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Starring: Tony Shaloub, Traylor Howard, Jerry Levine, Jason Grey-Stanford

Directors: Jerry Levine, Stephen Cragg, Michael Nankin, Adam Arkin, Kevin Inch

Number of discs: 4

Unrated (made for TV murder mystery)

Universal Studios

Run Time: 693 minutes

In the fourth season of Monk there is an episode called Mr. Monk and the Astronaut. There is a scene in the show that is funny and with which I am sure many people can identify, myself included. Mr. Monk and his assistant Natalie are trying to chase down the Astronaut and Monk (who is an obsessive compulsive personality) stops to put a warhead on a missile body so it will match the other three in the prep bracket. Natalie warns him that he is handling something dangerous that might even be radio active and Mr. Monk says “Then for the love of god please stop me.”

Watching all the Monk Season Four episodes from a season in a single sitting feels a little like that. It something which you know isn’t healthy simply because no one should remain motionless for so long. At the same time any fan of the show can scarcely pull themselves away from the series as the fourth season unfurls before them. As seasons go Monk has always had the difficulty of living up to an almost legendary first season the fourth doesn’t live up to that level but does stand up as worthy of Monk.

The strong episodes in the 4th season of Monk are Mr. Monk and the Other Detective featuring Jason Alexander, Mr. Monk and Mrs. Monk where it appears Trudy is actually alive and easily one of the best ever Monk episodes Mr. Monk and Little Monk which has a series of flash backs to his first case in high school: If you haven’t heard the name Katelyn Pippy (she plays Monk’s crush in high school) you will do in the future as she delivers a superb performance as young Sherry. The fourth season also sees a sharp uptick in the involvement of Natalie (Traylor Howard) in the investigative end of things. Natalie treats Mr. Monk with a little more sternness and abruptness than Sharona did making her role a very different one from Bitty Schram’s.

For all the success of Monk there are some weak links in the chain and you have to wonder sometimes if the writers are just getting lazy. Mr. Monk goes to the Office is facile and bordering on the ridiculous at times but Mr. Monk bumps his Head is one of the laziest excuses for writing that the Monk series has come up with. These weak episodes are still better than a lot of television out there but they don’t live up to the Monk standard and contribute to some grumbling among fans that Monk has been dumbing down since the middle of the second season. Three so-so episodes out of 15 isn’t so bad.  Once again Monk Season Four has made it into my permanent library.

Episode List – Monk Season Four

Episode 46: Mr. Monk and the Other Detective – Jason Alexander (George from Seinfeld) guest stars as detective Marty Eels who has a sloppy style but still seems to out think Monk.

Episode 47: Mr. Monk Goes Home Again – Monk visits Ambrose at the same time as a bizarre series of robberies and murders is going on.

Episode 48: Mr. Monk Stays in Bed – Monk finally gets sick – this is a great Natalie episode as she tries to track down the killer of a pizza delivery man.

Episode 49: Mr. Monk Goes to the Office – When a security guard is killed and an executive has his hand broken Monk goes undercover in an office to find the perpetrator.

Episode 50: Mr. Monk Gets Drunk – Natalie and Monk go to the same bed and breakfast he visits every year to celebrate his honeymoon with Trudy and naturally murder is afoot.

Episode 51: Mr. Monk and Mrs. Monk – Monk is making real progress with his phobias and OCD but it is put at risk when it appears that Trudy may have faker her own death.

Episode 52: Mr. Monk Goes to a Wedding – Everyone discovers that Natalie is from a very monied family when she and Disher have to attend a wedding which his murder on the menu. There is a really embarrassing slapstick sequence at the end of this episode which detracts from the story.

Episode 53: Mr. Monk and Little Monk – One of the best Monk episodes ever featuring Monks first case in high school and his helping out a now grown high school friend  whose house has been burglarized.

Episode 54: Mr. Monk and the Secret Santa – Someone is trying to kill Stottlemeyer and Monk is on the case.

Episode 55: Mr. Monk Goes to a Fashion Show – Guest starring Malcolm McDowell as a fashion designer Monk investigates a old and seemingly solved homicide.

Episode 56: Mr. Monk Bumps His Head – Every detective show has at least one amnesia episode and Monk's writers pull out that old device with Monk flair.

Episode 57: Mr. Monk and the Captain's Marriage – Things aren't going well in the captain's marriage and come to a head when the captain is on a crime scene.

Episode 58: Mr. Monk and the Big Reward – Running short of money again (remember this mantra from the Sharona days) Natalie convinces Monk to try and solve a jewel heist for money.

Episode 59: Mr. Monk and the Astronaut – The seemingly impossible to crack alibi is a trademark of Monk episodes and this one is probably the best alibi ever on any Monk episode.

Episode 60: Mr. Monk Goes to the Dentist – There are some places Monk would never go willingly and the dentist is one of them but Randy thinks he witness a murder while under sedation.

Episode 61: Mr. Monk Gets Jury Duty – It's possible to solve multiple crimes simultaneously if you are Monk who finds himself as part of a jury and sees things from the courthouse window that help him solve another crime.