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Why Did Bitty Schram Leave Monk?

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From 2002 to 2009, the mystery comedy-drama series "Monk" aired on USA Network. Throughout the course of its eight-season run, the series won a whole eight Primetime Emmy Awards and was beloved by a plethora of audiences (via Rotten Tomatoes).

The series follows San Francisco Police Department Detective Adrian Monk (Tony Shalhoub), who, at the start of the series, suffers from a nervous breakdown following the death of his wife. After losing his job and spending years unable to leave his house, he eventually begins to heal, taking on a job as a private detective and a police consultant despite his worsening obsessive-compulsive disorder, with the help of his nurse, Sharona Fleming (Bitty Schram).

For the first few seasons of the show, Sharona is essential — after all, not only does she work as Monk's nurse, but she also takes on an assistant role in his work. Further, Sharona pushes Monk to do some things that he is reluctant to do, based on his long list of phobias (which range from things such as ladybugs to heights). A running bit throughout the series is how often Sharona is constantly falling in love with various men — some of whom turn out to be the very criminals that she and Monk are investigating.

However, Sharona leaves the series halfway through the third season, leaving a note behind that she has moved to New Jersey to remarry her ex-husband. The exit may have come as a surprise for "Monk" viewers, especially considering that Sharona and her ex seemed to be on fraught terms the few times he showed up in early seasons.

For those curious, here's why Schram so suddenly departed the cast of "Monk."

Schram may have left due to a contract issue

At the time of Bitty Schram's departure, a USA Network spokesperson released a statement noting that "Monk" had decided to move in a new creative direction. This change in course would include Schram's exit from the series.

The statement continued, "We thank her for her notable contributions and wish her the very best" (via Today). Schram's management firm, Untitled Entertainment, gave a similar statement, emphasizing that the situation was amicable and that Shcram wished the best for the rest of the cast and crew. While neither of these statements specifically address it, there are reports that the exit was due to a contract dispute, as reported by Entertainment Weekly.

Luckily, Schram and USA Network were able to reach an agreement for her to return for a single episode of the final season, titled "Mr. Monk and Sharona." In the episode, we learn that Sharona has separated from Trevor for good and is managing a veterans hospital. Further, Sharona is happy to report that her son is all grown up and looking at colleges. She is back in San Francisco to arrange the funeral for an uncle who has just died (which leads to Monk looking into the death when he suspects foul play).

Addressing Schram's return, "Monk" star Tony Shalhoub told Entertainment Weekly, "We couldn't think of a better way to help wrap up the series than with the return of Bitty's character. Bringing some closure to Sharona is long overdue."

Schram has spoken about how happy she was to return

In 2009, the year that "Monk" came to a close, Schram and Shalhoub spoke with MovieWeb in a joint interview, discussing everything from what it felt like to have the show wrapping up to what it was like to have Schram return for one final episode after such a long hiatus.

When asked if it was easy to revive the chemistry between the two characters, Schram answered, "It was honestly like I never left. I swear, it's exactly what he said. It's a bizarre phenomenon, but it's true." Shalhoub then told an anecdote from their first day working together again, telling MovieWeb that while they were doing their first scene together, the two of them just started laughing because it felt like no time had passed.

It would seem that Schram was ecstatic to get to return to "Monk" for an episode in the final season. She told MovieWeb, "Being back on the show, I was really happy to do it and I thought it ended really, really well. I couldn't, I just thought it ended the way it should have and I was very, very pleased with it and very pleased to be working with everyone again on that show, I really was."

If you're curious about Schram's run on "Monk," the series is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video.