Medium was based on a real person with alleged psychic powers who apparently has helped out various law enforcement agencies in some actual cases. If you’ve seen the series, you might find that hard to believe, and the episodes are obviously fictional adventures and not based on the real Allison Dubois’s experiences. At first glance it might be easy to lump Medium in with Ghost Whisperer or The Dead Zone. Actually there are almost no similarities to any of those shows. Allison does not gain any understanding through touching, and while she does see ghosts at times, that aspect of the show has been made to play in only a small percentage of the episodes. Allison accesses her powers through dreams. These nightmares are usually vague and often provide additional clues with each recurring dream. The formula for the show is that she must interpret these images and signs in time to do whatever it is she needs to do. Now that her secret is out, she’s not able to continue her work at the DA’s office. Joe’s career is also in jeopardy, so the show is going through some changes here. The strike likely did some damage, so we may never know exactly what was in store.
Patricia Arquette is actually very good in the role, but I have to say there’s something about her performance, or perhaps the character itself, that does wear thin after too long. There are certain mannerisms that just begin to annoy me after more than one or two episodes at a time. The DA is played marvelously by Miguel Sandoval, and fortunately for us he is given a lot more to do in this third year. David Cubitt plays Detective Lee Scanlon with a ton of levels that make him the most viewer friendly character on the show. Allison has a family that often suffers the brunt of her nightmares and work. Jake Weber plays husband Joe with an almost deadpan style that makes him always a secondary character no matter who else is in the scene. I guess part of that is intentional, as I know I’d be rather dumbfounded in his circumstances. The upside is, when he does react emotionally, it is more powerful stuff. Sofia Vasssilieva shows a tremendous amount of maturity both on camera and in her interview sound bites for a child actor. She plays Ariel, the older daughter. Maria Lark is the cute factor and specializes in making faces as Bridgette, the middle daughter. Miranda Carabello is the newcomer as the growing baby daughter in the family.
If Medium has a fatal flaw, it is that they attempt to do too much in one episode. This is a complicated world that quite honestly can wear you out before an hour is over. You have the family dynamics with the three girls beginning to display Allison’s talents. Poor Joe is stuck not only in a houseful of women, but psychic women at that. You have the usual chase for the bad guy and all of the dynamics involved there. Finally, each episode tends to run some creative ground that is cool at times and brutally obnoxious others. I stopped watching on television around the time of the first season episode The Song Remains The Same where you hear the song I Will Survive over and over again until I just had to turn it off. This season you get an animated section and a Barbie doll playhouse version of Allison’s nightmares. Cute for a while, but as usual taken to extreme. Add to the season the new dynamic of Allison’s predicament, and there is an unevenness that keeps me at more of a distance from this show than I might otherwise be inclined.
In the fourth season a lot changes for Allison and her family. The world now knows her secret, and it’s cost her boss his D.A. position as well. Joe is also out of work, so the family begins the season struggling somewhat. There are some interesting new additions to the cast that brought some new life into what was becoming a tired show. While I don’t as a general rule like huge shake-ups, Medium was a series in desperate need of one. Anjelica Huston joins the cast for a while as a private investigator that Allison works with. She’s a bit of a deadpan, but helps to create a wider world for the show to operate within. Toward the end of the shortened season Joe teams up with a backer to work on his new solar power invention. The partner is Meghan Doyle, played by Kelly Preston. Of course, Allison is going to have problems with Joe working so closely with an attractive partner. Doyle’s a pretty dynamic character that could have been used to far more effect.
Each episode of Medium is presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. The picture looks every bit as good as the HD broadcasts on my satellite television system. Colors are outstanding, as is the level of detail. Black levels never fail to produce fine shadow detail. The animated episode carries incredibly bright colors. There isn’t any overt problem with compression artifact. This is always a very sweet picture presentation.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 track works very well to spread out many of the show’s claustrophobic moments. While not extremely aggressive, you get a good scence of space with the ambient channels. Dialog is clear and always placed correctly compared with what’s on the screen. Occasionally musical cues are a little louder than I’d like, but the clarity and quality is always consistent.
The episodes are spread out over a collection of 4 single-sided discs. The extras are also a little scattered, but I’ll tell you exactly where to find what. There are a few deleted scenes and commentary tracks throughout the set that are usually worth checking out.
Joe’s Crayon Dream: This season continued the tradition of doing shows in often weird designs. In one episode Joe’s daughter is influencing his dreams, so he begins to dream in a coloring book style reality. Here he gets his invention idea, but is it his or his daughter’s? The 6 minute feature looks at the development of the episode’s unique look from conception to execution.
Introducing Cynthia Keener: This is the private eye that Allison hooks up with now that she’s out of a job at the DA’s office. She’s played by Anjelica Huston. Here you get most of the cast and crew delivering a love fest about having Huston on the show. Of more interest is Huston herself talking about getting and playing the part. It’s 9 minutes.
Gag Reel: These are getting quite commonplace on these sets, and you get about 7 minutes of missed lines and pratfalls here.
The Making Of Medium Season Four: F/x make up a huge part of this show, and we get a breakdown of many of these episode-specific f/x in this the longest feature at 25 minutes. Basically it takes many of the episodes, pulls out a particular effect, and lets us see how it was done.
The strike year will have left its impact on many shows coming out in DVD right now. It was actually fortunate for this show. I believe that the fewer episodes caused the writers to tighten up a bit on the stories and condense the season’s arc. The temptation with these guys is too strong to go over the top and appear tedious. This was, for me, the best year yet for Medium. Let’s see how they pick things up. You really need to check these out before venturing into the next season. Medium is a complex show; “You can’t just flip a switch and turn it on”.