Adrian Monk is back with Mr. Monk’s Last Case: A Monk Movie.
The TV movie, now streaming on Peacock, reunites the cast and creative team behind the former USA series Monk. And making the 90-minute revival felt like a homecoming for star Tony Shalhoub — who reprises his role as the crime-solving detective with obsessive-compulsive disorder — since they filmed in Toronto.
“This is going to sound insane, but we shot the first season in Toronto,” Shalhoub recently told The Hollywood Reporter, speaking 14 years after Monk wrapped an eight-season run for USA Network. The series, which ran from 2002-2009, was set in San Francisco. The original pilot, however, was mostly shot in Vancouver, and all seasons after the first were made mainly in Los Angeles.
Shalhoub welcomed Mr. Monk’s Last Case from series creator Andy Breckman with returning costars Ted Levine, Jason Gray-Stanford, Traylor Howard, Melora Hardin and Hector Elizondo, as the Toronto shoot meant letting go of the original procedural’s soundstage sets, like the police precinct and Monk’s apartment, and embracing a slew of new locations.
In the TV movie, Monk, with all of his usual chronic anxiety, sets out to find a killer after his stepdaughter Molly (played by Caitlin McGee) sees her fiancé die in a bungee jumping accident. She believes it was not an accident, but instead a murder.
“It’s fresh. I said it a million times when we were doing this: I wanted it to be the same, and I wanted it to be different, to feel the same and also feel different. I feel we accomplished that,” Shalhoub says of the 21-day shoot for the streaming reboot.
In fact, the Peacock TV movie isn’t the first time the Monk cast and creative got back together. In May 2020, during the height of the pandemic and after he and his wife, Brooke Adams, both came through a coronavirus bout and fully recovered while in New York City, Shalhoub came out of retirement as Adrian Monk in Monk in Quarantine, hosted by Seth MacFarlane.
The seven-minute public service announcement saw Shalhoub, as a tweed-wearing Monk, standing six feet away from his computer screen during a Zoom call with his former onscreen colleagues Natalie Teeger (Howard), Randy Disher (Gray-Stanford) and Captain Leland Stottlemeyer (Levine).
“Monk, I hate to admit it, but you were right,” Stottlemeyer tells Monk during the PSA. “I mean look at us, everyone is afraid of germs. Nobody is touching anybody.” Disher then adds: “I guess we’re all Monk now.”
Monk ran for eight seasons and 125 episodes on USA, helping kick off the cable channel’s run of successful scripted series in the early 2000s. (A fellow “Blue Skies” era series, Suits — as USA’s scripted fare was known during that decade — has been enjoying a resurgence leading up to the Monk revival.) Monk was also a critical and awards success, winning eight Emmys, a Golden Globe and two SAG Awards.
The series finale in 2009 drew more than 9 million viewers — at the time, a record for a scripted program on ad-supported cable. And Shalhoub became an awards season fixture for his work on Monk, as he was nominated eight times for lead comedy actor at the Emmys — winning three — and received seven nominations for the SAG Awards, which he won twice. His first SAG win came in 2004.
But what changed for the procedural getting a movie treatment on Peacock is that, this time, the crime investigation led by a compulsively hand-wiping detective takes place in new world mightily changed by the COVID-19 pandemic, where most everybody has come to fear germs or crowds as much as Monk always did.
“COVID has been a great equalizer, really. Many people see the world now the way Monk does, and that became a launchpad,” Shalhoub recalls as the grounds for Peacock finally ordering a TV movie after earlier false starts.
He adds that the pandemic hardly justified Monk for his many anxieties: “It’s really not a matter of vindication. It’s more a matter of: Misery loves company.” But he thinks fans of Monk are more likely to be able to relate to the central character this time around, given the impact on mental health and elevated levels of anxiety from pandemic-era lockdowns.
“It makes Monk ultimately seem less neurotic and more like a canary in the coal mine,” Shalhoub says.
Mr. Monk’s Last Case taking place in the aftermath of the pandemic has the iconic detective in a profoundly dark place as the TV movie kicks off, counting his pills in a block formation and incessantly opening his bathroom medicine cabinet.
“He’s been knocked back on his heels. He’s arguably worse off than when we first met him in the pilot episode,” says the star of where the revival picks up.
At the same time, Mr. Monk’s Last Case offers equal doses of comedy and drama.
“It’s always been a balancing act with the show, how we honor the very serious obsessive-compulsive disorder and still keep a light side; and keep it buoyant and without mocking or sending it up. We faced that challenge in the movie, too,” he says.
In one scene, the Emmy-winning actor plays to his strengths in physical comedy when his character wants to tip a pharmacy delivery boy, but only has a $20 bill and doesn’t want to part with it. “We really did that on the day, in the moment. We had a lot of takes. We tried a lot of different ways for Monk to not part with that $20 bill. They let the camera roll and let this young actor, who was so good, be open and playful to what I was throwing at him. They really let me riff on that scene,” Shalhoub recalls.
And though the streaming TV movie is titled Mr. Monk’s Last Case, having Shalhoub’s character return to hunt down more killers is not out of the question: “You know, it’s not in my control. Really it’s up to the network, it’s up to Andy [Breckman]. It’s possible that we would revisit it. We’re hoping this one lands. I just don’t know how many times you can go to the well.”
He then adds, “On the other hand, I never say never.”
In the meantime, Shalhoub admits to feeling just a little more like Adrian Monk these days.
“I wouldn’t want to say I’m a total germaphobe, but I do have an awareness of what makes me a little creeped out,” he says, which keeps the Emmy-winning actor protective of his personal space. “Anyone who coughs or sneezes, or frankly even clears their throat around me, becomes persona non grata in my book.”