering clues. Jason Alexander, doing his finest work since Seinfeld, plays Monk's rival.

Before the season is out, Shalhoub said, fans will be provided insights into what made Monk the person he is.

"We'll get a glimpse of Monk in junior high and see him with his mother. There will be a glimpse of that dynamic. There also will be a lot revealed about Monk's father and a peek into the relationship of Adrian and [his brother] Ambrose."

What there won't be is any romance between Monk and his new assistant Natalie, played by Traylor Howard. "We've talked about it," Shalhoub said. "I won't rule anything out but I think it's better to keep a certain amount of tension between Monk and Natalie."

For the time being, Shalhoub said, it's more interesting to have both of them insinuating themselves into one another's personal life.

The one thing Shalhoub remains less than forthcoming about is the true Hollywood story about what led to the departure of Bitty Schram, who played Monk's original assistant, Sharona Fleming. One version had Schram wanting her part enhanced. Another had Shalhoub unhappy that Schram had become too big a presence.

Shalhoub hinted it was more the former. He complimented Schram for doing a great job, then said she had become disenchanted with her place in the series.

Of course, that's his side of the story. Schram has yet to tell hers.

So what really happened remains a mystery. Alas, it's one even a crack detective like Monk wants no part of.

The South Florida Sun-Sentinel is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.


When: Tonight at 10

Where: USA Network

In brief: Shaking hands with Season 4.

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