I had never seen an episode of the USA Network’s crime show Monk, so when I happened to tune in tonight, I was surprised to run into yet another Latvian connection to popular culture. The episode (actually a rerun) begins with the killing of the Latvian ambassador to the United States.
Titled, “Mr. Monk Takes Manhattan,” the episode is the opener for the third season of the show. But like so many other references to Latvia that have appeared in American popular culture over the years, this one gives the audience bad information.
In the episode, neurotic San Francisco detective Adrian Monk has traveled with his colleagues to New York to try to solve the murder of his wife. They are checking into their hotel when shots ring out. The Latvian ambassador is among three men killed in an elevator.
Within minutes, Monk is on the case, somewhat to the chagrin of a New York cop named Captain Cage who, suggesting a possible motive for the murder, claims Latvia is on the brink of civil war.
How can Hollywood scriptwriters be so stupid?
Latvia, they should know, is not on the brink of civil war, not now, not back in June when the episode first aired.
Of course, it might be easy to dismiss the gaffe as part of the fiction of the show. It’s not real, after all. But in that case the scriptwriter could just as well have made up a fictional country.
If Hollywood insists on using real places to bolster its fiction, it should at least get the facts straight.
Further in the episode of Monk, the detective and his assistant, Sharona Fleming, interview a couple of supposed Latvian men, one of whom had been sending threatening letters to the ambassador.
One of the things Monk wants to know is what the ambassador meant when he said, “She’s now gone meatless,” a phrase the detective heard the ambassador say in the hotel before the shooting. But Monk has misheard, one of the men tells him. It’s not in English, but in a dialect spoken in Latvia. It means, “It’s not my coat.”
What dialect?! Whatever it was, it wasn’t Latgallian, Russian or anything else recognizable.
Regardless, it turns out to be the key to solving the ambassador’s murder. The murderer wasn’t gunning for the ambassador after all, but wanted his coat. The murderer had earlier killed his wife, taking her jewelery to suggest robbery. Afterward, in a bar, his coat containing the jewelery was inadvertently switched with the ambassador’s.
Heck, they couldn’t even get a real Latvian to play the ambassador. Instead, he’s portrayed by Dmitri Boudrine. Among his other credits, Boudrine is cofounder of the American Russian Theatrical Alliance. Not that Boudrine can’t portray a Latvian, but maybe if folks in charge of casting for Monk had found a Latvian, they would have at least been able to use the Latvian language in the show.
Perhaps the real Latvian ambassador to the United States should give Hollywood a call.
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