Bill and I have written a few episodes of "Monk" before and, to
be honest, the show has spoiled us. They fly us out to Summit NJ for a
week, all expenses paid (which is, by itself, a dream come true. Who
wouldn’t want to spend a week in Summit?) to sit around laughing with
the "Monk" writing staff. I’ve never had so much fun plotting and, best
of all, it’s hundreds of miles from the nearest studio or network
So when "Monk" creator/showrunner Andy Breckman asked me a year or so ago if I would like to
write some original "Monk" novels, I jumped at the opportunity. Sadly,
the deal didn’t include any free trips to Summit NJ and I had only
eight weeks to write the novel. But "Mr. Monk Goes to the Firehouse"
ended up being a lot of fun to write and, much to my delight and
relief, Andy really liked the book, too. He liked it so much, that he
thought it would make a dandy episode of the show.
"It almost writes itself," he said, mainly because it was, well,
I immediately called Bill, my screenwriting partner, and told him the
good news. He was thrilled. We both were. And why shouldn’t we be? We’d
be getting another trip to Summit, NJ, we’d have another chance to hang
out with the fiendishly clever "Monk" staff, and it would be the easist
script to write ever — mainly because it was, well, already written.
This trip would almost be a paid vacation. In Summit, NJ! Does life get
any better than that? I think not.
But there was an especially geeky reason for me to be thrilled. There
have been plenty of novelizations of TV episodes, but as far as I know,
there has never been a TV adaptation of a TV tie-in novel. "Mr. Monk
Goes to the Firehouse" would make TV tie-in history (If there is such a
thing as TV tie-in history. If there isn’t then there should be. Maybe
even a TV tie-in museum. If it can’t be at the Smithsonian, I say let’s
put it in Summit, NJ).
A week or so before the trip, Andy called up, very excited. He’d been
noodling with some ideas for the "Mr. Monk Goes to the Firehouse"
episode. He wanted to make one tiny change in the story.
"What if Monk is blind?" he said.
It was a very funny idea which, of course, meant throwing out just
about everything in book. But I honestly didn’t mind and neither did
Bill (even though it meant that writing the script would actually mean
doing some work). Every time we write for "Monk," our goal is to tell a
great mystery that’s funny, touching, entertaining and uniquely,
undeniably, unmistakeably Monk. And this certainly would be.
So the first thing we did was set aside the sacred text and start from
scratch. All we kept from the book were the basic bones of the mystery
plot and a couple of clues. Everything else had to arise from the
predicament of Monk being blind. We even changed the title to "Mr. Monk
Can’t See a Thing" to reflect the new central conflict of the story.
As usual, we had way, way, too much fun plotting the story and were
impressed, once again, by Andy’s unerring ability to find the emotional
center at the heart of even the broadest comic moments.
When we turned in our script two weeks later, I couldn’t help thinking
that it would have made a hell of a good book.