Quirky cop headlines new drama

The new series "Monk" (8 p.m., USA) may not feature the first dysfunctional detective, but Adrian Monk (Tony Shalhoub) is certainly the most memorably addled television gumshoe since BBC's "Cracker."

Once the best investigator on the San Francisco police force, Monk descended into deep depression after the murder of his wife. He developed an obsessive-compulsive personality that left him afraid of germs, heights and crowds. He's not unlike Jimmy Stewart's character in "Vertigo," another San Francisco cop saddled with mental illness. But in this case, Monk's affliction is mined for laughs. "Monk" owes much more to Woody Allen than Alfred Hitchcock.

Paralyzed by phobias, Monk needs the help of the no-nonsense practical nurse Sharona (Bitty Schram, "A League of Their Own") to navigate in the world outside his apartment.

For all his ticks and quirks, Monk retains powers of observation and deduction that both marvel and madden his former supervisor, Police Capt. Stottlemeyer (Ted Levine). Monk may seem mad to outsiders, but Stottlemeyer knows that he's capable of seeing things normal cops overlook, and can piece together evidence with the speed of Colombo on Benzedrine.

In this two-hour pilot, Monk rejoins the police force to investigate the attempted assassination of a political candidate. Monk soon finds that this case dovetails with an earlier freelance investigation into a murdered accountant. Directed with a whimsical touch by Dean Parisot ("Galaxy Quest"), "Monk" offers plenty of opportunities to catch the phobic detective as he is foiled by his reactions to sneezing children, filthy streets and rat-infested sewers.

Monk and Sharona bicker like an old couple. One of the movie's highlights is a scene where the needy Monk crashes Sharona's date with a hot-shot lawyer and exposes him as a poseur and a liar. Finicky to a fault, Monk is not terribly easy to love, but "Monk" shines as a funny and fresh alternative to summer reruns. Original one-hour episodes will run every Friday.

� Comedian Doug Stanhope shocks strangers with extreme candid-camera improvisations on the new series "Invasion of the Hidden Cameras" (7 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., Fox). Like Tom Green, who uses a similar shtick, Stanhope is from Canada.

Tonight's other highlights

� Scheduled on "48 Hours" (7 p.m., CBS): a look at Las Vegas.

� Scheduled on a two-hour episode of "Dateline" (7 p.m., NBC): a follow-up story about a blind woman and her guide dog; a priest contemplates whether he should reveal details of a murder confession.

� Jeanne Chinn stars in the 2000 martial arts adventure "Code Name: Phoenix" (7 p.m., UPN).

� Piper Laurie ("Carrie") guest stars as the foster mother of a deceased child on a repeat of "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" (9 p.m., NBC).

� Marc Anthony sings songs from his recent album "Mended," as well as old favorites, in his first network television special, "I've Got You" (9 p.m., CBS).

� Scheduled on "20/20" (9 p.m., ABC): John Stossel examines hype, manipulation and media deception.

Cult choice

Director Robert Rodgriquez showed considerable versatility when he shifted gears from horror and action films ( "Desperado" and "From Dusk Till Dawn") to write and direct "Spy Kids" (7:30 p.m., Showtime) a thriller that delighted both kids and critics.

Series notes

"Price" is new ... Tom Bergeron hosts "America's Funniest Home Videos" (7 p.m., ABC) ... Usher guest stars on "Sabrina, the Teenage Witch" (7 p.m., WB) � Morgan Fairchild guest stars on "Maybe it's Me" (7:30 p.m., WB) � Bob Barker salutes the Coast Guard on "The Price is Right" (8 p.m., CBS) ... Evil threatens Scully's child on "The X-Files" (8 p.m., Fox).

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