Why Sharona left Monk after season 3 (and when she comes back)

The 61st Annual Golden Globe Awards - Arrivals
The 61st Annual Golden Globe Awards - Arrivals / J. Vespa/GettyImages

In February 2024, Netflix dropped all eight seasons of Monk on its platform, and everyone's rewatching the iconic comedy-drama series. There are even new viewers who are watching now and are enjoying it. With this new interest in the series, we're starting to see many questions about it. One question in particular concerns a main cast member's departure. We're talking about Bitty Schram, who portrayed Sharona Fleming in the comedy-drama. People want to know why she left the series. We shared everything we know about her departure below.

Sharona was Adrian Monk's practical nurse and assistant. She was a single mother who spent a lot of time looking for love even though the men she would get with would end up being bad guys. Viewers watched this character all throughout the first two seasons and some of the third season. But she would not return in the second half of season 3 and wouldn't be seen again in the series until much later. Why is that?

Well, the actress behind the character, Bitty Schram, chose to leave the show midway through the third season. While the reason for her departure was originally believed to be because the show "decided to go in a different creative direction with some of its characters," that turned out not to be the real reason.

The real reason behind Schram's departure was that there were some contract disputes. According to USA Network, Schram was asking for a pay raise to return as well as her fellow co-stars Ted Levine (Captain Leland Stottlemeyer) and Jason Gray-Stanford (Lieutenant Randy Disher). But while Levine and Gray-Stanford did reprise their roles in the second half of season 3, Schram didn't. Could Levine and Gray-Stanford have actually received a pay increase, and that's why they returned, and Schram didn't? It's unknown, but whatever the show's creative team decided to offer Schram, she clearly wasn't okay with it since she decided to leave.

Once Schram departed Monk, her character was essentially replaced with a new assistant named Natalie Teeger, who was portrayed by actress Traylor Howard.

How is Sharona's absence explained in Monk?

The last episode in which Bitty Schram appears as Sharona for a while is episode 9 of season 3, titled "Mr. Monk Takes His Medicine." We find out what happened to Sharona at the very beginning of the tenth episode of the third season titled "Mr. Monk and the Red Herring." It's revealed that she quit working for Monk, remarried her ex-husband Trevor, and moved back to New Jersey with him and her son.

Schram would later return to the comedy-drama to reprise her role as Sharona in season 8 episode 10, "Mr. Monk and Sharona." In the episode, Sharona returns to San Francisco after her uncle's accidental death, and she and Monk are reunited. During her visit, she also butts heads with Monk's new assistant, Natalie. This is the only episode Schram appears in the eighth and final season.

Monk seasons 1-8 are streaming now on Netflix.

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