Medium: 1) a person claiming to be in contact with the spirits of the dead; 2) to communicate between the dead and the living; 3) a mid-season replacement television drama on NBC...
A stylish show at that, one that’s well-acted and has witty dialogue. That’s no surprise once you take a look at who’s involved: creator Glenn Caron (Moonlighting, Remington Steele); known genre writers like Rene Echevarria (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and executive producer of The 4400) and Moira Dekker (Dark Angel, The Dead Zone).
Based on real-life clairvoyant Allison DuBois, Patricia Arquette (not new to genre work, acting in Stigmata and A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors) wakes from dreams of the future and speaks with the dead on a far-too-frequent basis. Almost like The Sixth Sense: the Series, except that she’s found a way to let her gift pay the bills. She’s called in to consult with the District Attorney’s (Miguel Sandoval) office.
''I see the truth. It's like a freakin' television show!'' Allison DuBois
One of the things that makes this show different is that the lead character, Allison Dubois, is not always likeable. Almost every scene that takes place in their home has alcohol present, a subtle reminder to a throwaway line from the pilot that she drinks to quiet “the voices.” Her gift crowds her bedroom (the dead are always around her) and thus impacts her marriage, especially her husband, played by Jake Weber: it’s hard to talk to someone who is (or thinks that she is) one step ahead of you.
One of my favorite episodes, starring Reed Diamond (from the great Homicide: Life on the Streets), encapsulates all the things that I like so much about the show. Allison dreams about a man who has come to kidnap her daughter. Upon arriving at her job, she finds the man in the D.A.’s office stepping forward as a “Good Samaritan.” He witnessed a robbery and had come forward to offer his full cooperation. Come to find out that her dream involves what he might become, a horrific serial killer, some ten years down the road. She has to confront true evil, referring to him alternately as the bad Samaritan, the golem, the devil, or simply a monster. One of the more creative depictions on the show has the flashes into the killer’s mind portrayed over a comic book-like illustrated background.
“I will set my face against the person who turns to mediums and spiritists to prostitute himself by following them, and I will cut him off from his people.” Leviticus 20:6
Of course, the immediate response in terms of finding a spiritual connection might be to dismiss this show as another sign of our culture trying to mainstream the occult. It’s a knee-jerk response that’s intellectually simple and accomplishes little in terms of wrestling with people and the art that they produce where they are. Still, I can't out-of-hand dismiss such critics.
Now the passage from Leviticus may fall under the category of Old Testament rules, but the point of the passage remains that consulting practitioners of the occult (mediums and spiritists) was no less a sin that being one. This was a sin because only God was to be consulted (through either a priest or prophet, back in the day). [In terms of context, this also sheds a special light on the story of the time when King Saul—the ruler before King David—knowing the laws that he was under, turned around and consulted a medium (the Witch of Endor) in I Samuel 28.]
Allison DuBois is not a religious person though she recognizes that she has a spiritual gift, given from a higher power. What needs to be remembered is that the Bible, from beginning to end, is a supernatural book where magic is treated as real: from the sorcerers that competed against Moses before Pharaoh to the diviners, magicians, and sorcerers of the Babylonian court to the sorcerer who followed the apostles around trying to bribe them to show him how to do miracles.
The occult, unseen spirits, are serious business, so I understand the need for vigilance. Shows like Medium remind us of their reality. We don’t like to be reminded of the spiritual battles waged around us—or we do the other extreme and see the Devil behind every bush. This unseen realm is a mystery to us. However, many critics cross the line from vigilance into hypersensitivity, becoming guilty of fanning the flames of hysteria in order to pursue their own agendas. Before we start casting judgments, we have to remember that the practicing and consulting of mediums was condemned, not the depiction, even as entertainment, of them.
This is an issue that I’m especially sensitive to since I catch similar flak as a horror writer. I’m accused of inviting in evil, playing with supernatural trivia via stories, or making the supernatural alluring or intriguing. It’s one thing to argue that the Harry Potter films and books have the context of make-believe or present the occult as allegorical cautionary tales, but there’s nothing allegorical about Medium. She is what she is and doesn’t care if you believe her. There is real evil in the world, real spiritual forces around us; but creating fear-mongering over television, movies, and books is not the source of it.
Medium is stocked with great characters walking through well-written stories. Knowing that the show is based on an actual woman makes the show all the more interesting. It has enough twists and turns, some creepy moments, to be truly engaging. All delivered with a deft hand and generous dashes of humor.