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The Cooper Clan
photo by Melissa Longbrake

The Monk Fun Page Episode Review

Spoilers ahead. This is a RE-view, which means I'm going to discuss what happens in the episode up to and including the ending. If you haven't seen it yet and you want to be surprised read no further. If you don't like surprises, consider this your "surprise alert warning"... and this is your "surprise alert"... and this is your surprise!

The final season of Monk is upon us, beginning with the season premiere on Friday, August 7th. The premiere episode for the final season, “Mr. Monk’s Favorite Show,” proves they still had at least one more fresh idea. Here's hoping they have fifteen more to go along with it.

Executive producer and the most frequent Monk director, Randy Zisk hand-picked this episode to direct. It’s not hard to see why. It offers a lot of opportunity for a director to shine. As usual Mr. Zisk does a stellar job. If anyone is responsible for the deliberately old-fashioned, straightforward “look” of Monk, it’s probably him, but he gets to have a lot of fun with "Mr. Monk's Favorite Show".

The credited writer is Jack Bernstein who's also responsible for a few of my other favorites like "Underwater" and "The Captain's Marriage". I don't know if he likes to talk about it, or how proud he may or may not be, but Jack wrote the story and screenplay for Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. No kidding.

Elizabeth Perkins, who has earned an Emmy nomination this year for her role in Showtime's Weeds, is the guest star. She's an excellent choice for the charming, slutty, and ultimately dangerous, character she plays here.

Elizabeth Perkins
Elizabeth Perkins
as Christine Rapp
Favorite Show 9
Rena Sofer as Kim Kelly
Rena Sofer also guest stars in this one. I've met Rena a few times at various General Hospital events. (She starred on General Hospital for a couple of years before moving on to prime time, including a co-starring role on the final season of Just Shoot Me and a recurring role on 24.) She's always been a favorite of mine. My only complaint about the episode in general may be that she’s under used. She gets a few good lines (Most notably, "She likes anything in a man") and she plays off of Tony Shalhoub beautifully, but I just wanted more. Of course, the episode is jam packed as it is.

The casting for the entire Cooper clan was inspired. Or is that far out? No, no. Make that, groovy, man!

I remember Sarah Aldrich (Mrs. Cooper) quite well from her days on Port Charles (the General Hospital spinoff soap). The scheming, gold digging, social climbing shrew she played on that show couldn't have been any further removed from the gentle, understanding, cookie-baking Mrs. Cooper. She's so Florence Henderson here with just a touch of Stepford Wife. Her best line: "Cathy, we've talked about this. Killing people is never the answer."

Favorite Show 8
Sarah Aldrich
as Mrs. Cooper

Favorite Show 6
Tony Shalhoub hugs Gary Weeks... Awwwwww
I know Gary Weeks (Mr. Cooper) best from his turn on last season's Burn Notice as Fiona's paramedic boyfriend, Campbell. He was stable, considerate and law-abiding. In short, nothing like lead character Michael Westen (except they're both quite handsome) and not at all what Fiona really wanted. Campbell recognized that before she did and he gently gave her the old heave-ho. Gary also did an interview for the Fun Page. So he's a great guy in my book. About the here's-what-happened scene he said, "It took all I had to not break and start laughing the first time he did it."
Taylor Longbrake, plays Cathy Cooper, Christine Rapp's character in the Cooper Clan. It's Taylor's television debut, but she's a natural and she really shows a lot of depth and maturity, particularly in her hilarious final scene. Taylor also did an interview for the Monk Fun Page and she talked about thar scene: "The hardest part was not laughing! Especially in the scene where Monk is accusing me of murder. It was pretty hard to take him so seriously in the afro!"
Cathy Cooper
Taylor Longbrake and Tony Shalhoub
Cameron Monaghan plays Danny Cooper. I recognize him from only one other role. He played Winthrop Paroo in the 2003 television production of The Music Man. Of course, he's changed quite a bit since then and reached that gawky teen-age stage we had the pleasure of watching all the Brady kids go through... except Marcia, of course.

Jonathan Morgan Heit &
Angelina Wahler

Billy (Jonathan Morgan Heit) and Janie Cooper (Angelina Wahler) were also quite good as the cute little Cindy and Bobby Brady knock-offs. I assume there are only four kids, because Monk is a cable show and they couldn't afford six. “Shucky Darns!" as Billy, who would later become a crystal meth addict, would say. I thought that Janie got some pretty good lines considering The Cooper Clan is supposed to be badly written. "Why not? The vase is already broken." Well, maybe it's her delivery.

All The Brady Bunch parallels are obviously deliberate and easily recognizable. At least to me. That’s right. I’m a Brady Bunch fan. There's not much I don't know about the Brady's. In fact, I've had the pleasure of meeting four of the "kids."
Me and Susan Olsen
Me and Mike Lookinland
Me and Barry Williams
Me and Chris Knight

The Brady's attended Clinton Elementary, Fillmore Junior High (where Davy Jones appeared at the Prom) and Westdale High. Peter threw the football that broke Macia's nose. He also broke the vase. The show was filmed at Paramount where Monk now films and The Brady Bunch will be celebrating its 40th Anniversary on September 26th. Don't worry: I'm not crazy. Just a fan. Okay, the truth is I am crazy.

This is just another one of those Monk episodes that seems to be written especially with me in mind. Maybe I just have way too many cultural roots in common with Andy Breckman.

“The Cooper Clan were the only friends I had.”

In the opening of "Mr. Monk's Favorite Show" Monk and Natalie are alone late at night, in front of the Beat City bookstore and the "teaser" is about his childhood memories. Monk episodes usually begin with the crime and Monk doesn't appear until after the opening credits.

Favorite Show 2

For the episodes in which Monk does appear in the opening the format is shaken up a little. They usually reveal something significant about him. The center of the episode isn't so much the mystery as it the development of the character. Other episodes like this include "Mr. Monk Fights City Hall", "Mr. Monk is Up All Night" and "Mr. Monk and Mrs. Monk."

Monk is waiting for a book signing event set for the next morning with actress Christine Rapp who has written an autobiography. As a child Christine starred in a TV series called The Cooper Clan. Monk explains his keen interest in the show to Natalie. “I’m not obsessed. I’m barely fixated. I’m mildly…. Okay, I’m obsessed. The show was very important to me. The Cooper Clan were the only friends I had.”

One question: Does Natalie get over time?

Early the next morning Christine Rapp (Elizabeth Perkins) is leaving a TV station surrounded by reporters who want her comments on the reaction to her new book, which is actually a tawdry tell-all. When told that a former co-star Steven Dorn has advised her to watch her back Christine laughs it off, but after her car explodes seconds later she’s not laughing anymore. She’s hiding… behind her publicist, Kim Kelly (Rena Sofer).
Favorite Show 2
Rena Sofer and Elizabeth Perkins

“What is the name of the letter carrier in the Pen Pal episode?”

Favorite Show 4
Stan the Fan (Dan Cole)

Answer: Daisy Brackowitz. If you said Daisy Green you were WRONG.

Monk and Natalie have been joined in the line at the bookstore by many other autograph seekers/Cooper Clan fans. Monk is having a trivia contest with another obsessed fan who’s armed with an episode guide and a Cooper Clan lunch box. The fan in line with Monk at the bookstore is excellent. I think I know him or, rather, some of my closest friends are a lot like him. (Just to set the record straight, I myself do not own a lunch box. Probably because there is no Monk lunch box.) He’s no match for Monk, who delights in rubbing it in.

Natalie’s pleased that Monk is having such a good time, but seconds after Monk has purchased the first copy of Christina’s book Re-Cooper-ating, they learn that she’ll be a no-show because someone tried to kill her.

When Monk and Natalie arrive at the crime scene, Stottlemeyer and Disher are already on the scene investigating. Monk is frantic. It’s got to hit close to home for him since he’s dealing with a car bomb case. Through the windows of the blown up car he sees Christine Rapp for the first time. She’s laying on an ambulance gurney. “That’s her,” he says awestruck. “She got bigger.”

Nearby Natalie is reading Christine’s book. She’s horrified. “It’s filthy and I thought I was a wild child.” (Natalie's wild side: I'd like to know more about that.) Among other things in her book. Christine has a long list of, shall we say, romantic conquests and Randy wants to know “Why is there an asterisk next to Bob Denver?” The answer is bad, but apparently not as bad as page 73.
Favorite Show 5

“I’m in the family. I’m in the Cooper Clan”

Monk gets Natalie and runs over to meet Christine Rapp. She’s uninjured, but apparently overwhelmed by the incident and being fussed over by EMTs and her publicist. She extends her hand for Monk to shake in a bizarre and pretentious fashion that would creep most people out. Natalie hands Monk a wipe without being asked, because she has a good idea where Christine’s hand has been. After shaking Christine’s hand at Monk’s urging, Natalie quickly wipes her fingers. “Why are you wiping?” Monk asks.

“I’ll tell you later.”

When she finds out who he is, Christine's publicist, Kim Kelly, pulls Monk aside. Christine has been getting threatening letters and Kim wants to hire him as a bodyguard until the stalker/bomber is caught. Monk jumps at the chance.

Favorite Show 5

Monk: “I’ll do it.

Kim: “A thousand dollars a week. Is that fair?”

Monk: “Okay, it’s a deal. I can’t pay it all once.”

Kim: “No, we would pay you.”

Monk: “Ah! Even better.”

Monk is thrilled when Kim tells him “Welcome to the family!”

"Oh, shucky darns! All I can say is she better write fast."

Dayum! The interior of The Cooper Clan home is awwwesome! Some set decorator should start dusting off his or her shelf in preparation for the Emmy he or she is going to get next year. (presuming this episode will qualify; I’m not sure where the date lines are drawn). So in case anyone missed The Brady Bunch parallels, actual Brady Bunch incidental music was used in the review video of "Favorite Show" each time The Cooper Clan show is seen. Of course, it was removed and replaced with something a little more generic for the actual broadcast.

The spectacularly authentic sets, the sit-com style three camera shooting (although technically The Brady Bunch was shot mostly one camera), the hippie jokes, the dog named Scamp, the “groovy” wardrobe, the horse on the sideboard is all perfect, perfect, perfect. (Except the Brady's didn't have a toilet, so they would have been holding it a lot longer than Billy Cooper.) The first Cooper Clan episode we see is clearly spoofing the "Law and Disorder" episode of The Brady Bunch. Oh, come on. Don't pretend you can't remember it. Bobby becomes a safety monitor and let’s the power go to his head. In fact all the mentioned plots in "Favorite Show" have real-life Brady Bunch (I guess that's an oxymoron) parallel episodes.

Favorite Show 7Favorite Show 13Favorite Show 20

Favorite Show 23Favorie Show 25
Photos by Melissa Longbrake
Click to enlarge

It's also interesting to note that the associate producers on The Cooper Clan are also associate producers on Monk: at least Nathan Perkins and Sal Savo are. Sal has also written a couple of episodes: "Wrong Man" and "Takes a Punch". Sheryl Johnson-Poelking was the production supervisor for Monk last season. (She may be an associate producer this season.) The credits are in The Brady Bunch font. How cool is that, especially for Sal, Nathan and Sheryl?

Favorite Show 14

At this point the camera pulls away to reveal that Monk is watching the episode with Christine Rapp. She's amazed at how much he loves it and how well he knows it. He’s memorized all the dialogue even though he hasn’t seen it in 35 years. Monk asks her what Mr. Cooper was like in real life. Obviously, that was and is the main attraction for Monk to the show: finding the father figure he’d lost in real life. Kim arrives and wants to get down to business. Are there any leads? Monk shows her a fuzzy surveillance photo of the suspected bomber which could be anybody (as Steven Dorn later points out), but most closely resembles the Unabomber.
They take a tour of the house. Christine’s bedroom has many mirrors. In fact mirrors sort of become a motif in this episode. The mirrors in her bedroom, the mirror the threatening note is written on, the "mirror" that the Cooper Clan episode represents as Christine watches the younger innocent version of herself. They represent her duality: most overtly how different she is from her TV persona, but it's also foreshadowing that she's the guy.
Favorite Show 12

Of course the mirror over the bed is more practical (and personal) than symbolic and very reminiscent of the scene in "Mr. Monk and the Playboy”. Monk just can’t figure out what the one over the bed is for. We find out Christine has a registered weapon which her publicist encouraged her to buy. (Funny, you’d think that would be the last thing a publicist would advise a client to keep around especially a client who drinks so early in the day.)

For the remainder of the tour Monk pesters Christine with nit-picky questions about the inconsistencies on The Cooper Clan. Why is Cathy allergic to peanuts in one episode, but not in another? Monk wants to know. As a Monk fanatic I think I can tell you at least one inspiration for that bit (although, goodness knows, the Monk writers have probably heard dozens): in the first season's “Mr. Monk Goes to the Asylum” it’s stated that Monk is allergic to tomatoes, but in season seven's “Mr. Monk on Wheels” he happily prepares a meal with the perfectly square tomatoes he got from the lab. Those kind of nits are picked regularly on Monk message boards and it’s bad netiquette to say that nobody freaking cares. Like Christine, the proper response is to try to explain it away within the context of the show. The uncommonly chosen sane answer would be, it's just a TV show.

Tony Shalhoub talked a little about this subject in a recent interview: "I find that there are obsessive fans. There are people who know way too much about the details of the character and way too much about various moments in different episodes, things that I, frankly, have long forgotten: small, small details. I suppose that’s good on the one hand. I just hope that those people keep a nice, healthy distance in the future: a nice, healthy, respectful distance."

“She likes anything in a man.”

Christine flirts with Monk inviting him to guard her while she dresses. Naturally Monk declines. Of course, her being so forward is designed to give her time alone to fake the threatening mirror message.

Monk sees the “Silver Globe” award (perhaps they’re making a reference here to the one time dubious reputation of the Golden Globes.)

Favorite Show 11
Christine Rapp's Silver Globe Award
Most certainly the TV movie that earned (or, as we ultimately discover, did not earn) Christine the award, The Vanishing Girl, is a reference to the critically acclaimed role in Dawn: Portrait of a Teenage Runaway that Eve Plumb (Jan, The Brady Bunch) took on immediately following the Brady years. Eve didn’t win an award for that, but maybe that’s because she has much higher moral standards than Christine Rapp.

It's an excellent scene between Tony Shalhoub and Rena Sofer as he describes the award show. Both the essential clues are contained in that scene, the award and the accounting firm, but the dialogue is amusing enough to distract the audience. Well played. When and if Tony decides to return to episodic television I want it to be in a series with Rena Sofer. The two work well together. His fake scream blending into Christine’s (as it also turns out fake) scream is very nice. (I confess I have the same reaction when Tony Shalhoub wins an award... only not fake.) Monk and Kim rush to her rescue. They see the scary note Christine's stalker has left on the mirror. The handwriting is the third clue.

Favorite Show 34

“She’s a loud mouth, a liar and a tramp.”

At the police station. Randy, Monk and Natalie examine the mirror. Monk thinks the handwriting is familiar, but can’t quite place it. Here's where were treated to a quintessential Disher moment:

Randy believes, "someone right-handed wrote it with their left hand."

Natalie agrees. "That makes sense."

"Or someone left-handed wrote it with their right hand."

"That makes sense, too."

"Or if he was ambidextrous he probably got drunk and then wrote it."

"That makes less sense."

Monk spots Steven Dorn, a grown up and strung out Billy Cooper from The Cooper Clan, who Stottlemeyer is questioning in his office. Excitedly Monk runs over to meet him and greet him with his catch phrase: “Shucky darns! Hey, Steven! Hey, Shucky Darns! Steven! Shucky darns!” He can't believe that little Billy Cooper could have anything to do with the attempt on Christine's life.

Michael Stanoyov
Steven Dorn, played by Michael Stanoyov, was great, just perfect for his one little scene, especially that final little nod to Monk advising him to read the book. He looked very familiar to me and I remembered him as soon as I saw his name in the credits. He guest starred in another one of my favorite shows, Quantum Leap, as Kevin Bruckner in the 1990 episode "Another Mother". He went on to play the older brother on Blossom for a few years.

Under orders from Stottlemeyer, Monk does read the book except for page 73, which Natalie eats. (Every episode needs a running joke. "Mr. Monk's Favorite Show" has page 73.) Monk's few happy childhood memories have been shattered.

"What is that?" he asks Natalie.

"I don’t know."

"Thank you for not knowing."


With Monk's loss of Cooper Clan innocence, the tone of the episode shifts. Sit-com is out and film noir is in as Christine Rapp checks into cheap airport motel with a gaudy neon sign and lots of mysterious shadows, that Monk has recommended as a hide out. In real life that's the Safari Inn in Burbank. Do they have an awesome sign or what? So as Christine disappears into those mysterious shadows it's inevitable that someone gets killed. Turns out it's the stalker who's shot by Christine. It's not often that we have to wait so long for a murder on Monk.

"Maybe he loved the show. Maybe the show meant the world to him and she betrayed everything it stood for."

Monk has been called to the scene. Stottlemeyer mentions Victor Timlinson (the stalker/victim) managed a Taco Bell. He also mentions that the guy worked in the mail room at some big accounting firm.

Gone now is the happy, excited, childlike Monk. He’s very bitter and unforgiving about Christine’s perceived betrayal of his childhood memories. Stottlemeyer notices.

"He read the book, didn’t he? Not page 73?"

“No, I ate it.”


Bob Denver
Bob Denver*

Monk now confronts Christine and he can be very harsh. If it weren’t for the fact that I already know she’s a very bad lady, I might have felt a little sorry for her. “Maybe you should have called your friend Bob... Denver.”

(Mind you, I haven’t read the book, but I don’t know about these veiled aspersions on Bob Denver’s character, especially since he’s now passed away. Besides smoking a little weed, I don’t know that there was ever much scandal about Bob? Was there? If there was I do not want to know. I mean it. Don't tell me.)

Christine's a cool customer, however, and if Monk were any other man she probably could have convinced him to forgive her. “I was just a girl trying to be a little less lonely.” Elizabeth Perkins gives a nice edge of vulnerability to a basically despicable character.

My favorite shot in the episode comes just about here as they pull away from the scene into the night with lights reflecting in the pool and the beautiful neon Safari Inn sign. Loved it. I also really liked how Monk watches Christine as he circles the crime scene, just as he did in the earlier scene where he first sees her, but now with a completely different attitude.

Safari Inn

"This is the surprise alert warning. This is the surprise alert!"

The next day with the case seemingly wrapped up, Natalie tries to cheer up Monk. She's consulted Ambrose (Yipee! An Ambrose mention!) about Monk's favorite snack: ten round crackers and a glass of apple juice with 1 ice cube. (Wait a second. Ten round crackers? Doesn’t Monk prefer square crackers? Maybe it's a childhood thing.) To go with the snack, which she serves to him while singing The Cooper Clan theme song, Natalie has brought him his favorite show The Cooper Clan on DVD. Monk is sulking. "I don’t have a favorite show."

Natalie pops in the DVD anyway and Monk has an epiphany while looking at the DVD cover. "Episode four 'Broken Arm, Broken Heart,'" he tells her.

Cooper Clan DVD 1
Cooper Clan DVD groovy graphics
He uses the same DVD player instructions we heard in "Mr. Monk's 100th Case": "picture go fast", "picture regular", "picture freezer". This is despite the fact that we see Monk earlier in this same episode using the DVD remote at Christine’s and he seemed to have the hang of it. I guess he just doesn't have the terminology down. We see that little Cathy Cooper, who's right arm is in a sling, writes just like Christine Rapp's stalker.

(Okay, that's not really a fair play clue since none of us has ever seen The Cooper Clan.) It all falls in to place for Monk. "She wrote those letters to herself."

"Why?" asks Natalie, because the biggest part of her job is asking that question.

"So she could kill Victor Timlinson and claim it was self defense."

Another interesting note, to me anyway, is the description on the DVD. "The Cooper's wedding is a true family affair, complete with four children, a dog and a maid. And after the wedding ends in chaos their lives become a family affair, too."

Cooper Clan DVD 2

I'm sure it will surprise no one, but that is the description of The Brady Bunch pilot, "The Honeymoon". Not just approximately, but word for word except for changing six children into four and two pets into a dog. See for yourself.

"He’s single and he’s dead."

Monk may have solved it, but they need more evidence. They go to Timlinson’s apartment to get it. Natalie has a very blonde moment. She knocks on the door and calls Timlinson's name. Maybe it's sleep deprivation. Maybe she's been spending a lot of time with Randy. Monk finds the evidence proving Christine stuffed the Silver Globe ballot box, in the unused interior design book, but before he can give Natalie a surprise alert he's conked on the head from behind with a lamp leading to a very rare Monk dream sequence. Have we ever had another? Besides a webisode? I don't think so.

Favorite Show 38
The next scene opens on a broken vase at The Cooper Clan house where we're treated to what is perhaps the best "here’s what happened" ever. How anyone kept a straight face I don’t know. All the ramifications of Monk's abandonment issues and his disillusionment, play out against his unraveling of the crime. Breathtaking. Plus the afro is just too funny.

I also found it interesting that when Monk hears Natalie in his dream, she's speaking through Mrs. Cooper, his "real" mother. Monk wakes up just in time to see Natalie tussling (in a patented ActionNatalie™ sequence) with Christine, who has apparently dropped her registered weapon. Monk picks it up and gets the drop on her. "You're in big, big trouble, young lady. That was episode five season two, 'Grounded for Life'."

Favorite Show 35

It's an all around entertaining episode and a charming way to open up the final season. It would be a lot easier to let Monk go if they didn't keep making such great television.

Action Natalie

Special Guest Stars
•Elizabeth Perkins played Christine Rapp
Guest Stars
•Rena Sofer played Kim Kelly
•Michael Stoyanov played Steven Dorn
•Dan Cole (1) played Cooper Trivia Fan
•Taylor Longbrake played Young Christine Rapp
•Cameron Monaghan played Danny Cooper
•Gary Weeks played Mr. Cooper
•Sarah Aldrich played Mrs. Cooper
Co-Guest Stars
•Angelina Wahler played Janey Cooper
•Donnell C. Barrett played Third Paparazzi
•Edward Flores played Motel Clerk
•Jeremy Gram Weaver played Second Paparazzi
•Jonathan Morgan Heit played Billy Cooper
•Justin Dray played First Paparazzi
•Rob Mainord played Bookstore Owner

Interview with Taylor Longbrake (Cathy Cooper)

Interview with Gary Weeks (Mr. Cooper)


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