'Monk' creator sought a satisfying finale

Posted: December 04, 2009

MONK FINALE. 9 tonight, USA.

I FIGURED Andy Breckman, a Haddonfield Memorial High School graduate, would have big plans tonight given that the television series he created, and for which he wrote the final episode, will get its curtain call. But it sounds like there will be more excitement at my household of "Monk" fanatics than his.

"This will disappoint you," the series' creator and executive producer warned when we spoke yesterday morning. "My wife Beth wanted to invite friends over. We have precious few friends, but she wanted to invite them over. And I sort of nixed it. I think I just wanted to watch the show alone with Beth, and I have an older daughter Julie who will probably come by. You'll be having more fun than I will.

"It's not sad. Maybe that's just my temperament. I just didn't want the focus of the night to be on me. It would be one of those things where people would be watching the screen and glancing over at me and seeing my reaction. I guess the bottom line is I wanted to relax."

Breckman, 54, said he was pleased to hear that "Monk" was a favorite with my wife and me, and our three young sons and college-age daughter.

"I love to hear that families watch the show together. That means a lot to me, and we worked hard to make it a family-friendly show, an oasis, a safe harbor for families," he said.

Tonight is the night "Monk" aficionados learn who murdered former detective Adrian Monk's wife Trudy in a car bombing 15 years ago. And while not giving away the ending, Breckman revealed to me that closure was very much on his mind when he wrote the two-part series finale. He's a fan of David Chase and HBO's "The Sopranos," he said, but felt that "one of those conceptual, sort of abrupt endings" wouldn't work for the audience his show has built. "I don't think my audience knows exactly what they want from this finale exactly. My job was to figure out what the audience wanted and satisfy them."

Breckman's biggest challenge in ending the series? Solving his own crime.

"When I wrote the pilot and I wrote that Trudy, Monk's late wife, died in a car bomb some years earlier, to be honest with you, I never expected in a million years I'd have to solve that damn crime," he said. Breckman told me he never counted on the pilot being produced or the series being green-lighted and long running. He thought doing so would be "foolhardy" - until the second or third season, he said, when he realized he'd have the chance to end the series on his own terms."

I told him there is a raging debate among "Monk" about how the series will end. Some think Adrian Monk, played brilliantly by Tony Shalhoub, will die. Others yearn for a reunion with his deceased wife Trudy.

"All I can say is we worked hard to end the show on exactly the right note and to satisfy everyone. And I think we've come close," Breckman said. " As a writer, it was the biggest challenge of my life, and I did my best for you."

Listen to Michael Smerconish weekdays 5-9 a.m. on the Big Talker, 1210/AM.  Read his column in the Daily News. Contact him via the Web at www.smerconish.com.

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