Monday, 26 January 2009


Consultant to the San Francisco Police Department, where he used to work as a Homicide detective, Adrian Monk is probably the most brilliant private sleuth on Earth. Sherlock Holmes incarnated, he has no rival when it comes to solve puzzling murder mysteries. But his gift is also a curse: Monk has OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder) and an awfully long list of phobias (« germs, splinters, coloring books, mixed nuts, lint, curly hair... ») - troubles which got worse after Trudy, his wife, died because of a car bomb.

Natalie Teeger, his long-suffering assistant, helps him to cope with his curse when no-nonsense mustachioed Captain Leland Stottlemeyer and his wacky right-hand man Lieutenant Randy Disher call Monk on a case («... I've been Monk's Dr Watson, Kato, Rico Tubbs and Boy Wonder all rolled into one »). After following Monk's psychiatrist, Dr Kroger, in Germany, and solving murders there, Natalie obtains from her boss that they spend a few days in Paris.


Monk is of course the comedy-drama hit tv series created by Andy Breckman, and launched in 2002 on USA Network, with Tony Shalhoub as Adrian Monk. But since 2006 it's also a series of original mystery novels based on the characters of the show and written by Lee Goldberg. The name of Lee Goldberg ( is familiar to regular readers of this blog: novelist, scriptwriter, producer, television historian and expert (one of his books, Unsold Television pilots, is one of the 17 books permanently on your servant's desk), teacher and consultant.

Goldberg's impressive resume ( includes Diagnosis Murder, Martial Law, Nero Wolfe and even Fast Track: No Limits, a two hour movie pilot produced by our German friends of action concept ( Recently a blog, Planet All-Star, has put him #1 on a list of Five Writers who could save Television (, and we buy that without any single hesitation as we wrote last summer that Lee Goldberg was perhaps one of the last men in Hollywood able to make a television series entertaining (

Mr. Monk is Miserable, his latest Monk tie-in novel, is a perfect sample of the art of this master storyteller. Should you be a fan of the Monk tv series or not, as the show itself regularly flirts with the self-conscious formulaic Tony Shalhoub one-man show. But the talent of Lee Goldberg is to build totally original novels with familiar figures. His reinventions of Adrian Monk's frustrations and anxieties are so wonderfully and joyfully crafted that many of his readers already wish an adaptation of his new Monk Book for the television series (as it happened with Mr. Monk goes to the firehouse).


Mr. Monk is Miserable is narrated by Natalie Teeger, Mr. Monk's assistant («... but I also have to be his personal shopper, driver, secretary, and able-bodied investigative assistant »). In fact his second assistant, as many fans of the tv show fondly remember Sharona, the first. Natalie is the most patient individual on Earth. And she must be, as she endures the consequences of Adrian Monk's disorder and phobias (« We're walking on a giant toilet ») and after their incredible German adventures (see Mr. Monk goes to Germany) she considers that she deserves true holidays and blackmails her boss in the funniest manner to make a détour to Paris before going back home.

« It's always murder. Nobody dies of natural causes around Adrian Monk. » After challenging every written and unwritten rule of Air travel in a post-9.11 world (« This was already the flight from hell and we've hadn't even left the airport yet »), Mr. Monk solves a murder case aboard the plane to Paris (!) thanks to the "filthy habits" of the murderer (« But it's the first step on the road to moral degradation and total ruin »).

Natalie and Adrian finally arrive in France, where the detective genius reputation of Monsieur Monk precedes him. And they are welcome by representatives of the local police authorities, Chief Inspector Philippe Le Roux and his assistant, Inspector Guy Gadois, French counterparts of Stottlemeyer and Disher... almost literally. This is the occasion for Natalie to show Adrian that she speaks French (« There's a lot you don't know about me, Mr. Monk. I'm a woman of mystery and intrigue »).


Adrian Monk is the ultimate "fish out of the water": he's lost past the walls of his Pine Street apartment (« He doesn't travel across the Bay Bridge without a life vest, six months' worth of provisions, a priest, and a trailer comprising all his furniture, bedding and dishes »). So the confrontation with French culture is for him an Olympic test, when he discovers le rez-de-chaussée (« They're delusional »), le pain (« I don't eat anything called pain, agony, pestilence, or feculence... »), les Vélibs or le Croque Monsieur («This is living »).

Monk has his own conception of France's contribution to the civilized world - civilization is where he can find a bottle of Sierra Springs - and when Natalie, who went to France 20 years ago, asks him if he wishes to see Notre Dame, La Seine or Le Louvre, he answers that he dreams to visit the Paris sewer museum since childhood. French readers of Mr. Monk is Miserable will learn with delight that, according to our favorite OCD detective, « thanks to the sewer system, Paris became known as the City of Light, renowned throughout the world as a beacon of sanitation and sparkling cleanliness ». They will also learn that the sewer museum is Paris' equivalent of the Smithsonian (« The Louvre can't touch this ») and that Eugène Poubelle is « the Abraham Lincoln of France »!

Chassez le naturel... During a visit of Les Catacombes, Monk uncovers a murder case, to the despair of Natalie, who had already to accept the idea of the hazmat suit of her employer. Then murder sits right near them in a most peculiar restaurant. « There's no better way to discover Paris, its culture, and its people than through a murder investigation » believes Adrian Monk, and when Captain Stottlemeyer and Lieutenant Disher arrive from San Francisco, Monk is at last on terra cognita.


Mr. Monk is Miserable is a wonderful and fun book with an intrigue devised like a clockwork mechanism. Lee Goldberg's vision of Paris (take note, producers of My Own Worst Enemy) and of the French is sharply realistic. His wife is French and he's so familiar with France that your humble French servant cannot help thinking that Natalie's remarks about the "Disneyfication" of Paris (« How could the Parisians have let that happen? ») are the views of the author, who seems to be a true lover of the capital city.

Goldberg captures the essence of the "Monkishness" of his hero to transform the Adrian Monk routine, sometimes heavy in the television series, into a succession of cultural clashes which find their paroxysm with the motocrotte running gag (« It's something most Americans can only dream of »). He transports the familiar universe of the show on new territories but keeps the magic of its ensemble cast on paper: Stottlemeyer is up to his own tv standards, and you can almost see Ted Levine saying « You never see Dirty Harry, James Bond, Superman, or Captain Kirk take a snooze. Men of action don't need naps ». The sudden "stardom" of Randy Disher provides lots of great situations and lines - our favorite: « Now I understand why every French movie I've ever seen ends up with a suicide ».

Mr. Monk is Miserable is more than a tie-in, you don't even have to know the Monk tv series to enjoy it, but fans of the show will love it and pray that the production and USA Network adapt it on screen (USA's accountants will adore that...) It's a mystery story with a difference, and all the wit (there are shades of Mark Twain in Paris with Monk's exploration of the City of Light), the humor and the writing skills of a master novelist. Personal note: only Lee Goldberg could make Natalie Teeger sympathetic.

« I was on my motocrotte, going up and down the Champs-Elysées, and in a moment of startling clarity and peace that only comes from deep cleaning, it just hit me ». Only in Paris could Adrian Monk become so "Proustian". Try something new, try this brush of fresh air on crime novels, « live on the edge » with Monk and spend some great moments. We all need to have some fun these days...

« Adrian, Adrian. Adrian, Adrian. Adrian, emmène-moi. » (Buzy)

Mr. Monk is Miserable (Obsidian - U.S. $21.95)

Saturday, 17 January 2009


A promo for Knight to King's Pawn, next week episode of Knight Rider on NBC. Thanks to the excellent, a website very supportive to Gary Scott Thompson's show.

Fans of the original Knight Rider (1982-1986) are waiting eagerly for the 2008-2009 version of KARR, KITT's nemesis. In an act of respectful elegance from the production, Peter Cullen, voice of KARR in the original series, is back for this episode.

Thursday, 15 January 2009


There are certainly better ways to get up, especially early, than to learn this kind of news: Ricardo Montalban, 88, and Patrick McGoohan, 80, have died.

Patrick McGoohan reached tv stardom in the sixties as secret agent John Drake in Danger Man/Secret Agent, before co-creating, producing and writing some episodes of the show which made him a legend: The Prisoner (1967). McGoohan is remembered also for his apperances in Columbo and for the warden in Escape from Alcatraz (1979).

Talking about legends, Ricardo Montalban is known to the generation of your humble servant for his character of Khan Noonien Singh in the Star Trek episode Space Seed, a role he reprised with brilliance in the movie Star Trek II: The wrath of Khan (1982), directed by Nicholas Meyer ( But Montalban also made television History with Fantasy Island (1978-1984), where he played Mr Roarke, the mysterious host of a resort island where guests could see all their fantasies fulfilled.

« How do I feel? Old... » (James T. Kirk, Star Trek II: The wrath of Khan)

Wednesday, 14 January 2009


Mickey "Bricks" Stone is back. And its about time. Back with him on BBC1 since January 8 (after a pause of almost two years) is Hustle, for a series 5 which welcomes the return of the prodigal Adrian Lester as the charismatic leader of UK's favourite con artists pack( .

Absent in series 4, Mickey escapes to Australian police after his successful "sale" of the Sydney Opera House, and finds that his crew members have parted ways.


Created in 2004 by Tony Jordan, from an idea of Bharat Nalluri, and produced by Kudos (the ITC Entertainment of the 21st century), the stylish Hustle is one of the most popular show of the "new wave" of British television series initiated after the nineties. Con artist with an ethical code (« You can't cheat an honest man ») and a professional penchant for high rollers, Mickey Stone practices his art with Ash Morgan (Robert Glenister - Philip "Gene Hunt" Glenister's brother), Stacie Monroe (Jaime Murray), Danny Blue (Marc Warren), and his mentor, Albert Stroller (Vaughn). They often devise their confidence tricks in the bar of Eddie (Rob Jarvis).

The first two seasons were delicatessen for amateurs of classy television, but the show fell into silly comedy and unnecessary escapades in America (due to a co-funding by US cable channel AMC), with glorious American television figures probably personal friends of the American co-star of the show, Mr Robert Vaughn (at his best in Hustle, his presence in United Kingdom being a real treat for fans of The Protectors).

The fourth series, without Mickey (and Lester, gone on other projects), focused on Danny as the would be team leader and Albert as the real one, and Hustle went close to become the Beeb's equivalent of Midsomer Murders: a postcard cliché customized for North American market. But America has its own Hustle, Leverage, on TNT (1).


After a long break, Hustle starts practically from scratch with this series 5. Adrian Lester returns after the embarassing Bonekickers (2) (thank God, a second season of this DaVinci Code/dinosaurless Primeval wannabe will not be commissioned), gone are Marc Warren and Jaime Murray, idem for Ashley Walters (Billy Bond in series 4), and two new cast members - Kelly Adams (Holby City, Robin Hood) and Matt Di Angelo (EastEnders) arrive.

The theme intro by Simon Rogers has been rearranged (if it ain't broke, why fix it?) The redesigned titles, by Berger & Wyse (, are really fantastic. Tony Jordan sets his reborn Hustle in a credit crunched London, back to the social subtext of the beginning of the series. The perennial Hustle scheme in the City takes a new dimension in a post-Bernie Madoff world.

What happens in London must stay in London... The first episode of series 5, guest starring comedian Bill Bailey, won nearly 6 million viewers, beating ITV ( And it's not a con.

(1) (Brilliant review by Aaron Barnhart, special mention for the reference to Thief, Heist and Smith).


Wednesday, 7 January 2009


Cinema journalist, author of major books on the Pink Panther franchise ( - In French) or OSS 117 - France answer's to James Bond, and blogger ( - In French), Philippe Lombard has opened a new blog in parallel with his main one.

Quantum of Bond ( is a tribute to one of his numerous cinematic passions (with Winnetou or Terence Hill & Bud Spencer, to name only two) in an original way: James Bond, through anecdotes (Universal Exports, "Churchill's head", stunts...), photos, ads, magazine covers, items of the journalist's own collection and many details about the universe of 007.

This blog is a kind of amazing equivalent of what can be done in DVD bonuses, with Philippe's encyclopedic knowledge. Your humble servant has tried to convince him to make a version in English but in the meantime you can always use a web translator.

Saturday, 3 January 2009


Comments are flying on Behind the Sofa (, Beans on Toast ( or through the web in general, since the beginning of the evening. The name of the successor of David Tennant as The Doctor, the most popular character of the History of British television, has been announced in a special edition of Doctor Who Confidential (the Doctor Who companion series).

After months of speculations and the usual list of names fans of Who or James Bond must endure when the time for a new face has come, the identity of the 11th Doctor is now known: and the winner is... Matt Smith (


Matt Smith is well-known by those who enjoyed The Ruby In The Smoke and The Shadow In The North (two Sally Lockhart stories adapted from Phillip Pullman). He's 26 years old and will get the keys of the TARDIS in 2010 for the fifth season of the show brought back to life by writer-producer extraordinary Russell T. Davies in 2005.

For those who came in late... David Tennant, still in the blue box for a series of specials, declared in October 2008 that he would not return as the Doctor in 2010 ( Remember that the fact that Tennant, one of the most popular Doctors of the History of the series, played with the Royal Shakespeare Company was one of the reasons invoked for the delay of Season 5.


Remember also the infamous botched regeneration at the end of the first half of the finale of a season 4 which left the strange feeling that some of the people involved where already moving on ( - In French) . And the "Next Doctor" played by the excellent David Morrissey in the 2008 Christmas special.

Knowing the talented Mr Davies like we all learned to during these four years, we all had the intuition that Morrissey would not really be this Next Doctor (even if your humble servant hoped vainly that the acteur WAS the New Doctor) but why O why this title then? « I’ll explain later » said the other. A new showrunner (the great Steven Moffat), a new exec, a new Doctor. Matt Smith reminds of Peter Davison (the fifth Doctor), which is certainly a good start because Doctor Who really needs a regeneration.


There were times when appeal to targeted demographics were not amongst parameters for the choice of a new Doctor but Doctor Who is the biggest source of revenues for BBC Worldwide. Anyway Matt Smith is a skilled actor and an interesting choice. His youth will allow him to do 5 seasons.

And, of course, he played with Billie "Rose Tyler" Piper in the two Sally Lockhart and in an episode of Secret Diary of a Call Girl. To suppose that Miss Piper will appear in the fifth season of Doctor Who is probably not unreasonable. Romance in the air... again? Fans of Twilight would certainly appreciate.

Welcome to Mr Smith. The Next Doctor had "dickensian" shades. The New one inspires great expectations.

Reactions: (In French)

Special thanks to Corinne AUFFRET-NGUYÊN