People like Adrian Monk (Tony Shalhoub) believe in never changing anything, so it’s likely you’ve had a few good laughs at a Monkrewatch or two. There’s a lot to watch again as well: In the early aughts, the USA Network produced a procedural series about an OCD private investigator for eight seasons and 125 episodes. That should keep you occupied for some time. However, if you’re looking to broaden your horizons — without drastically altering your viewing habits — there are numerous other entertaining shows available that can satisfy a similar craving.
There are plenty of other TV detectives with the ability to solve difficult cases while simultaneously making everyone else in the room irritated. This list of character-driven crime shows from TV Guide will help you fill that Monk-shaped hole in your life, whether you’re a fan of long-running series or newcomers.
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Watch House if you prefer Monk when he’s irate. To solve the mystery of the “killer,” the long-running Fox medical drama must first figure out what’s wrong with the patient. Except for one time, when lupus turns out to be the culprit. Hugh Laurie—as the brilliant but obnoxious Dr. Gregory House—makes it unmissable with a clever twist on the usual mystery show formula. House, like Monk, is a modern-day homage to Sherlock Holmes, down to his drug use and sharp deduction skills. The show is worth watching just to see Hugh Laurie make fun of doctors and patients while diagnosing bizarre ailments. It’s also worth watching for House and Wilson’s Holmes-and-Watson relationship (Robert Sean Leonard). Amazon Prime Video and NBC both have it available for viewing .com]
Let’s be clear about something: Bones is the name of her. It’s also a moniker. Because she’s in the medical field, she has to deal with things like bones. Temperance Forensic anthropologist and best-selling author Brennan (Emily Deschanel) is the Monk of the Bones world, a socially awkward genius with a tragic past who can be difficult and exacting but always gets results. Brennan (Emily Deschanel) solves crimes with bones and also writes best-selling crime novels. Seeley Booth (David Boreanaz) works with Brennan and her team of scientists to catch murderers in cases ranging from quirky to “personal.” However, unlike Monk’s cases, Bones cases aren’t nearly as difficult to solve. The real draw of Bones, however, is the electric chemistry between Deschanel and Boreanaz. You can see it on Hulu or Amazon Prime Video if you like.
3. Perry Mason
Despite the fact that Monk’s phobias are frequently exploited for comic effect, deep down he is a very sad man. Check out Matthew Rhys’ Perry Mason on HBO if you want to watch a sad man solve crimes again. Rhys is the best sad man on television. Set in 1930s Los Angeles, Perry Mason imagines a gritty origin story for the famous defense lawyer, who spends the first season mainly on solving one horrific case — and facing his own demons, obviously. While the plot drags at times, the characters are well-drawn and the tone is suitably ominous. It doesn’t hurt that Matthew Rhys is such an expert at conveying sadness. [HBO Max subscription required]
4. Veronica Mars
Watch Veronica Mars if you’re looking for more noir detective stories with a side of teen drama. Originally airing on UPN, the CW has picked up the series, which stars Kristen Bell as a high school student and future college student who moonlights as a private eye, solving cases for her classmates and her detective father (Enrico Colantoni). The one that hangs over her head the most is the murder of Lilly Kane, her best friend (Amanda Seyfried). Veronica Mars is a great marathon if you want something more complex than Monk. At the very least, watch the first two seasons if you can. In spite of the disappointing Hulu revival and the fact that the show’s magic waned in its third season, the early years of Veronica Mars remain unforgettable as a dark exploration of trauma and privilege in a town where those who have and those who do not are constantly at odds. You can see this on Hulu.
A Monk-Psych crossover used to be like putting together the Avengers for USA Network viewers. If you missed Monk’s upbeat “characters welcome” charm and haven’t watched Psych yet, take this as a sign from the blue sky heavens that it’s time for a crossover. When Shawn Spencer (James Roday Rodriguez) uses his keen sense of observation to get the job of fake psychic detective, the rest of the show’s plot revolves around how he pulls it off. Shawn wins over the Santa Barbara Police Department, including his love interest Juliet O’Hara (Maggie Lawson), and tough chief detective Carlton Lassiter, with the help of his best friend, Gus (Dulé Hill) (Timothy Omundson). With more laughs, obscure pop culture references, and running jokes about pineapples than Monk, Psych is like Monk but better. The following video can be seen on Peacock and Amazon Prime Video.
At the very least, everyone should enjoy a departed-too-quick network drama. It helps to keep you grounded. A far worse option would be to watch Stumptown, which was renewed for a second season before being abruptly axed due to delays in the production of COVID-19. Cobie Smulders plays PI Dex Parios, a Marine veteran with PTSD and gambling debts who is also trying to support her brother on the Portland-based show based on the comic book series of the same name (Cole Sibus). Smulders excels as Dex, a messy, smart-alecky bisexual woman who puts a fresh spin on the typical TV troubled detective role. Stumptown is made all the more enticing by the presence of familiar faces like Jake Johnson and Michael Ealy. View on Amazon (to buy)
You can watch a Sherlock Holmes-inspired difficult genius or Sherlock Holmes on any given day. With Jonny Lee Miller portraying a modern Sherlock Holmes who lives in New York City and Lucy Liu portraying Dr. Joan Watson, a former surgeon hired as his sober companion, Elementary is the best of the recent wave of Arthur Conan Doyle adaptations. Although it’s a network procedural, it’s sharp and well-made, with an interesting cast (look out for Natalie Dormer), and it weaves in surprising new twists on the Sherlock Holmes canon while still delivering all the usual network procedural benefits. Also, Liu’s Joan costume is a dream come true. You can see this on Hulu.
Tony Shalhoub plays the senator whose brain has been eaten by alien bugs in this underrated gem, which isn’t about detectives. Robert and Michelle King penned BrainDead, a one-season wonder set between The Good Wife and The Good Fight, in which Mary Elizabeth Winstead, a documentary filmmaker, accepts a job working for Danny Pino, her senator brother, and learns that Washington, D.C. has been infiltrated by extraterrestrial bugs, who have taken control of a few lawmakers. Almost no one has noticed anything different. Shalhoub turns out to be quite the oddball in this political satire with a sci-fi undertone. Monk would have a difficult time dealing with those pests. The following video can be seen on Paramount+.
One last thing: watch some old episodes of Columbo if you haven’t already. From 1968 to 1978, the classic procedural aired on NBC, and from 1989 to 2003, it was shown on ABC on a less frequent basis. Lieutenant Columbo is a smart, rumpled homicide detective who, like Monk, is constantly underestimated by killers and is played by the legendary Peter Falk. Columbo-style episodes are some of Monk’s best because they reveal who committed the crime and then leave the audience wondering how our hero will prove it, which he always does. Check it out if you want to get a kick out of seeing self-centered murderers get their comeuppance.