Viewers will get their last taste of quirky detective Adrian Monk tonight, as the revolutionary USA show that bears his name airs its last episode. The content was never particularly groundbreaking—“Monk is very old-school,” its creator tells the Los Angeles Times. “It's a real throwback”— but Monk’s real triumph was bringing legitimacy to basic cable.
In 2002, the show sparked what one TV historian calls an “original series ‘arms race’” among basic cable networks that led directly to today’s host of offerings. Tony Shalhoub, who plays Monk, was skeptical at first: “I wasn't sure how viewers would be able to get behind this character.” But thanks to its high production values and winning cast, it was the first show to run on basic cable and rerun on broadcast, instead of the other way around. “Nobody thought they ever, ever would,” an exec says.