USA Network’s pickup Friday of the eighth and final season of its popular series Monk was not unexpected but nevertheless bittersweet for fans of the long-running series.
Much like FX’s trend-setting drama The Shield – which itself will bid goodbye in two weeks — Monk ushered in a new era of cable original scripted series, providing a fresh approach to series television.
USA Network - then a neophyte in the development of scripted television – took a chance in 2002 that a show about brilliant but obsessive-compulsive police detective would convince viewers that the cable industry could produce quality, original scripted series on par with the broadcast networks.
If Monk had not been successful, who knows whether TNT invests in The Closer, Sci Fi Channel greenlights Battlestar Galactica, or AMC rolls out Mad Men.
Monk was arguably the first cable show to effectively define the ‘dramedy" genre, with Emmy, Golden Globe and SAG winner Tony Shalhoub deftly playing the neurotic but loveable detective Adrian Monk.
It was also one of few series that actually performed better with age: The show’s Feb. 22 episode drew a series high 7.55 million viewers, helping make its sixth season the most watched ever for the series.
All the more reason why you can’t blame USA for wanting to end the veteran show in 2010 near the height of its popularity.
While cable will lose one if it’s truly breakthrough series, its legacy and impact on the cable industry will be cemented with every successful launch of a cable scripted series.