With the first half of the latest 'Monk' season over, news has just come out that Bitty Schram is leaving her role of Sharona Fleming, Adrian Monk's nurse and assistant.
Already several theories as to the reason are floating around:
1] She left to pursue other interests.
2] Creative differences/The producers want to take the show in another direction.
3] Or the usual wrangling over contracts and money
I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised. Three out of the last four episodes contained variations that could have suggested options for them to explore.
"Mr. Monk and the Employee of the Month" introduced us to his former partner, who had been unjustly removed from the force because of a drug charge. There might be a need to bring him back in another episode so that they could team up again on an old case of theirs.
"Mr. Monk and the Girl Who Cried Wolf" found Sharona taking a leave of absence from her job because she thought she was going crazy. (It was the old 'Gaslight' treatment.) While she was gone, Adrian was left in the "care" of a sassy nurse who rattled his mental equilibrium.
"Mr. Monk and the Game Show" didn't have any of the other regulars, as Adrian travelled down to L.A. so that he could help his former father-in-law investigate the possibility of cheating on a game show he was producing.
(It seems that the actors who played Captain Stottlemeyer and Lt. Randy Disher were also finagling for contract renegotiations. I guess this episode was meant to show the trio that the show could survive without them.)
The game show episode also re-introduced a character from the past - Monk's nerdy upstairs neighbor who could also return to "help" in the investigations.
But as for a new character with feminine pulchritude, apparently the producers are now casting about for an actress to play a widow in her late thirties who works as a bartender. The character description would be a bit dismaying in itself; but I know it will be just a starting point in a collaboration between writers and actress to flesh out the role.
I remember when I first heard the description of the Enterprise crew for 'Star Trek: The Next Generation'. Those thumbnail sketches left a lot to be desired. But once those roles were cast and the actors began to explore their own backgrounds as well as new worlds, they quickly rivalled the original crew in popularity among the fan base.
Actually, I'm more interested in the show's inner reality - how are they going to splain away Sharona's departure?
Are they going to kill her off? I don't think it would work - Adrian Monk is still too fragile after the death of his wife. The loss of his nurse, who serves as an anchor and a link to the outside world, would have been overwhelmingly catastrophic. (It even seems unthinkable that he'll be okay without her working for him at all, even if he doesn't have her death hanging over him.)
Sharona Fleming's background is back in New Jersey; that's where her family is from, where her mother and aunt still reside. (Her sister should be still in California, pursuing an acting career.)
It seems the most viable option would be to move Sharona and her son Benjy back to Jersey, perhaps to employ her nursing skills in the care of her Mom or some other relative suddenly stricken as an invalid.
(I highly doubt that she'd ever reconcile with her ex-husband, but if it's ever mentioned that Sharona and her son were in Chicago, then she's back with the lout.)
Having worked with the concept of a TV Universe for so many years, I'm not so distraught about Ms. Schram's departure from 'Monk'. I know that somewhere outside the show's inner reality, Sharona and Benjy will continue their lives. And even though we won't see it, perhaps Monk might receive a postcard from them every now and again. (Not sure how he'd feel about opening envelopes.....)
Whatever lies in the future for Sharona, I wish Bitty Schram the best of luck with her career. As an actress, she was distinctive, cute, funny, and a breath of fresh air; a sexy woman wo could play comedy and drama in equal measure. I'm hoping we'll see her again in another series that can showcase her talents as well as 'Monk' did.
Once we know what Sharona's destiny is beyond the scope of the show, I may return to this topic and speculate on where she may end up in the TV Universe.
Phew! I thought this would be just a "Bitty" post, but that was a lot of typing!
I need a hand-wipe.....