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September 27, 2007... 9:00am
David Breckman 1

David Breckman is the younger brother of Monk creator Andy Breckman. He has been with the Monk writing and production staff since season one. Besides writing "Mr. Monk is Up All Night" David has so far been credited or co-credited with 15 episodes of Monk, including "Mr. Monk and the Astronaut" and "Mr. Monk Visits a Farm."

He's also the co-creator (along with Ross Abrash writer of "Mr. Monk and the Employee of the Month") of Underfunded a series developed for the USA Network which has yet to be picked up. Unlike most of the Monk writers, who work in New Jersey, David has settled in Los Angeles where Monk is filmed.

David agreed to do a phone interview with me and graciously answered almost all of my questions.

MFP: Has Monk been renewed for season seven?

David: Oh, gosh, I’m so sorry to be coy right out of the gate. The answer as of this conversation is no, but between you and me it looks promising. I’d say there’s a seventy or eighty percent chance we’ll be back for another year.

MFP: Do Tony and the other producers want to continue for another season?

David: All of us would love to come back, yes.

MFP: USA wouldn’t have the network they have today if it weren’t for Tony and the show.

David: That’s probably true. I mean Monk is their flagship -- the pride of their fleet. We’re proud of the work we do as writers, but there’s no question that Tony being the superlative actor that he is, is probably the primary reason the show is so successful.

MFP: I don’t know. You give him everything to say, so I think you writers count right up there.

David: Make sure you underline that.

MFP: Okay.

David: Italicize it as well and put it in bold.

MFP: It looks like for season six the ratings have leveled off a little. Is that a concern for the network?

David: Actually, they’ve been happy with the ratings. We do very well for ourselves and we deliver a very big audience to Psych which follows our show at ten o’clock.

MFP: Maybe this is something you can talk about: what can we expect to see in the second half of season six, without revealing too much, of course?

David: I can talk about that – circumspectly anyway. Monk will be solving various mysteries and acting in a very eccentric way. Okay, the second part is off the record. Of course I’m kidding. You are going to be seeing Monk in various hopefully clever and fun situations like – I’ll be coy again, but your readers are bright and will read between the lines – Monk may or may not be accused of murder and find himself in very hot water. So the… hindquarters Monk will be saving in that particular show will be his own. You may or may not be seeing a special two-part episode. You may or may not be seeing Monk going undercover and infiltrating a Reverend Moon type cult. You may or may not be seeing Monk taking up painting as a hobby and then stumbling into a terrible crime. These are a few of the things you may or may not be seeing in the months ahead.

John Turturro
John Turturro

MFP: May we or may we not be seeing John Turturro come back as Ambrose?

David: Alas, that’s not even a possibility this season. We’d love for it to happen in the future though.

MFP: How about Kevin Dorfman?

David: Um… Kevin is…. I’d rather not give the game away. I’m very sorry.

MFP: No problem. Are there any guest stars you can mention?

David: Yes, hold on, let me think. Some prominent guest stars as of now? [Long pause.] Let’s move on for now. I’m so sorry I’m just kind of rousing myself here.

Jarrad Paul
Jarrad Paul (Kevin Dorfman)

MFP: Yes, it’s kind of early.

David: Well, for me it’s early. I’m the kind of guy -- as are most of the writers -- we wake up late and stay up late. [Laughs] But let me think about that and let you know in like 15 minutes.

MFP: So is solving Trudy’s murder and Monk’s reinstatement to the force still goals for the show?

David: Yes. That’s the over-arching goal… the through line of the show. Of course, sometimes it’s more prominent than at other times, but yes, that’s always Monk’s chief concern.

MFP: So that hasn’t changed.

David: Nor will it.

Bobblehead SF
Monk Bobblehead on location in San Francisco

MFP: Do you plan on doing any filming in San Francisco this year?

David: There are no immediate plans, unfortunately. That could certainly change between now and late November, but it’s unlikely.

MFP: We’d be happy to have you up here.

David: Oh my gosh, and don’t think we don’t love shooting up there. It’s one of the loveliest cities in North America, but it’s purely a budgetary thing.

MFP: Our film commission is desperate. They may cut you a deal.

David: That’s perfect, because we’re desperate too. So… maybe it will happen.

MFP: I want to ask a few questions about “Mr. Monk is Up all Night.” Everybody loved it [except the eye doctor] by the way. The USA website has a poll and it leads [substantially] for the season.

David: No kidding.

Up All Night

MFP: Yes.

David: Okay, I’d like that perhaps in bold as well, maybe a different kind of font and I don’t know if you have florescent colors.

MFP: Certainly.

David: Again I would have to attribute that…. Obviously there’s no question, Tony is a brilliant actor and obviously the whole ensemble is good, but I mostly would have to attribute that to the writing, wouldn’t you, Teresa?

MFP: Oh, absolutely.

David: There you go.

MFP: I might actually attribute it directly to the last few scenes.

David: Yeah, the writing of the last few scenes is what you mean.

MFP: Exactly.

David: No. Obviously it’s very gratifying, but I’m not going to take any credit for that. By the way, Monk is a show that is, in many respects, written collectively. There are seven of us, and the shows are outlined collectively in the Writers’ Room. During that time not only do we work out the storylines, but lines of dialogue are pitched out and even some of the nuances that you see in the episode are pitched out. Quite often a lot of the ideas that you see in an episode that people think are clever may not generated by the writer of record. It may have been someone else in the room. Of course, my brother Andy, the show runner, takes a final pass on every script himself. He does the final rewrite on every script before it goes before the cameras.

MFP: I know you said in your writer’s commentary that this one sprung from a couple of ideas from Andy and Hy Conrad. Is that right?

David: Yes, yes.

MFP: But what in the script can you point to and say, “That’s all mine. That was me.”?

David: I can’t even… that’s something I’m reluctant to do. I’d actually have to sit down with you and watch it. But you know there are moments since I’ve been working on Monk…. I was off the show for about half a year, but not counting those episodes, where I didn’t participate at all – in a way it was kind of a blow to my ego because those episodes, the first half of season five – those were some of the best episodes ever. In fact I remember thinking, “Oh my god, they don’t need me at all.” I mean "Mr. Monk and the Garbage Strike," "Mr. Monk and the Actor"… those were some great shows. But everyone in the Writers’ Room can point to moments in every episode and claim them as his own.

MFP: So it’s always a team effort?

David: It’s largely a team effort, but keep in mind the dominant creative force behind Monk is a triumvirate: It’s Tony Shalhoub and my brother Andy and to a lesser degree another executive producer named Randy Zisk, but everyone is essential to the process.

MFP: And Randy Zisk is also frequently the director [as he was on “Up All Night”], right?

Randy Zisk
Randy Zisk

David: Exactly. I would actually add…. I would say it’s a quartet. I would also add Tom Scharpling to that as well. I mean all of us like to think we’re indispensable, and we’re all enormously important, but I would say the first among equals are Andy, Tom Scharpling, Tony and Randy Zisk.

MFP: Is that where most of the decision making occurs?

David: Most of the decisions yes, but by no means all.

Andy Breckman
Andy Breckman

Tony Shalhoub 2
Tony Shalhoub

Tom Scharpling
Tom Scharpling

MFP: Back to “Up All Night.” It seems to have a somewhat different feel than most episodes… a different structure. How did you decide on that?

David: When you say it had a different structure can you maybe expand on that?

MFP: Well, in that it takes place almost all in one night.

David: I think it just sprang out of our eagerness to see how Monk would handle insomnia and how he would react to a crime if his faculties were so impaired by having been awake for 72 or 96 hours.

MFP: The episode is also pretty light on Natalie. Is that just what the script called for?

David: Yes, it was really just a function of the structure and the structure was imposed on us by the nature of the problem Monk was facing. We thought it would be more fun if Monk was kind of out there on his own, doubting his own senses. If Natalie was with him corroborating everything he was seeing, then we wouldn’t be doing that.

MFP: Whose idea was it to have Monk reading a book by Hy Conrad in the episode?

Monk reads Conrad
David: Hy kept pleading and begging us to do that for years and we finally gave in. No, not true, not true. That’s a joke. Honestly, I think someone in the room suggested that Monk pick up a mystery novel and I think originally it was an Agatha Christie book. Someone had pitched Monk opening the book to page one and solving the case instantly and being frustrated because now he has to find some other way of amusing himself at three o’clock in the morning.

Then someone else -- I’ve forgotten who -- had the idea of replacing Agatha with Hy Conrad. We were thrilled because it’s a great inside joke.

MFP: When you’re writing a script like this do you picture who’s going to play the role?

David: We usually imagine Tony Shalhoub playing Monk.

MFP: Really?

David: Almost always. But you were probably referring to our guest stars.

MFP: Right.

David: No, we don’t always have an actor in mind, but it often helps if you have a specific voice in your head when you’re writing a character. Occasionally we’ll have a pretty good idea of who will be playing a part.

MFP: So, for instance in “Rapper” you would probably have had Snoop Dog in mind?

David: I think he was one of a few that was on our short list. Certainly when we were writing “Biggest Fan,” we were hoping Sarah Silverman would come back to play Marci Maven. If Sarah was unavailable we’d have changed the name of the character and had another Monk groupie show up. The story would have played out the same way, but we were glad to get her. We wrote that part with Sarah in mind back when we did “Mr. Monk and the TV Star.” There are other examples of this. "Mr. Monk and the Other Detective," the Jason Alexander episode, I think was one where we were hoping to get Jason Alexander. He was certainly our first choice. We were lucky, because there’s no guarantee that you’re going to get the person you were hoping for.

MFP: Are you ever disappointed that an aspect of the script doesn’t come out like you thought it would?

David: I think you just summed up my whole life. But as for the scripts, of course we are and I would say that I think that’s certainly the case with every writer in every medium, not just television but in features, novels, stage plays, what have you. You always look back on stories, even ones that you’re very proud of and say, “Oh, wow, I wish we had thought of this at the time” or “I wish we hadn’t thought of that at the time.” Of course those emotions fluctuate from mild to extreme, but I doubt there’s even one episode we don’t wish we had another crack at.

MFP: There’s no perfect episode?

David: Hmm… Well, I’m saying no, but please put in parentheses that I hope your readers will argue the point, and loudly.

MFP: Okay. So was there anything that was cut from “Up All Night” that you thought they should have kept in?

David: There were a couple of things. First of all I’m very proud that my name is on that episode and I think everybody did a great job, but there were one or two things that perhaps I would have done differently, but I’m loathe to mention them.

Bitty Schram

MFP: It’s been a few years now since Bitty Schram left. Still too soon to talk about it?

David: Why don’t you get more specific and we’ll see how much I can reveal.

MFP: Was she simply dissatisfied with the role or the money or was there a genuine desire on the producers’ part to take the show in another direction? Or both?

David: Yeah, I would say things were a bit more complicated than the press reported, but even now I’m still reluctant to elaborate. Let me just add, and I can’t go into a lot of detail about those complications, but I will say – and take this as an article of faith -- that it was never as simple as just the money.

MFP: So what was your reaction to the fan reaction?

David: I guess the short answer is, we expected it. We expected some controversy. We expected some indignation. We knew how much people loved Bitty and she was wonderful in the part, no one’s arguing about that. But I gotta say that we’re thrilled to death with Traylor Howard.

MFP: So were you confident, knowing that Bitty was leaving, that you could get past it and go on?

David: Frankly, not at first. We sure were hoping we could. We had some great stories we wanted to tell, but we weren’t ever sure in the beginning. We were never certain that the character of Natalie Teeger would catch on and be someone that we could write with as much confidence as Sharona.

Happily, we quickly realized that she was. This was a character that we all, more importantly, adored as much as Sharona. In fact, I’ll say this for the record, much as I loved the character of Sharona, I think Natalie is first among equals. I love her character and I love Traylor in the part. The reason is -- and this just comes down to personal taste -- she just is warmer to Monk than Sharona was. Sharona cared deeply for Monk, but there was this tough-love aspect to her relationship with him that I never quite warmed up to. Natalie’s a lot more nurturing. So with a gun to my head, I would say I might prefer the episodes with Natalie just a little bit more.

MFP: Was there ever any consideration of other assistants before you settled on Traylor as Natalie?

David: There was an audition process and there were some talented people who came in, but Traylor really had that rare combination of warmth and relatibility and humor that the part required. It’s our fault entirely that we don’t always give her enough comedy to play, but when we do she knocks it out of the park. Even when we don’t, she finds little bits of business and reactions that are really very funny.

MFP: In introducing Natalie what were the main problems in writing the character?

David: Again, the problem was in stepping up and writing a character that would be as indelible as Sharona, but in a somewhat different way.

Natalie in Up All Night
We finally hit upon that approach, which was that Natalie’s approach to Monk was warmer. I mean, she addresses him as Mr. Monk unlike Sharona who called him Adrian. It’s more of an uncle/niece kind of a thing in some respects. You know Monk is like the eccentric uncle that needs looking after.

MFP: Any plans for Natalie to ever address him as Adrian?

David: Well, the dynamic would shift a bit if she started calling him Adrian. I guess the short answer is I hope that she won’t, although nothing’s impossible.

MFP: What adjustments did you have to make when Traylor Howard became pregnant with writing the character?

David: We clearly had to get a little bit more clever. For example, the bathing suit episode was off the table. I’m joking, but there were certain situations we couldn’t put Traylor into as soon as she started showing. And when she was really further along we wanted to get her off her feet as much as possible. So we tried to accommodate her. She may have been marginalized in a couple of episodes, I’m dry for any specific examples of that right now, but I’m sure that you and your readers can come up with some.

MFP: Well, I can come up with “Mr. Monk Visits a Farm."

That’s true. That’s true.

MFP: Which she wasn’t in except for a couple of scenes.

David: Yes, one that should have leapt to mind because my name is on it.

MFP: Exactly. So she was just too far along at that point to hide it very well?

At You Service

David: Yeah, but it’s funny. It’s the kind of a challenge that a lot of shows face, particularly shows that have been on the air for a while. Usually if there’s a recurring female character quite often the actress in the role gets pregnant and they have to start getting clever in addressing it, or in hiding it. We hope we were clever.

MFP: You were. Some of the lamp placement was very good.

David: [Laughs] Yeah, you got to give credit to Randy Zisk and the directors for being artful in that regard.

MFP: So how do you think the New Jersey/L.A. split effects the production. Is it helpful, is it a pain?

David: Opinions vary. We think it’s helpful. The network might argue with us. We like the feeling of autonomy we get from being 2700 miles away from Los Angeles. You know we have a great relationship with USA Network and with everyone there, but we like being able to be mostly left alone when we write these stories. Of course when the scripts are finished the network will always weigh in. Tony and the actors will weigh in, but when we’re taking our first pass at the scripts we like being left alone. I think that the geography helps.

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MFP: Anything you don’t like about it?

David: During the winter? Plenty. You know obviously there are the extremes in temperature. At least for me who’s kind of settling into Los Angeles now, it’s something I can do without, but keep in mind that I’m a consulting producer. I’m part time now. I left the show for half a year to do a pilot for USA that unfortunately, as of now, hasn’t been picked up, though it may find life eventually.


MFP: That’s Underfunded?

David: You’re good Teresa, my God.

MFP: Well, I watched it. They did show it.

David: They did. They did show the pilot. They didn’t pick it up for series yet.

MFP: So that’s still up in the air then?

David: It’s got a pulse. It may yet happen, one way or another. Watch this space for more details. But I left for half a year to do that and when I came back it was as a consulting producer, which means my responsibilities were cut if not quite in half, at least by a third. I’m in the Writers’ Room in Summit now only about 8 to 10 weeks a year. So your last question may be better addressed to the writers who are full time, because they have to be there for a good ten months out of the year… with the exception of John Collier, who’s full time but works out of LA. When he’s not in the writers’ room at the top of each season, he spends a good part of his time on set.

MFP: So do you have responsibilities in L.A.?

David: I fill in for Collier on set one day a week and I write one script a year and I weigh in by phone on every script to one degree or another, and again I make two trips to the writers’ room each year for four to six weeks at a shot.

MFP: So how are suggestions from one coast to the other communicated?

David: Well, nowadays tentatively. Are you saying, how does the network communicate their suggestions?

John Collier
Jonathan Collier

MFP: Well from the network and just from the production end of the show to the writers’ end?

David: I’ll very briefly walk you through how that works. What happens is the writer of record will turn in his script or her script to my brother who will then take his pass. That draft gets turned in to the network. We then have a read-through about ten days before the start of production on each script. That’s where all the actors and all of the production personnel sit around a table in Los Angeles with a speaker phone, so that the writers in New Jersey can hear them, and all of the actors read the script out loud with the first assistant director on the show reading the descriptive stuff. You know, Monk enters the room and looks around, that stuff. We and everyone listen and hear how it plays. At the end of the read through we’ll have what’s called a notes session. That’s where everyone involved will weigh in and say this works and these other elements don’t seem to work. We in the Writers’ Room will then discuss those elements. Some changes we will agree with, other things we’ll fight for.

I should add that Tony has a huge voice in this. We certainly listen to everyone, but I would say Tony is first among equals in those conversations: Tony and Randy Zisk. But all of the actors have ideas, and they usually have merit: Ted and Jason and Traylor and Stanley. They’ll all weigh in and we’ll really listen to everybody. We then take our next pass at the script based on all of these conversations that follow the read through. That becomes the production draft, but even during production questions will come up. Of course Randy Zisk and the director and John Collier are present on set to address these things and the writers in Summit are available by phone whenever those guys want our input during shooting, which generally takes seven or eight days per episode.

MFP: At this point then, do the actors have a lot of input into the characters?

Monk Cast
David: Yes, after the read through, after everybody has finally seen the script and heard it spoken aloud, all the actors or most of the actors will weigh in to one degree or another, generally about their own characters. You know, “Is this something my character would do? Would it be possible that instead of running up and tearing the umbrella out of the guys hand I can do something else?”

Whatever. And we’ll generally try and accommodate the actor, because at a certain point an actor becomes at least as familiar with his character as you are and actually in most cases more familiar. That’s certainly the case with Tony. He knows Monk better than anybody. He’s got an unerring instinct for what Monk would and would not do.

MFP: I think I remember him mentioning in an interview that he was a little uncertain about Monk hearing voices in one episode. "Daredevil," I think. So how do you think that worked?

David: How did it work on set when it came time to do the scene?

MFP: Yes.

David: Well, Tony had to make sure that this behavior was consistent with his character, that Monk would be hearing these voices. Tony had to make sure he could justify it and finally he did and played it great. But believe me if he couldn’t justify it, if he had said categorically, “Absolutely not. There’s no way this scene would go down like this,” I’m sure we would have rewritten the scene.

MFP: I notice that Emmy Clarke has just turned 16. Are upcoming storylines with her going to further explore her being a real teenager?

David: She may or may not be going for her driver’s exam.

MFP: Oh.

David: Watch this space, yes. We’re going to definitely be writing to that. And she may or may not end up as an unwed mother in a dirty, desert commune.

MFP: I don’t believe you.

Emmy Clarke
Emmy Clarke

David: No, you’re right. That was a joke. That will definitely not happen.

MFP: So what is your favorite episode or episodes and why?

David: “Three Pies” turned out great. I mean many episodes turned out great, but “Three Pies” is one that’s in almost everyone’s top three. “Mr. Monk Takes His Medicine” is one that I also love. Of the ones that I wrote I guess I’m proudest of “Back to School” simply because I’m particularly proud of the murder in that episode. I don’t want to ruin it for anyone who hasn’t seen it, but the killer has a seemingly unbreakable alibi: He was on the campus of this private school when this woman seemed to commit suicide a quarter of a mile away by leaping off a clock tower. Monk is sure that this gentleman is lying, that he had something to do with her death, but his alibi is unbreakable. He was proctoring the SATs at the same time this woman’s body was heard to hit the roof of a car at the base of the clock tower. Monk knows he did it but he doesn’t know how… until the end. And it’s what this guy did to give himself the alibi that I’m particularly proud of. I don’t pat myself on the back very often but I will in this case.

MFP: So generally are the mystery parts more difficult than the comedy parts to come up with?

David: Without question, yeah. All of us have comedy backgrounds and it’s something that we’re pretty good at. We all love mysteries and we think we’re good at them, but it doesn’t get any easier.

Dan Dratch
Dan Dratch
We’re constantly trying to avoid doing variations of plots we came up with in other seasons. You know, when you’re getting up near 80 or 90 some episodes, this gets harder and harder, but we think we’re up to the challenge. We think that at least several times each season we come up with some very clever mysteries, but yes, that aspect is more difficult. Sometimes agonizingly difficult. I should add that one episode on a cruise ship that Dan Dratch came up with is the one I’m most sorry we haven’t been able to film yet. It’s a brilliant mystery idea.

MFP: Why hasn’t that been filmed?

David: We haven’t been able to get a ship. We tried to get permission to film on a cruise ship a couple of years ago but were unsuccessful.

MFP: So do you have any least favorite episodes?

David: I do, but I’m reluctant to mention them.

MFP: How about why they’re your least favorite?

David: Sometimes structurally you’ll think of something later on … much later than you should have… like while the episode is being shown on TV. Other times…. We have some wonderful directors, but sometimes we’ll bring in a director who is less familiar with the show and they won’t quite capture the "Monk tone".

MFP: They want to impose their own?

David: Or they’re just not as familiar with ours. Monk is a blend of mystery and comedy and pathos. It’s an odd hybrid that doesn’t really exist anywhere else on the air. At least I can’t think of any examples. Can you?

MFP: No, even a show like Psych that they’ve matched with Monk has a lot more comic tone than Monk has.

David: Exactly, so Monk kind of strikes this odd balance and it’s hard for outside directors who come in for the first time to capture that. So tonally, certain episodes seem off to me. But you know that’s rare I mean I’m proud of most of our shows.

MFP: Is that why you use the same directors a lot?

David: Yes, without question. Again Randy Zisk is supervising all of the directors.

MFP: Of the scenes you’ve personally written for Monk is there one in particular that you think represents your best work?

David: That’s a great question. I would say some of the confrontations between Monk and Andrew McCarthy in “Back to School” and another scene in “Back to School” when Monk is on the clock tower trying to figure out how this evil schoolteacher could have done this crime and Monk is expressing doubts in his own ability to catch him. Those are moments that I’m particularly proud of and I’m proud of the final moments in “Up All Night” as well. I’m sure there are other examples that I’m too punchy to think of right now, but those leap to mind.

Andrew McCarthy
Andrew McCarthy

MFP: What do you think the main differences are between writing a script for an earlier season like “Back to School” and writing a script for the sixth season like “Up All Night”? Or are there any?

David: Well, except for the fact that you’re writing for Monk and Sharona versus Monk and Natalie, there really are no differences. The challenges are the same. The challenges are exactly the same and in some ways it gets easier because you have more experience with the character. You’re just more familiar with Tony’s rhythms. On the other hand you don’t want to repeat yourself. So you know the advantage is kind of offset by the challenge of not falling into cliché, but the process is the same. It’s coming up with a clever mystery, a satisfying resolution and a context or milieu for Monk to be in that’s fun for the viewer. “Will it be fun to watch Monk in this situation for 60 minutes?” Monk being up all night for example. Monk being on a farm for example. Is it a fun milieu that will provide clever “Monk-ish” situations: Monk milking a cow. Monk confronting a room full of students. These are the questions that come up in every episode. And that’s another reason why “Cruise Ship” is such a loss to us. You know Monk on a cruise ship is a home run.

MFP: Do you think the characters have changed much?

David: Yes, I’m thinking in particular of Ted Levine’s character, Captain Stottlemeyer and by the way, it’s a change that I love. In the first year of the show his character was much more adversarial toward Monk and particularly if you go back to the pilot. I don’t know how long it’s been since you’ve seen the pilot.

MFP: Not that long.

David: There was a real rivalry and a real resentment on the part of Stottlemeyer. Disher had this kind of sycophantic relationship with Stottlemeyer and he, too, was more adversarial toward Monk.

Monk and Stottlemeyer
Now we’re much more comfortable with how those characters have evolved. A lot of that is due to Ted Levine and Jason Gray-Stanford. These are wonderful actors. The relationships have evolved to the point where —and it happened very slowly; it happened in the course of a year, maybe two years— where they’re very supportive of Monk and they’re protective of him, particularly in the case of Stottlemeyer. Stottlemeyer is also a very capable investigator. And you know we’ve even had him solving a couple of cases, here and there.

MFP: I noticed this season he solves them a little more.

David: Yes, so I like how those characters have evolved. I like that it’s not adversarial now. There’s certainly a contentious relationship with Monk. They’re exasperated by him, as is everyone around Monk, but they love him and look out for him and it’s mutual. I don’t know how you and other viewers feel about it. That’s a question I can ask you right now is that something that your prefer or would you rather it was more adversarial?

MFP: Oh no, I much prefer Stottlemeyer’s protective streak towards Monk.

David: He really is like a protective older brother.

MFP: What about the character of Monk himself?

David: I think there’s been a refinement. I don’t think he’s changed dramatically, but I think there’s been a refinement in his character…a distillation of certain traits that were present in the beginning. I guess the short answer is that he’s the same now only more so.

MFP: So you think changing the character in a significant way would ruin the show? I mean, say he got much better.

David: Unquestionably. Yes, yes. Curing Monk would be great for him and bad for everyone else.

MFP: And does the same go for romance for Monk?

David: We dipped our toe into that pool, but yes. If Monk is happy and fortunate enough to find the love of his life and move on and become reconciled to the death of his wife, we’d be in a lot of trouble, which isn’t to say it wouldn’t happen. I’m saying that as of now it’s unlikely.

MFP: What’s the same in every Monk script? What makes it uniquely a Monk story?

David: I think what we spoke about. It’s this blend of comedy, mystery and pathos in equal measure. It makes it unlike any other show on the air. You’ll occasionally see it on film. You’ll see that kind of hybrid, but not so much on television. You know, you have straight up mystery shows, procedurals like Law & Order and CSI and Bones and Cold Case and shows like that. You’ll have straight up comedy shows, too: obviously, there are any number of those. Very few walk the same line that we do.

MFP: So going back to the beginning have you remembered any guest stars?

David: There’s no one huge unfortunately. You know, there’s no Jason Alexander or John Turturro. They’re wonderful actors: they just may not be as high profile as some of our other guest stars.

MFP: Do you have any other projects, besides Underfunded that you’re working on?

David: Underfunded is the big one. I am working on a show (we’ll see if I can sell it) about two investigative reporters. I’m pitching it as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid meets Fletch. It’s kind of a buddy show ala Butch Cassidy and 48 Hours and Wedding Crashers married to the notion that they’re investigative reporters solving crimes.

MFP: It sounds good to me.

David: Oh boy, I wish you were running a network.

MFP: So when you are pitching something to a network are they expecting something from you with kind of a Monk tone?

David: Yes, they are. Please, I hope you emphasize this, we love Monk and we love writing it, but every writer has ideas of his own he wants to get before the camera either as a TV show or a movie or what have you.

Joe Toplyn
Joe Toplyn
I should say that Joe Toplyn wrote a wonderful pilot this year called Plan C, which may or may not find a home. I hope it does. Dratch wrote a great mystery pilot which may or may not go at another network: a half hour mystery with a detective hero. Tom Scharpling has various things in development, one of which is called Jeff the Demon, which is a very funny screenplay that he wrote, but he has other scripts as well. Collier’s got some great things. Hy Conrad’s attached to adapt a British mystery for an American audience, and Hy’s just terrific – a short-story writer and a playwright – so that’s got a real shot.

As much as we all love Monk we’ve all got other irons in the fire. But, yes, the expectation on the part of whoever we’re pitching to is that whatever it is we’re proposing will be just like Monk. They always want your next thing to be like your last thing. It’s the nature of the game.

MFP: Once again for the record, Season 7? Yes or No?

David: For the record, you’ll have to ask me off the record.

MFP: We heard on the Psych renewal. They renewed that.

David: I’m sorry you mean renewed that for season three.

MFP: Right.

David: Oh wow, when was that announced?

MFP: Last week [September 14th actually.]

David: No kidding. That I hadn’t heard, although I’m not surprised.

MFP: Psych kind of depends on Monk for that lead in, don’t they?

David: Well, they better not depend on it.

MFP: It won’t be there forever, I know.

David: Exactly. But I’m sure they’ll do just fine without us. I’m glad I have your email I definitely want to get you a list of at least a few of the guest stars that we’ll be seeing in the next seven shows.

MFP: Yes, just a few.

David: Of course. And you know we almost never get the guest star we want. I mean we often do and often the person we end up with is better than the person who we wanted or at least as good. It’s just the nature of the game and that’s true of movies as well. Not that I’ve ever had a film made. But you know the big example is Indiana Jones. That was a role originally intended for Tom Selleck and he couldn’t do it because he was doing Magnum PI, so they went with a guy who was not a big star. He’d been in a little movie called Star Wars, but no one knew that he could carry his own movie and Harrison Ford got the part and did it great. So you’re almost always having to use someone else and often being thrilled at the result.

MFP: I was always pulling for Peter Falk to play Monk’s dad, but Dan Hedaya did an excellent job.

David: And yes again, Dan Hedaya was one of several actors who were being considered. I don’t think he topped the list. Now we say, “Oh my God, we got stupidly lucky on that one.” That happens a lot. It really does.

MFP: Are you happily married now?

Dan Hedaya
Dan Hedaya

Cameron Meyer
Cameron Meyer

David: Oh my God! I got stupidly lucky on that one. [Laughs]

MFP: So I guess that’s a yes.

David: Yes. I tricked the most wonderful girl ever [Cameron Meyer] into falling in love with me. It seems to be working out.

MFP: Good job.

David: She was on the show a couple of years ago. [Mr. Monk and the TV Star]

MFP: She was in the episode you were in, right?

David: Oh my lord, please don’t underline that part, but yes. You know, I’m still fuming over the Emmy committee’s oversight, but I think it’s just a jealousy thing. I guess that year it was just Ray Romano’s time to be recognized.

MFP: That must be it. Speaking of which, why doesn’t Ted Levine get Emmys every year. How come he doesn’t even get nominated?

David in TV Star
David Breckman in "TV Star"

David: You know, I don’t pretend to understand their process. I really don’t know how they come up with some of their… I mean, sometimes you nod your head and say, “Of course, that person should be nominated.” Other times it’s a poser. In fact the most egregious example of that was a couple of years ago. This to me is mind boggling: Ellen Burstyn.

MFP: That’s right, for her 14 seconds on screen.

David: Isn’t that staggering?

MFP: It seems clear what happened there: they just voted for the name.

David: Regardless, they had to have known…. I guest they didn’t know. They didn’t actually watch the movie, but didn’t they know if they gave her that award there’d be an uproar? Anyway, sometimes it’s just puzzling. That’s certainly the case with Ted. He’s just wonderful as Leland Stottlemeyer and the interplay between Ted and Jason is always terrific. We’ve come to depend on it. They play off each other so well. Down the road, I could imagine a show with those two characters.

MFP: Oh, yes.

David: So yes, I don’t pretend to understand that. Ted’s being robbed is my short answer to that question.

MFP: That’s what I was thinking.

David: And what are your favorite episodes? You don’t have to say any that I wrote.

MFP: Well, more recently, this season I really enjoyed “Up All Night.”

David: Oh, bless your heart.

Mr. Monk Goes to the Asylum
Mr. Monk Goes to the Asylum

MFP: But also I thought “Bad Girlfriend” was fantastic. I liked that very much. From earlier “Mr. Monk Gets Drunk” is one of my perpetual favorites and I like “Mr. Monk and the Girl Who Cried Wolf” and “Asylum” is my favorite.

David: No kidding. That’s your favorite episode?

MFP: Yes.

I guess the upside there is, wow, my name is on that one. The downside is that it means we reached our peak very early.

That was the episode that pulled me into the series.

MFP: Oh my goodness.

So, that’s my favorite. [I can't believe I left out "Employee of the Month." I looooove that one. and "Sleeping Suspect" and "Mrs. Monk" and "Garbage Strike" and....]

David: Wow, well that’s very gratifying. We’re proud of every episode you mentioned there. Wow. I think you’ll like the next seven. We’re very proud of the stories and obviously we have the best actors on television. I think you’ll enjoy them.

MFP: I know Andy mentioned in an interview that you’re going to be having a Trudy-centric episode. Is there a title for that one yet?

David: Andy said a Trudy-centric episode?

MFP: Well, an episode involving the mystery of Trudy’s death.

David: Well, he may or may not be alluding to our two-part episode, which may or may not involve Monk being accused of murder although for God’s sake I don’t mean Trudy’s murder. I’m not referring to that at all. There is a title, but I may not be able to disclose it.

Adrian and Trudy
Adrian and Trudy

[Of course we already know it's "Mr. Monk is on the Run," Parts I and II]

MFP: Okay, if you can, you let me know.

David: Okay, I will. But that one touches more directly on Trudy’s murder than any episode we’ve done probably since “Takes Manhattan.” So there it is.

MFP: All right. That’s all the questions I have.

David: Thanks, Teresa. This was fun.

Thank you, David.


True to his word, David emailed me the names of a few upcoming sixth season guest stars —

David: Not all of this year's final seven episodes have been fully cast yet, so the following roster of guest stars could conceivably change and expand by the time they are, but upcoming, high-profile guest stars for the second half of season six include Larry Miller (reprising his role from MR. MONK AND THE TRAFFIC JAM) Peter Stormare (FARGO, ARMAGEDDON, the series "PRISON BREAK") and Howie Mandel ("ST. ELSEWHERE", "DEAL OR NO DEAL," many more). Watch this space for more details as new information comes in.

David emailed me later with a few more details —

David: Yes, you will definitely be seeing one of the guest stars whom I mentioned in my email -- Peter (FARGO) Stormare -- playing the chief bad guy in MR. MONK PAINTS HIS MASTERPIECE. The fans are going to flip for this guy since he's a villain who's both smarmy and lovable, and Peter is just outstanding in the role.

For the key supporting role of a duplicitious sheriff in MR. MONK IS ON THE RUN, we landed the wonderful, the talented, the charismatic, the to guess who I'm talking about here? I am referring to none other than Misterrrrrrr.... wait for it...SCOTT GLENN!!!

Mr. Glenn's been famous for years, and he is constantly working in features (he was seen most recently in the THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM) but he doesn't do a lot of TV, and boy were we lucky to get him. I'm sure it didn't hurt that he was, apparently, a huge fan of the show.

And the most exciting news of all

David: it happens, I am slated to be directing a Monk episode (my first!) in only a few weeks time. MR. MONK AND THE THREE JULIES will be the last show to be filmed this year (not the last to be broadcast , mind you, but the last to be filmed.)

Larry Miller
Larry Miller in
Mr. Monk Gets Stuck in Traffic
David and Cameron
Cameron Meyer & David Breckman
Soon-to-be Monk Director

Howie Mandel
Howie Mandel

Peter Stormare
Peter Stormare

Scott Glenn
Scott Glenn


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