No Sharona — Bitty Schram leaves ‘Monk’

The hit USA Network series “Monk” is losing Bitty Schram, the Golden Globe-nominated sidekick to series star Tony Shalhoub.

Schram will not return as Sharona, nurse and assistant to Shalhoub’s obsessive-compulsive detective, when the show resumes the second half of its third season in January.

“‘Monk’ has decided to go in a different creative direction with some of its characters,” a USA spokesman said. “Bitty will not continue with the cast and we thank her for her notable contributions and wish her the very best.”

“Bitty Schram and USA Network have amicably decided to go their own separate ways...She wishes everyone connected with the show continued success and looks forward to pursing the various opportunities before her,” Schram’s management firm, Untitled Entertainment, said in a statement.

Schram was with the series since its inception. She was nominated this year for a Golden Globe for best actress in a comedy series. Shalhoub won an Emmy for best actor in a comedy series after its first season.

USA already has put the word out in the casting community for a new regular part on the series, that of a world-weary but attractive thirtysomething widow who works as a bartender.

While both USA and Schram’s management characterized Schram’s exit as a change in creative direction, there were rumblings in recent weeks that some members of the series’ supporting cast, including Schram, Ted Levine and Jason Gray-Stanford, attempted to renegotiate the terms of their contract. Levine and Gray-Stanford, who play San Francisco cops constantly vexed by Monk’s unorthodox detective work, will remain with the series, according to a USA spokesman.

Sources indicated that the renegotiation process led to the most recent filmed episode being shot without any of the three supporting actors.

Television networks are increasingly willing to take a hard line against raise-seeking actors who aren’t absolutely essential to the show. Last month, the CBS hit drama “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” fired and rehired cast members George Eads and Jorja Fox after a similar salary standoff.

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