Friday nights have become home to a couple of the USA’s most well-liked characters/detectives: Adrian Monk [Monk, 9/8C] and Shawn Spencer [Psych, 10/9C]. One’s Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder makes it possible for him to process clues and find the links that lead to the killer; the other’s childhood training – carefully hidden behind the claim that he’s psychic – has made him ultra-observant, seeing things that others routinely miss. Between Monk and Shawn, Friday nights have become the night for armchair detectives everywhere to settle in and dial up USA…
Mr. Monk and His Biggest Fan kicks off Monk’s sixth season, which makes it one of USA’s longest running series. The episode revolves around the Marci Maven [Sarah Silverman], Monk’s self-proclaimed biggest fan. When her neighbor turns up murdered, her dog is implicated – even though the dog died three days before the murder!
Most of the mysteries on Monk are pretty easy to solve – at least to the audience. The fun of the show comes from watching Monk [Tony Shalhoub] and his sidekick/caregiver, Natalie [Traylor Howard] interact with the police and the suspects. Monk’s OCS make him the fussbudget’s fussbudget and his determination to overcome his many phobias and compulsions to find the culprit can be very entertaining.
This time out, Monk and Natalie try their best to avoid Marci until she actually shows them that her dog was dead and couldn’t possibly have killed her neighbor. One of the best parts of the house is watching Monk and Natalie as they visit Marci’s home. Practically every flat surface is dedicated to Monk: clippings of all his solved murders, photos, memorabilia [obtained through means we probably don’t want to know about…].
Once on the case, though, Monk is his usual determined self and, despite the mystery being more challenging than usual, solves it by the end of the second act – which allows the police [and especially Jason Gray-Stanford’s Lt. Randy Disher] to stand out [and in a manner that neatly ties together a subplot featuring the detective.
It’s good to see the show’s writing is still sharp as Monk enters its sixth season – especially since the series has faltered occasionally over the last couple of seasons. Shalhoub and Howard still exhibit remarkable chemistry and I’m sure that many of the show’s fans now prefer her to the departed Sharona [Bitty Schram].
Psych opens its third season with a spoof of American Idol, American Duos. When the show’s requisite mean British judge, Nigel St. Nigel [Tim Curry] claims to be targeted for death and the police don’t listen, he hires Shawn [James Roday] and Gus [Dule´ Hill] to find his would-be assassin. The pair audition for the show to stay close to the panicky judge.
Part of the mystery is pretty easy top solve once you know a couple of important facts that are given early on, but making the all-important connections that link one would-be killer to another is a little more nebulous – and the resolution of that part of the puzzle is actually pretty cool.
Adding to the fun is Gina Gershon, who plays addled judge – and former rock ‘n’ roller – Emilina. Think a cross between an aging Suzi Quatro and Paula Abdul and you’ll be pretty much on target. An attempt on her life gives our heroes pause for a few moments but later revelations explain what happened while simultaneously leading Shawn and Gus to the team of miscreants [I’m pretty sure that having two killers was a way to poke fun at the American duos spoof of American idol – making it a more layered episode than usual].
Corbin Bernsen has a few great moments, too, when Shawn brings Nigel to dad’s house because no one would ever think to look for the high-strung epicure in a middle-class home. The bit about the bathrobe is one of the best comic bits in the series to date.
Doubting Thomas detective Carlton Lassiter [Timothy Omundson] gets a few shining moments, too. He may not entirely believe Shawn is a psychic, but he’s not as overt in his efforts to prove it. His scenes with Nigel are among the ep’s funniest. On the other hand, detective Juliet O’Hara [Maggie Lawson] is little more than a cheerleader here.
While most of the supporting cast get their moments, it’s Shawn and Gus’ two appearances on American Duos that really brings down the house – one because it’s truly awful, and the other because it’s actually pretty good.
It’s worth noting that, over the show’s first two seasons, Shawn has pretty much dispensed with his histrionics to presage a psychic revelation. This is a Very Good Thing. After the show’s first several eps, that particular brand of goofiness was wearing especially thin. The show is much more fun when he just kind of drops a revelation into the mix out of thin air.
Mr. Monk and His Biggest Fan – Final Grade: B
Psych: American Duos – Final Grade: B+