Question: With college football and new TV shows looming on the horizon I am positively giddy, but I am curious. In one of your comments on a show, you said it was diverting but hardly essential entertainment. What to you is essential entertainment? Isn't it in the eye of the beholder?
Answer: You should know better than to ask a critic such a leading question. But to your point: I believe I was responding to a question about Monk, and much as I enjoy that show when I watch, the reason I don't consider it "essential" is that, with rare exceptions, I don't really feel I've missed very much if I miss an episode. The "essential" shows for me are those I make a point to watch as they air, or record and watch as soon as possible, and fret if my machines (or I) screw up and then make a great effort to get my hands on a tape. And yes, making this sort of distinction is very much in the eye of the beholder — there are several million Monk fans who wouldn't dream of missing an episode — but I was asked my opinion, and that was the truthful answer. (This summer, the only "essentials" in my playbook were Rescue Me, Entourage, Battlestar Galactica and, lately, BBC America's juicy Footballers' Wives.)

But speaking of Monk, much as I enjoyed last week's summer-season finale, in which we flashed back to Monk's neurotic nerdy childhood, I felt even sorrier for poor Adrian than usual when I realized that as a kid, he was actually Oliver Beene (Grant Rosenmeyer).