"Monk" (9 p.m., USA) takes flight for its season finale as the manic and phobic detective (Tony Shalhoub) reluctantly accompanies his assistant, Sharona (Bitty Schram), on a flight to New Jersey. Naturally, Monk's fear of flying and his aversion to the airliner's enclosed public space and poor ventilation make him more finicky than ever.
Fortunately, Monk is distracted from his discomfort by a scheming French husband who appears to have replaced his wife with a shorter, but surprisingly identical model. Like most episodes, this "Monk" contains many subtle and silly pleasures, including cameos by director Garry Marshall as a kindly extension cord salesman, and Brooke Adams (Shalhoub's real-life wife) as a stewardess driven to distraction by Monk's needy antics. Shalhoub's former "Wings" co-star Tim Daly also appears as himself.
The critical and commercial success of "Monk" on USA and Michael Chiklis' Emmy Award for the FX Network's crime drama "The Shield" mark a clear shift in the relationship between the networks and cable stations. Once thought of as mere showcases for old movies and network repeats, basic cable stations are clearly taking some chances and creating quality shows. The same can't be said of the networks, who this season have enshrined mediocrity (ABC's bland family sitcoms) and blatant imitation (CBS's spate of "CSI" clones).
Fans of "Monk" can still catch repeats on ABC. The network will air back-to-back "Monk" episodes Oct. 31. The series repeats will move to 7 p.m. Mondays beginning Nov. 18 on ABC.
Of all of the performers at the 1969 Woodstock concert, only one musician can still be considered a chart-topper. Jimmy Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Jerry Garcia have departed for rock 'n' roll heaven. The Jefferson Airplane left on a Starship three decades ago, and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young have broken up and regrouped too many times to mention. But Carlos Santana still can sell records. His Grammy-winning 1999 album "Supernatural" has sold more than 25 million copies worldwide. Santana will perform his hits as well as songs from his new album, Shaman, on "Live by Request" (8 p.m., A&E;). Viewers can request favorites via an 800 number or long onto the Internet. Mark McEwen is host. "Biography" will also profile Santana on Sunday (7 p.m.)
"Practice" star Dylan McDermott is host of "Music Behind Bars" (9 p.m., VH1), a new weekly series exploring one of America's stranger musical subcultures prison bands. Every week, "Bars" will focus on one band and explore the ways that music has been meaning and purpose to lives wasted by drugs, alcohol, violence and even homicide. Produced by Oscar-winning filmmaker Arnold Shapiro ("Scared Straight"), "Bars" sheds needed light on America's growing prison population and the redemptive power of music.
Tonight's other highlights
Scheduled on "48 Hours" (7 p.m., CBS): a computer game junkie's big mistake.
Leonardo DiCaprio stars in the 1998 adaptation of "Man in the Iron Mask" (7 p.m., UPN).
Scheduled on "Dateline" (7 p.m., NBC): Jane Pauley interviews Barbara Walters.
John becomes the suspect in a 40-year-old murder case on "John Doe" (8 p.m., Fox).
An anonymous source leads to the discovery of three dead bodies and the prospect of a fourth on "Robbery Homicide Division" (9 p.m., CBS).
A serial killer's motivation stuns Benson and Stabler on "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit " (9 p.m., NBC).
Owen's parents (Sally Kellerman and John Bennett Perry) make a strange first impression on "Providence" (7 p.m., NBC, TV-PG).