Bitty Schram finally returns tonight (Friday, Oct. 23) to "Monk," a show she enlivened for three seasons. It's a good episode, so give it a try tonight or in the reruns (listed below) on Saturday and Thursday
Since the show is coming up quickly, I'm including the story I sent to papers. Pleace take a look at this one and at the story on "Endgame" (this Sunday on PBS), two blogs down:
For Bitty Schram, it seemed like just
another job she wasn't going to get.
“I was auditioning a lot,” she
recalled. “I didn't think anything would come of this.”
Then it did. “Monk” became a movie,
a series, a pioneering step for basic-cable networks. Schram's career
soared … then dipped.
The latter came when she suddenly left
after three seasons. “It was a contractual issue,” she said.
Now she's back, for a fun episode
during the show's final season. On Friday, Sharona (that's her
character) visits her old boss Adrian Monk.
“The way I approached it was just
love,” said Schram, 41. “We can fight; I can hate him, but I also
have a love for him.”
Not much was expected when “Monk”
began in 2002. Back then, basic-cable didn't usually try its own
drama hours. “The Shield” had just started, but others --
“Damages,” “The Closer,” “Psych,” “Battlestar
Galactica” – were in the future.
Still, the USA Network had its idea for
an obsessive-compulsive detective. “This was supposed to be just a
movie,” Schram said.
Tony Shalhoub, fresh from situation
comedies, would star. Playing his nurse and assistant was Bitty
(short for Elizabeth) Schram, who had glimmers of a comedy career.
She had grown up in New Jersey, where
she did so-so in education – “I had issues with authority in
school” – and well in theater. She went to the University of
Maryland, then scored:
– On Broadway, in Neil Simon's
“Laughter on the 23rd Floor.” She was the only woman,
opposite Nathan Lane, Mark Linn-Baker and more.
– In movies, in a famous scene from
“A League of Their Own.” She was the one whom Tom Hanks informed:
“There's no crying in baseball.”
Sharona fit Schram neatly. She was from
Jersey, too; she dressed flashily, which was Schram's idea.
The movie did well and became a series,
drawing solid ratings and honors. Shalhoub has received Emmy
nominations for each of the first seven seasons, winning three times.
Other Emmys went to two guest stars (John Turturro and Stanley Tucci)
and to Randy Newman's theme song.
Schram received a Golden Globe
nomination as best supporting actress. Then she was off the show.
“It's standard practice and procedure
to renegotiate a contract when a show is a success,” she said.
Several of the supporting actors asked for raises; all eventually
backed down …. except for Schram.
The four years since then have seen
only scattered work. There was talk returning for an episode.
Now here it is. “My uncle dies and
leaves me the money,” Schram said. “But Monk doesn't think his
death was an accident.”
He always suspects murder; he's always
right. And for one night, he has both his current assistant (Natalie,
played by Traylor Howard) and Sharona, dealing with him in opposite
ways. It's a fun return to what was once a great role.
– 9 p.m. Fridays, USA Network
– The Sharona episode is Oct. 23,
repeating that night at 12:14 a.m.; it also airs at 10 a.m. Saturday
and 11 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 29.