Created by Andy Breckman, ‘Monk’ is a comedic detective series following the peculiar crime-solving of an obsessive-compulsive private investigator, Adrian Monk. Suffering a mental breakdown after losing his wife to a gruesome crime, Monk gets relieved of his job in the police force and starts developing his long list of phobias and obsessions. Yet, he resolves himself to continue crime solving and begins work as a private consultant for the police alongside his former mentor and friend. With such scenarios taking place in real life as well, there may be some confusion regarding the origins of the titular character and his inspiration.
Is Monk a True Story?
‘Monk’ is not based on a true story or the books, but is an original TV series created by Andy Breckman, who also served as the head writer. Lee Goldberg, a writer for the show, started producing the novel series based on it, during its fourth season. After he departed from the show, Hy Conrad wrote four more books and ended the novel series with ‘Mr. Monk and the New Lieutenant.’ The novels remain largely faithful to the show and deviate ever so slightly from the original material. The character of Monk himself largely derives inspiration from the popular fictional detectives Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot. Monk has the deduction skills of the former and obsessive compulsions inspired by the latter’s fixation on neatness.
Another influence includes the effective but inelegant character of Columbo from the television series of the same name. Co-creator David Hoberman initially planned on making Monk more practical humor driven, like inspector Jacques Clouseau from the ‘Pink Panther’ Franchise. However, Hoberman himself had certain obsessive-compulsive tendencies that inspired him to create a character who is aided as well as hampered by them. In an interview, he explained, “Like Monk, I couldn’t walk on cracks and had to touch poles. I have no idea why—but if I didn’t do these things, something terrible would happen.”
The show didn’t just take inspiration from ‘Sherlock Holmes’ for its main character. Much like Dr. Watson accompanies Holmes with little to no detective ability, Monk is assisted by Captain Hastings. Monk even has a brother reminiscent of Mycroft Holmes, whose deductive skills surpass his own, yet are limited somewhat due to personal hindrances. Their allies in the police department share similar characteristics as well. Lieutenant Disher and Captain Stottlemeyer at the department are redolent of Inspector Lestrade and Chief Inspector Japp, seldom helpful and inefficient government counterparts.
Taking Hercule Poirot as an inspiration, Monk not only derives from his style of dysfunctional obsessive compulsion but also a backstory of suffering. Poirot fled Belgium as a refugee of World War 1, and witnessed the second war later in life as he solved cases. Both these characteristics are amplified in Monk, as he is defined by the suffering he endures from losing his wife and developing his infamous mental illnesses and quirks. ‘Monk’ has drawn inspiration from fellow fictional detective series from before its time and borrowed from the creator’s own experience with obsessive compulsions.