Tag Archives: Andy Breckman

T.G.I.F. – Ten for Adrian Monk

Bye, Monk...and thanks.

After eight seasons, we bid farewell to Adrian Monk, the obsessive compulsive detective created by Andy Breckman and brilliantly portrayed by Tony Shaloub. Clever plots, great writing, humor and pathos and a strong ensemble cast (especially the great Ted Levine as his captain). The San Francisco locales and wonderful Randy Newman theme were a plus to a show that always entertained and managed the rare feat of going out on top.

I’m sure all those reruns will be welcome channel-surfing accidents many times in the future, though a quality show like this certainly merits a buy. It made me recall a few other television sleuths and cops that I enjoyed for so long that now only live on in reruns and DVDs as well.

TV will always churn out a good cop show, and I’m enjoying a few of them this year. Many of them feature strong ensemble casts with many good characters, as do some of the old favorites below. (Really, was there anyone on Homicide or The Shield that wasn’t great?) But today’s ten-spot pays tribute to Monk and these nine other favorites that I used to set the recorder for, great characters no longer on active duty…

Fox Mulder, The X-Files…unfortunately the series choked on its own logic loopholes, but that was must-watch TV for years and I will still stay up to watch a random rerun.

Frank Pembleton, HomicideAndre Braugher‘s cerebral cop suffered a crisis or conscience as well as a physical disability. No slight to several of the other detectives in that room on one of the best shows television ever aired.

Lenny Briscoe, Law and Order…the quintessential NYC cop on the original version of the franchise. The late great Jerry Orbach was a giant.

Andy Sipowicz, NYPD Blue…originally a second banana to David Caruso‘s John Kelly (and Caruso was good on this show), he became the heart and soul of the program. Dennis Franz was every real life cop’s favorite fictional one.

Mike Torello, Crime StoryDennis Farina was a cop in real life, and although this glossy show only lasted two seasons it boasted an amazing cast and an exciting storyline. Tons of guest stars and ensemble players including a very credible turn from Andrew Dice Clay.

John LaRue, Hill Street BluesKiel Martin’s character always had some get-rich-quick scheme going and often fell prey to his weaknesses, but redemption is always a good theme in a police drama and he nailed it… twice.

Arthur Dietrich, Barney Miller…sure, the show was primarily a comedy and Steve Landesberg did more riffing of one liners than actual detective work. But anyone whose dry wit and droll delivery is that perfect is OK by me.

Vinnie Terranova, Wiseguy…Undercover cop, mobster, record label mogul, gun runner; didn’t matter. Ken Wahl brought a strong series to life and was blessed by breakout performances by guest villains Ray Sharkey and Kevin Spacey, among others.

Holland Wagenbach, The Shield…in a precinct full of corrupt cops (most of whom you rooted for), The Dutchman was often the butt of the joke and the target of abuse. But he was the moral center of the unit and a brilliant detective, and once he started to assert himself the character arc got that much more fascinating. Great work by Jay Karnes.

Two reasons I watch The Closer.

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Filed under Features and Interviews, Film/TV

Blast From The Past: Andy Breckman

I've got the pen in my hand!

I've got the pen in my hand!

Many of you might recognize Andy Breckman as the creator of the long-running series Monk, a show that puts a unique twist on the standard detective formula. Perhaps you also know his work as a staff writer for Saturday Night Live and David Letterman, where his offbeat skits included Eddie Murphy’s “White Like Me”. He’s obviously a brilliant writer, a little twisted and someone unafraid to push the boundaries of comedy. But before Letterman and SNL and Monk, Andy Breckman was a funny stand-up and singer-songwriter, and the latter is whenI first discovered him.

I don’t even remember who the headliner was that night I saw him in the late 70s. Back in my Syracuse days, if a label act was coming through town, I was going to be there, and that night was no exception. I remember a slightly unkempt guy climbed the stage in a club packed with bottle blondes and guys in satin band jackets. In an effort to get our attention, he leaned into the microphone and announced that he had just signed a contract with Columbia Records that very afternoon. As people cheered and whistled in genuine appreciation, he added “yep, I get any twelve albums I want for a penny, as long as I buy just five more later on…

Cheap laugh, sure. But before that chuckle subsided, he launched into a song with such an animated spirit that the crowd remained zoned in on him. He was halfway through it before I really started listening to the lyrics…and in an instant I was doubled over in laughter..then another song and another, each more absurd than the one before. They were oddball, they were really well written and best of all they were fucking hilarious.

I could lie and pretend I recall the set list song for song, but I have trouble remembering the decade. But I do remember he had the  place rolling with the call-and-response to “I Had A Good Day” – I won’t spoil it for you – and then he pulled out “Railroad Bill”, where he goes mano-a-mano with one of the characters in his song for control over the storyline. If I typed out the lyrics you’d laugh out loud, but his delivery and performance make it even better.

See for yourself – here’s Andy Breckman live.

There was nothing for sale that night, but thankfully a small boutique label called Gadfly Records issued Don’t Get Killed in 1990, and it’s been a staple at my house ever since. An amnesiac tries to salvage a meeting with a potential soulmante in “The Hello Hello Song” ; a tale of how his parents met ends with a twist in “How I Met Your Mother”, and he mocks his own (then) inability to get famous in “Here Comes My Career”. A congregation turns to “Rabbi Finkleman” for salvation only to find out he’s just as clueless as they are; a long-running feud with Don MacLean is spirited in “The Cheese Stands Alone”, and a game of tag goes postal in “I’m It”.

Like Loudon Wainwright, Breckman enhances his funny material with a comic’s timing and in-the-moment rapport with the audience. They’re in the palm of his hand from start to finish, and that trust allows him to connect with pathos as well as humor. Wainwright can spin tales about his dysfunctional family life right alonsgide something as goofy as “Dead Skunk”; likewise Breckman can offer something as truly heartbreaking and poignant as “The Cancer Song” in the middle of his set and pull the crowd right back in one song later.

As far as I know, Breckman only released two comedy-folk albums, Dont Get Killed and Proud Dad, both on Gadfly Records. (A third release is a collection of radio pieces from Seven Second Delay on WFMU). His career exploded after that, and today he remains a very successful writer and producer.

The final season of Monk started earlier this month, and it must be a bittersweet time for everone associated with the program. So Andy, I thank you for eight years of great television, but as you dwell on the finality of the situation I hope you channel some of that pleasure and pain into song. Maybe…I dunno…put out an album? You could even buy one yourself, Andy. Just think – that would mean only four more albums to go to get out of that contract!


Andy’s film and television work.

Andy Breckman wiki.

Seven Second Delay on WFMU

Gadfly Records has releases from great artists like Billy Bremner, Tonio K and Black 47 amng others. Mitch Cantor puts his money where his heart is, so check out his catalogue.


Filed under Comedy, Features and Interviews, Film/TV, Music