NEW YORK (AP) — Fourteen years ago, Tony Shalhoub said goodbye to one of his most beloved creations — the obsessive-compulsive private detective Adrian Monk. Monk’s last TV appearance in 2009 was even called “Mr. Monk and the End.”
There was talk over the years of a potential reboot and some possible scripts were floated. But Shalhoub said there wasn’t enough of a compelling reason to return to his phobia-obsessed character.
Then the pandemic hit.
Monk suddenly wasn’t the only germaphobe wiping down their groceries, stocking up on antibacterial wipes and shuddering at the sight of crowded places.
“Monk, in a way, was the canary in the coal mine,” Shalhoub tells The Associated Press. “He seemed so out of touch and so neurotic and so forth. The pandemic was the great equalizer. Everybody got to sort of see the world through Monk’s eyes.”
Viewers have caught up with Monk and so fans get another goodbye with the 90-minute “Mr. Monk’s Last Case: A Monk Movie” hitting Peacock on Friday.
Shalhoub reunites on a new murder case with a millionaire as the prime suspect and original stars Ted Levine, Traylor Howard, Jason Gray-Stanford, Melora Hardin and Hector Elizondo.
Shalhoub laughs that when the rock band Eagles got back together in 1994, founding member Glenn Frey said they’d never broke up, they just took a 14-year vacation. “That’s how I felt at the first table read when we all got back together again. We just kind of folded right back into it.”
Monk helped the San Francisco Police Department solve crimes because his fixations enable him to observe things that others overlook. He walked away after solving his last case — the murder of his beloved wife.
When we reconnect with Monk, it is present day and he’s emerged from the pandemic, having spent most of it in a full protective suit and using in-home rapid tests every 20 minutes. Outside, hand sanitizer use is booming. “Everyone is you,” he is told. “They’re gonna hate it,” he replies.
Monk is in a moody place, no longer detecting and lonely. He wrote a memoir but burned through editors and ghost writers. His obsession with details — including nine pages about a suspect’s vacuum cleaner — has prompted his publisher to scrap the book and ask for his advance back. So Monk is reevaluating his life and his career.
“When we’re young, everything’s in front of us. And then when we’re in our middle ages, we feel more settled in the present. But then as we move beyond that, we mostly are looking backwards. We’re looking behind us and we’re reassessing and reevaluating,” Shalhoub says.
“You know, ‘What have I done? What has been my footprint and my impact?’ And I think that’s exactly where Monk is: ‘What has all this meant? What have we really accomplished?’ That further perpetuates these very dark thoughts that he’s having.”
Shalhoub collected three Emmy Awards for his work as Monk over eight seasons. After the show ended in 2009, Shalhoub went on to earn three Tony Award nominations, winning in 2018 for “The Band’s Visit” and starred in “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” winning another Emmy.
He suspects Monk — an unlikely hero in these Marvel days — has been embraced by legions of fans because he has flaws and insecurities, but manages to push through them.
“He uses them and turns them into an asset. Actually, for Monk, they become this superpower in a way,” Shalhoub says. “He doesn’t know where he fits into the general society. So he’s kind of always sort of like walking alongside of humanity and society. Maybe that also makes him a bit relatable.”
He adds: “I always hear about adolescents and young teens relating to him, too, because that’s such a time of life being feeling socially awkward and feeling you’re not really a child, you’re not really a grown up.”
Shalhoub also suspects there’s a little OCD in all of us, whether it’s being annoyed by the placement of something or an odd interaction on the street that sticks in your head.
“Maybe it’s a crooked picture frame on a wall. Not all of us may go over and straighten that frame, but good luck trying to keep your eyes off of it, you know?”
The debut of “Mr. Monk’s Last Case: A Monk Movie” begs the question — is this really a final goodbye to Monk? Shalhoub isn’t sure.
“I thought the door was closed. I really did for a lot of years. But now that we’ve cracked it open, I’m just going to leave that door open,” he says. “I think the next one would have to be called ‘Monk’s Really, Really Final No Kidding Case – This Time We Mean It’ or something like that.”
Mark Kennedy is at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits