Kramer almost played Monk — and Monk almost played Kramer!

Tony Shalhoub and Michael Richards nearly swapped their iconic TV roles.

The Everett Collection

Television history would have looked mighty different had casting gone a different way. By strange coincidence, both Seinfeld and Monk considered the same two actors for iconic roles. Let's start with the sitcom.

Seinfeld auditioned several fascinating alternates for Jerry's friends. Danny DeVito and Steve Buscemi were reportedly floated for the role of George Costanza. While it is difficult to imagine anyone else as Kramer, a different quirky actor was up for the job. (Seinfeld co-creator eventually settled on his old pal Michael Richards, as the two had worked together as cast members on the late-night sketch comedy series Fridays.)

"Tony Shalhoub was initially considered for the part," the Sacramento Bee wrote in 2004. At the time, at the close of the Eighties, Shalhoub had just a few stereotypical roles to his credit — a terrorist on The Equalizer, a doctor on Spencer: For Hire. No project had adequately tapped into his comedic potential. Playing wacky, stumbling, bumbling neighbor Cosmo Kramer certainly would have set his career off on a different track. But, really, despite losing the role, he ended up in a rather similar place. Shortly thereafter, he won a key recurring spot on Wings, playing the Italian taxi driver Antonio Scarpacci. While not as full-on slapstick as Kramer, this character at least showcased Shalhoub's comedic chops.

While Wings was a breakthrough role for Shalhoub, it wasn't quite a lead role. The spotlight would not fully shine on Shalhoub alone until he took the title role of Monk in 2002.

But here's where it gets interesting — Kramer, a.k.a. Michael Richards, was the original choice to play Monk!

Monk went through a lengthy and belabored genesis. The detective series was original conceived at ABC, years before it ended up on cable and the USA Network. The network targeted Richards to play a more bumbling detective, along the lines of Inspector Clouseau. It was reported that Richards "turned down the role." 

What's weird about all this is Richard did essentially play this role — on his own forgotten series, The Michael Richard Show.

The Michael Richard Show ran for two months on NBC in the fall of 2000. The mystery-sitcom centered around Vic Nardozza, a quirky private eye in Los Angeles. It has since been dubbed the first example of the dreaded "Seinfeld curse" — one of many flops from the cast, as they struggled to break free of their pigeonholes. Richard and the other creators (largely Seinfeld writing alums) envisioned Nardozza as a "Columbo type" — an eerily similar description of Monk's origins.

That makes it a little hard to believe that Richards would turn down Monk, considering he crafted a similar role for himself that same year. 

David Hoberman, co-creator and executive producer or Monk, said in the book Monk: The Official Episode Guide, "I can't express how depressing those [early Monk] casting sessions were. We had people coming in doing tics and Tourette's syndrome, and you name it. Everybody felt that they needed to embody an extreme physicality for Monk. But that would have gotten old and annoying very quick."

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hippie007 4 months ago
you need to put back Gilligan island back on you took it off again whats the matter with you people
hippie007 24 months ago
you need to cut down on the Brady bunch to one hour and all the other shows to one hour or 2 half hours and put Gilligan on for 3 episodes on Sundays
hippie007 27 months ago
i give METV a rating of a 2 out of 10 you are running crappy shows !!!!!!!!!!!!!!
hippie007 27 months ago
you could of got rid of the Brady bunch instead of Gilligan island move full house to a early time and put back Gilligan island ! i give a rating of ME TV a FAT 1
hippie007 27 months ago
you just got to interrupt Gilligan once again for full house ! that sucks why cant me tv interrupt mamas or some other show like monk
Olivia_Reed 32 months ago
Am I the only person on earth who couldn't stand "Monk"? And what is it doing on a nostalgia TV channel? This show is barely cold in its grave, having gone off the air in 2009. Tony Shalhoub was hilarious in "Wings" but "Monk" was just plain irritating. There are SO many great shows from the '50s, '60s, '70s and '80s that are languishing in obscurity. Bring THEM back, not some bizarre mystery from the 2000s!
LoveMETV22 33 months ago
Funny the fictitious restaurant that Kramer and the other Seinfield cast met at was Monk's Cafe. Lol
Greg 33 months ago
I could see Tony Shalhoub as Kramer he's a great underrated actor.
lynngdance 33 months ago
We have a winner!
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lynngdance MrsPhilHarris 33 months ago
Thank you, and it’s alright that ya didn’t show up, no problem 🙂
lynngdance LoveMETV22 33 months ago
Thank you very much! 😃
TheDavBow3 lynngdance 33 months ago
😄 my family is on vacation this week and I'm not looking at my phone quite as much 😋. I really loved the Beatles connection of the quiz 👍
lynngdance TheDavBow3 33 months ago
Thanks! (Us Beatles fans have to stick together 😜)
lynngdance 33 months ago
Connecting The Dots
Load previous comments
Someone requested I do another quiz on Saturday, so you’re invited! It’ll be at 5:00 PM, Saturday, and the location is the Mary Tyler Moore article.😄
!!Wanted!! but preferred Alive
Those that wish to participate in the Weekly Movie Quiz.
Conversation as to what this movie might be
Winners name in MeTV Lights
Just plain ole fun
Let's Do it at: Monk proved Tony Shalhoub was definitely leading man material (stories)
Friday @ 10:00 P.M CT
The Show Must Go On-Another knock down quizorama and entertainment.
Fantastic 🤗 I'll see ya there....Finally get a break today 👏
hippie007 33 months ago
worst show you put on monk !!!! why not Rockford Files or harry o ! and you just had to move honey mooners to 11 o'clock that sucks
TheDavBow3 hippie007 33 months ago
Harry O would be cool! I remember that one as a kid
tmac1951 hippie007 33 months ago
It’s only going to get worse
hippie007 TheDavBow3 33 months ago
how do we all get me tv to listen to us viewers
lynngdance TheDavBow3 33 months ago
You’re invited to my quiz Saturday! (Somebody requested I do another) it’ll be at 5:00 PM, And the location is the Mary Tyler Moore article! 😁
LoveMETV22 33 months ago
Just a thought. Why not swap Monk for Seinfeld. Monk (2002-2009), Seinfeld (1989-1998) Not quite as recent, It's a sitcom. Not sure who currently owns the rights though. Oh well just a thought.
tmac1951 LoveMETV22 33 months ago
Next month they will show reruns of Chicago pd
hippie007 LoveMETV22 24 months ago
swap monk for the Munsters
LoveMETV22 hippie007 24 months ago
I agree with Monk, just not a fit anymore since they lost their agreement with the studio that provided them with Columbo:

Well it wasn't a fit even when it was paired with Columbo.

I'd rather see The Addams Family than the Munster's.

They had temporarily stopped broadcasting Gilligan's Island. After it going from 3 hours to 2, then it was brought back for 1 hour. That's a show they could eliminate entirely. No other show they broadcast runs or has run 3 hours. I can think of better shows to fill even the 1 hour it gets presently.
djfone 33 months ago
In the article above, author David Hoberman writes "I can't express how depressing those [early Monk] casting sessions were. We had people coming in doing tics and Tourette's syndrome, and you name it. Everybody felt that they needed to embody an extreme physicality for Monk. But that would have gotten old and annoying very quick."

Sounds like Edward Norton in the otherwise excellent "Motherless Brooklyn", the worst title for a good movie EVER.
joedib65 33 months ago
I missed the episode Return to Mayberry and want to know when it will be shown.
Please let me know. That show is my very favorite.

joe dibenedetto
[email protected]
bumples 33 months ago
Tony Shaloub DID have a lead role in his own sitcom after Wings...STARK RAVING was AWESOME...the fools at NBC killed it...
bumples bumples 33 months ago
It was better than Monk
Michael bumples 33 months ago
I don't have much memory of tge show, other than I liked it and was disappointed when it was cancelled.

But even though Neil Patrick Harris plays the editor, my vague memory remembers him being the main character. It was more about him than Tony Shaloub. But I've not seen it since it first aired.

Neil Patrick Harris plays the neurotic character, Tony Shaloub's character is very different from Monk.
JamesB 33 months ago
This story misspells "The Michael Richards Show" and then doubles down to misspell it twice. If you close your eyes, you aren't invisible, you know. That show would have been better if USA Network had produced it, as it would have freed the character from being "Kramer, P.I." as NBC seemed to desire. "Monk" is a terrific show with Tony Shalhoub's characterization. I would guess that Michael Richards would have adapted Adrian Monk to be a bit more worldly but less precise, so who knows if that would have worked! As for MeTV and "newer" syndicated shows, I like it. I am not a fan of bland family shows (Waltons, Little House) and often prefer MeTV's sister "Decades" programming but the nostalgia business isn't all french fries and Cherry Coke. Perhaps one day, we'll be treated to "The Life of Riley", William Bendix version...
tmac1951 JamesB 33 months ago
My dog puts her head behind the drapes, I can’t see her
FLETCH 33 months ago
I've never seen a single episode of Monk. Looking forward to watching it. I hope it doesn't disappoint
djfone FLETCH 33 months ago
When you do get around to watching "Monk", pay special attention to Randy Newman's opening theme lyrics. They spell out the show perfectly.
tmac1951 FLETCH 33 months ago
I’ll be in the backyard watching my grass grow
Oldielover 33 months ago
And this is why these two shows lasted so long. Because they chose the right person in the right role. The other way around would have made their careers a bit shorter.
jwoods7665 33 months ago
Wow fascinating.... Still won't watch. Thanks for moving away from classic tv. Appreciate it.
Stefanie24 jwoods7665 33 months ago
Ditto. Won't watch though I don't think MeTV gives a flying fig.
tmac1951 jwoods7665 33 months ago
Should I watch my grass grow or paint dry??
tmac1951 Stefanie24 33 months ago
I think fig should be a four letter word, but your right they dont
tmac1951 33 months ago
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