Medium: The Complete First Season Review
Medium is a television show based on a real-life person: Allison DuBois. DuBois has penned quite a few accounts of her work using psychic abilities to assist law enforcement agencies in a variety of areas, and it was these books which caught series creator Glenn Gordon Caron's (Moonlighting among others) eye. The show takes its inspiration from DuBois herself and she acts as a permanent consultant to it, something which only strengthens the everyday appeal and flavour of the show.
At its simplest, Medium is a series about a psychic working with the local District Attorney's office to help select juries, solve crimes, and apply her other skills where needed. But the show is so much more than this, mostly because it doesn't dwell on the supernatural side. Instead, it concentrates on making DuBois (played ably by Patricia Arquette) a realistic and well-fleshed-out character whose situations are both believable and strange at the same time.
Allison DuBois is a mother of three, studying law and just starting out as a law intern when her husband Joe (Jake Weber) helps her to investigate whether the strong feelings and dreams she's been having in ever-growing numbers lately are more than just stress from her new job and home life. Discovering that she has an ability which might help in crime-fighting, DuBois drops out from her internship, only to be asked to work as a consultant for the District Attorney's office. Her boss there, D.A. Devalos (Miguel Sandoval), believes in her abilities and gives her numerous opportunities to test them out. The show moves seamlessly between DuBois' home life and her work life, and we get to see her juggle both those high-pressure searches for murderers with the stresses of everyday life (three young children and a hard-working husband, etc.).
There's inevitably an element of 'crime of the week' about Medium during this first season, but this is often offset by the canny insights into the home life of the DuBois family: the petty marital squabbles and the usual concerns with being good parents. Characters evolve well, and the strength of both the writing and the cast really does enable these juxtapositions of work and home to become the heart and soul of this show... something which helps it to really stand out when compared with other 'psychic' TV shows (such as the considerably-blander Ghost Whisperer). Another of the things I really liked about Medium was the fact that DuBois does seem like a well-rounded and genuine person. There's no sense that the writers are attempting to make her morally good in every scenario merely because she's the ostensible 'heroine' here. She has flaws, she has strops, and she doubts herself and her gift. I can disagree with her views on certain things, and agree with her on others, and this makes her all the more real to me as a character.
The cast are all very well-suited to their roles. Arquette brings a certain feistiness to the character of Allison DuBois, and her squabbles with on-screen husband played by Jake Weber both seem petty enough to be real and are over quickly enough to establish the solidity of their relationship. Miguel Sandoval (as D.A. Devalos) and David Cubitt (as Det. Lee Scanlon) portray, in turn, respect and cynicism for DuBois' abilities and give her good sounding boards for her work life. Finally, the DuBois children, the oldest of which are played by Maria Lark and Sofia Vassilieva, manage to be both cute and believable. But the cast would have little to work with if the writing were any lesser. Thankfully it isn't and the writing and acting go together to make this a surprisingly good show. I say surprisingly because usually this is the kind of thing I'd skip, not being especially into psychics and such.
Overall, Medium does a particularly good job of seamlessly marrying home life and work life in a television show, especially when the dynamic includes a happily married couple of some years with a young family. There's no love interest to propel storylines along as many modern shows rely on, and it's no loss here. If you haven't caught the show yet, it's definitely worth looking out for; the crimes and the supernatural side are creepy enough to offset any cuteness displayed by the young children in the DuBois family, and the writing is of sterling quality, showing a more realistic home life than can be witnessed in most TV shows.
Allison is having strange dreams that seem related to a crime. Her husband attempts to prove these dreams are simply brought on by stress and sends the details of what she's 'seen' to a number of law enforcement agencies. However, the Texas Rangers get in touch as the details match a crime committed there, and Allison jets out to see if her gift can be of any use, while having to prove herself to both the Rangers and herself.
2: 'Suspicions and Certificates'
Allison's new job as consultant to the District Attorney's office (instead of the role of law intern she had originally been preparing for) means she gets to help select a jury that will give the death penalty in a murder/rape case. Allison must then examine her suspicions that the convict may not be the right man after all.
3: 'A Couple of Choices'
When she's plagued with dreams of a husband and wife murder/suicide, the D.A. introduces Allison to Detective Lee Scanlon, whose sister died in similar circumstances. Scanlon is cynical of Allison's gift but through working together the pair get some mutual respect as well as a better understanding of the case itself.
4: 'Night of the Wolf'
Stuck in a backroom going through evidence, Allison overhears a witness misinforming a sketch artist, deliberately making them look for the wrong man. She then has to convince the D.A. there's something in her feeling about this and to follow up on it. Meanwhile, Allison's daughter Bridgette announces she has a new playmate… who appears to have died a few years earlier.
5: 'In Sickness and Adultery'
Things aren't going so well between Allison and Joe, and she has strange premonitions that imply he's having an affair. She also learns he's had a biopsy scheduled. D.A. Devalos, meanwhile, wants Allison to perjure herself so she doesn't admit to how she came across information relating to the killing of a policeman.
6: 'Coming Soon'
Allison dreams someone is trying to kidnap her daughter, and later bumps into the very man in the D.A.'s office. There, she learns he's witness to a robbery and has been labelled a 'Good Samaritan' for coming forward with his evidence. Allison has to tie these two concepts of the man together. In his home life, Joe tutors Ariel in maths and Allison and Joe have to deal with the possibility of another pregnancy.
7: 'Jump Start'
When an attorney's son's girlfriend throws herself into a ravine, Allison gets involved to try and untangle the possibilities. Joe has to deal with Allison's gift on a more personal level as he tries to warn a colleague about a possible impending heart attack.
Allison's soldier brother comes to visit, just after she has a dream of him dying in the field and his arrival stirs up family life a little. Meanwhile, Allison is set to work on an arson case where she finds the ghost of a victim to be a source of information.
Joe is worried about his daughters, who both seem to display signs that they may have inherited some of their mother's gifts. This is precipitated by Ariel's concern over a dream she has been having lately, one that Allison tries to help her to interpret. Unfortunately, Ariel takes the advice all too seriously and runs away from a school field trip to follow a clue, leaving a panicked Joe and Allison to track her down.
10: 'The Other Side of the Tracks'
After a recurring dream about two boys playing near a train track, Allison seeks the analysis of psychiatrist Dr Cardwell, who is apparently involved in the incident. Through this coincidence, Allison is able to put together what really happened and why she has been having this dream.
11: 'I Married a Mind Reader'
During a spell at home and sick Allison takes in a '60s sitcom called 'I Married a Mind Reader' and finds herself getting involved in the behind-the-scenes murder that occurred during its run. Alas, this episode is every bit as cheesy as it sounds.
12: 'A Priest, a Doctor and a Medium Walk Into an Execution Chamber'
After the execution of a convicted drug lord was widely witnessed, reports of his ghost make their way to the D.A. – and when his girlfriend is murdered, Allison is brought in to help investigate. Allison again sees the difficult side of her gift when she learns a dark secret about the mother of one of Ariel's new friends.
13: 'Being Mrs. O'Leary's Cow'
Allison dreams of a plane crashing and killing hundreds of people. When the potential pilot is jailed the dreams continue and Allison has a quandary – she needs to consider whether to put forward evidence to keep the man in jail, or let him walk so he can fly the plane to safety.
14: 'In the Rough'
Allison's world becomes embroiled in turmoil as she discovers that someone she knows may have been involved in framing an innocent man. Also, on the home front, Joe's mother comes to visit and Allison also receives a visit from Joe's dead father which gives the couple something quite weighty to think about.
15: 'Penny for Your Thoughts'
A spirit seems to be taking over various doctors and encouraging them to do Bad Things™ - Allison gets involved in the investigation. Ariel is accused of cheating by her maths teacher, and Joe needs to get involved to defend his daughter from the accusations.
16: 'When Push Comes to Shove'
Texas Ranger Capt. Push appears to Allison in a vision at the scene of a murder, and she calls him in to assist in a local investigation.
The picture is presented here in a widescreen anamorphic transfer which is excellent, rivalling some recent film releases for its near-flawless video quality. Skin tones are very natural and the moves from inside scenes to those outside are met with equal clarity and deep, true colour tones. There's no obvious grain or other problems here, and it's a true pleasure to watch Medium in this format.
Sound choices include English and French in Dolby Digital 5.1, and while the left/right and front/rear directionality isn't obvious in every scene, there is some use of it during chases and ambient noises. It's a good, solid audio performance for a television show, that's for sure. Subtitles are available in a number of languages and include English for the Hearing Impaired.
There are no special features included on this DVD release.
Medium is a bit of a revelation in a TV show. It's non-formulaic and manages to combine the supernatural, crime-fighting and the extreme mundanity of daily life with a young family. It's a shame the Region 2 set includes none of the extras of the Region 1 set, which make it hard to recommend when it's so easy to obtain the alternative that includes commentaries, an extended pilot, and featurettes. However, if extras don't matter to you and you just want a chance to watch the series, this one may be for you.