On CBS, Will "Medium" Remain Well-Done?

Slate's Culture Blog
June 3 2009 2:29 PM

On CBS, Will "Medium" Remain Well-Done?

On Monday night, NBC aired what it billed as the "finale" of Medium , the drama starring Patricia Arquette as a psychic crime solver and mother of three in Phoenix. When my partner and I saw that word "finale" in the teaser for Monday's episode, we nearly fainted. In the five years since its debut, Medium has become the only network show we watch without fail every week, and it's right in the middle of several long-term story arcs too juicy to be wrapped up in a single hour. But, mercifully, NBC's teaser was misleading. What the peacock was too proud to add is that after a heated negotiation  at last month's TV upfronts, the show was acquired by CBS, where it'll be airing on Friday nights starting in the fall, in between Ghost Whisperer and Numb3ers . This "psychic sandwich" programming makes a certain amount of sense for attracting viewers (even if Medium fans may be irked at the implied equation between Patricia Arquette's smart, complex, grownup character and Jennifer Love Hewitt's busty nitwit ). But Friday night prime time is known as the " death slot " for a reason; it's the place networks traditionally move shows on their way to being canceled.

Even sadder than the idea of a world with no Medium is the possibility that the show will lose its character in an attempt to save its skin. The show runner, Glenn Gordon Caron (who also created Moonlighting and the short-lived but much-mourned Now and Again) has sworn that the content and quality of the show won't change at its new venue. I just hope Caron—and everyone involved in producing the show—knows what it is that sets Medium apart from your average "she-sees-dead-people" procedural: The show is the richest and truest portrait of marriage and family life currently on television. As Allison and Joe DuBois, Arquette and Jake Weber make living with the person you love look as annoying, as demanding, and as rewarding as it is in real life. They fight (not cute, made-for-TV squabbles but substantial debates about work, money, and children), they have sex, they kibitz about Allison's latest murder case while going to bed ... and then they grab a precious few hours of sleep before she's awakened by another clue-filled nightmare. The show weaves together the supernatural and the quotidian so skillfully that Allison's job—essentially, she's a professional dreamer for the D.A.'s office—starts to seem like a metaphor for the plight of every working mother, psychic or not. Allison is so overcommitted to both work and family that she multitasks in her sleep.

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There are so many other things to love about Medium : Patricia Arquette's unapologetically normal body size, the skillfully drawn secondary characters, and the refreshingly uncute performance of Maria Lark as Bridgette, the DuBois' eccentric middle daughter. (For a glimpse of Bridgette's awesomeness, watch this behind-the-scenes clip .) Please, CBS, don't try to "add value" to your new "franchise" by messing with Medium . Just give Caron, Arquette, and the rest of them the keys to their new offices—and leave them alone to do what they do so well.

Dana Stevens is Slate's movie critic.

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