Life After ‘Monk’

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 USA Network tonight (Dec. 4) brings the curtain down on its Emmy-award winning dramedy series Monk after seven seasons. I recently spoke to USA Network president Bonnie Hammer about the impact Monk and actor Tony Shalhoub’s portrayal of the series’ lovable, obsessive-compulsive lead character has had in driving USA to become basic cable’s leader in the development of successful, original scripted series.

About Monk’s impact on USA Network’s overall programming success:

“Monk became a pivotal character and pivotal show in the early stages of us figuring out what we needed to do to create a brand that had legs and had resonance with viewers. Monk was a character that we looked at and said, `This is a success,’ at a time when the WWE was the only constant success we had with regards to original programming. It became our signature show.”

About Monk’s influence on the network’s “Characters Welcome” brand:

“What we looked at were the elements in the show that made sense and tried to figure out why the audience was coming to Monk and to Tony Shalhoub season after season. It really became the focal point of how we started our brand research. Would we have gotten to the same place with an ensemble show that had that kind of success that Monk had at the time? I can’t honestly say, but the character of Monk was pivotal in saying that we wanted to do character-centric shows with characters that are flawed but not dysfunctional – flawed in a human, upbeat way rather than a dark way.”

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About the show creating a blueprint for Psych, Royal Pains and other network character-driven shows:

“We did a lot of qualitative research about what we wanted this brand to be and Monk was a very important piece of the puzzle. Tony’s role in Monk allowed us to ask a bunch of questions that got us to the character-centric shows that we have on the air today.”

About the loss of Monk for the network going forward:

 “We don’t look at it as a loss. I mean it’s a loss in that we’re not going to have brand new, fresh episodes of Monk, but the show basically created the template for some fabulous characters to follow. Tony is always going to be part of our family – he’s a member of this brand and family for life and someone who has become a good personal friend of many of us at the company. But he was literally the lead voice that led us to develop new characters that in one way or another fit into the template that he created. That legacy will live on for at least as long as I and this team is in place.”