HOLLYWOOD — You’d never know by watching the cast and crew of USA’s whodunit "Monk” that its days are sadly numbered. After eight seasons, the obsessive-compulsive detective, his ministering assistant and pals at the precinct are heading off into the sunset after Dec. 4.
But today on the set at Paramount Studios, they’re all in full swing. Executive producer Randy Zisk is directing and watches intently as Monk (Tony Shalhoub) struggles to avoid a hypodermic needle prominently poised by a nurse. Two cohorts hold him down while his assistant, Natalie (Traylor Howard), tries to coax him into submission. "It doesn’t seem quite real,” sighs Howard, who has been playing Monk’s assistant for five years. Shivering on the sidelines of the drafty set, her feet swathed in wool-lined boots, she says, "Today’s our last Tuesday, we were joking. I have a little boy who’s almost 3. He’s been on the set since he was born, and everyone’s so lovely with him. And it’s been a huge impact on his life. He’s a really social, curious little boy. I think, ‘God, I’ve got to get another job so he can be in this environment again.’ "I was trying to explain to him today that it was ending. But he doesn’t really get it. It’ll be weird not to work with Tony a lot. He’s such a lovely man. And I adore him, and it’s such a great part for a woman and all that stuff.” Howard came on the show when Monk’s original helper, Sharona (Bitty Schram), left.