That little show, you’ll have guessed, is called “Medium”, and was saved from cancellation by CBS, whose sister studio, CBS Paramount, also produces the show.
“Medium” is one of the rare shows that is barely recognized by critics, yet makes solid ratings and performs well in the key demographics. Even in France, where network M6 airs it, there’s barely any talk about the show. Granted, on the surface, it deals with familiar territory: a medium start having visions and helps the local district attorney to solve crimes and murders. Notice I didn’t elaborate on the visions. That’s because, at first, it was only dead people trying to communicate with her, either by showing them minutes before their murder, or actual clues about the identity of the murderer. But over the episodes, the creativity of Glenn Gordon Caron-who created one of the great comicbook-inspired shows of the last decade in “Now And Again”, and of course “Moonlighting”-is to play with the visions, and have them in a bunch of different ways: in a noir-from-the-50s way, in 3-D, in cartoon….The real treat is to see where those visions lead Allison, and how she interprets them. And even if the viewer can quickly expect some kind of routine, as Allison finds out soon she’s wrong about the visions, and someone is caught at the end of the episode, the show finds a way to defy expectations.
In a recent interview, Glenn Gordon Caron said: “This may look like a crime show, but it’s really about an American marriage”. And the heart of the show is the DuBois family. Actually, as other writers would introduce cheating, betrayals and other soapish devices to give drama and scandal to the DuBois life, Caron makes a point about keeping the DuBois family very much together and maintain their cocoon of joy they call “home”. One of the reasons may be to balance the depressing and scary visions perturbing Allison. But the show is kept realistic thanks to a honest portrayal by the tag team of Patricia Arquette and Jake Weber, who does a consistently great job every episode. Weber, and Joe DuBois, don’t look like the tanned, well dressed husbands with a good haircut, but he’s believable as an understanding and levelled father without sounding corny or plain weak. Actually, “Medium” may be pleasing to Denny Crane given how effectively the Republican values are portrayed in the show. But it never hammers the point home, no matter how the crazy family crises get solved. When focusing on the couple, “Medium” has released one of their best episodes, “Twice Upon a Time”, a beautiful take on alternate realities and a great exploration of what glues Allison and Joe together.
It boggles the mind to see that, in the span of a few months, two great shows watched by people over 50 were taken off the air of their networks: one being the cancelled “Boston Legal”, and “Medium” was fortunately rescued by CBS. In a TV world obsessed by young and sexy characters, “Medium” offers a couple who are grown and mature, with no troubles in their relationships, raising three adorable children despite consuming jobs. How boring, right?
So, “Medium” succeeds on three plans: the crime mystery, who actually manages to keep one guessing without falling in procedural traps- yes, there are investigations, but they are paramount to solving the mystery of the visions themselves-; the paranormal aspects, who give creepy, eerie visions in a variety of visual styles-what other show can give the viewer the impression that he’s choking in a plastic bag this convincingly?-; and the family aspect, which gives fuel to heart-warming scenes and entertaining banter, as well as a few choice zingers from Joe DuBois. But those three aspects are misunderstood by the critics, who’d rather see a routine crime show full of independent episodes, and no discernible or lasting character arcs. Let’s hope that the sixth season with a decent promo budget, and a good lead-in (in terms of ratings, of course) in “Ghost Whisperer” will solve those problems.
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