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Monk Creator Got Inspiration for Mr. Monk's Last Case From It's A Wonderful Life
In Mr. Monk's Last Case, the fan favorite crime solving hero is struggling with his mental health and some of his phobias since we last saw him in the series. Creator and writer Andy Breckman breaks down why.
Towards the end of the Monk series, Monk’s symptoms and phobias were getting better, although not going away completely. He was able to solve the previously unsolvable case of his wife’s Trudy’s (Melora Hardin) murder. He even had plans to go to the movies with his stepdaughter, Molly, (played by Caitlin McGee in Mr. Monk's Last Case: A Monk Movie). A milestone for Monk longtime fans will recognize.
Warning: This article deals with a character who has suicidal ideation and contains details about the movie. If you or someone you know is thinking about self-harm or experiencing suicidal thoughts, call or text 988 to contact the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline.
Now as Monk returns to our screens and his work because of a deeply personal case, viewers will find some of Monk’s symptoms have worsened or come back in the Peacock original film. USA Insider spoke to Monk creator and executive producer, Andy Breckman, as well as actor Tony Shalhoub about Monk’s regression and what he’s going through in the movie.
Why Did Monk's Symptoms Come Back in Mr. Monk's Last Case?
A return to walking in Monk’s shoes meant the need for a “dramatic arc” in order for there to be a story to tell, writer Andy Breckman explained to USA Insider.
“It was helpful that Monk was in a very dark place, was in a real crisis, but I think COVID and the pandemic set everybody back four, five spaces and everybody, everybody was digging, emotionally had a hole to dig themselves out of.”
Monk, a character who has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and is continuously working through the grief of losing his wife, had “more than most” to work through, according to Breckman.
“COVID really kind of set the agenda for our story,” Breckman said.
Shalhoub lauded the writers of Monk and their ability to always throw him “new challenges and darker regions” to explore with the character. Breckman described the writer’s formula for the original series to be: Come up with a crime and then make it personal.
“The crime is always personal,” Breckman said. “Monk was probably the unluckiest son of a b-tch in San Francisco. Something was always happening, and in this case, it couldn’t be more personal, especially occurring when Monk was at his lowest.”
A particular scene Breckman loves in the movie is when Monk’s stepdaughter, Molly, loses her fiance and Monk embraces her saying, “I know.”
“Monk, of course… has lived there, has been there,” Breckman said.
Where Did Writer Andy Breckman Draw Inspiration from for the Movie?
Breckman found a storytelling template from the beloved Christmas movie It’s a Wonderful Life starring James Stewart as George Bailey.
“The template I used structurally I know of stole from It’s a Wonderful Life, where you know, Jimmy Stewart would begin in a pretty dark place, but in the course of the movie, learned to appreciate what he had and the movie ended up being very positive,” Breckman said. “I kind of… structurally lifted that from Frank Capra.”
Mirroring the iconic film, Monk himself is having thoughts of suicide during the movie similar to Bailey. Through the course of the movie, Monk is reminded of his work and the people he helps by solving cases. As a result, he decides to continue doing what he does best.
“I feel like I should write Frank Capra’s estate a check,” Breckman joked. “Part of my royalty check.”
While George Bailey has his guardian angel Clarence to help him, Monk has an angel of his own: His wife Trudy. We catch glimpses of Monk speaking with his wife Trudy in the movie, who Breckman views as Monk’s “angel” and the heart of the series.
“She represented I guess… your better nature,” Breckman said. “Your desire to live.”
Trudy has traditionally always been in the series when Monk was getting into “troublesome, low periods,” Shalhoub said.
That's why his therapist, Dr. Neven Bell (Hector Elizondo), is so concerned when he discovers that Monk has been seeing and talking to Trudy.
“She was there, he would conjure her,” Shalhoub said. “This being the lowest we’ve ever seen him, it was inevitable that she would show up.”