PILOT EPISODE

Review by Mark Walters

Patricia Arquette has always been a likable actress.  Throughout her career she has taken on many interesting roles.  Most people got their first dose of her in A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3: DREAM WARRIORS.  I know there might be a few of you who are at this very moment saying to yourselves "Oh yeah, she was in that!"  But she made a definite impression as the lovable Alabama Worley in Quentin Tarantino and Tony Scott's classic crime caper TRUE ROMANCE.  After that came eclectic parts in Tim Burton's ED WOOD and David Lynch's LOST HIGHWAY.  She's never been afraid to attempt playing challenging characters, as her frightening performance in STIGMATA proves.  Up until know, we've all come to know Patricia as a film actress.  But that's about to change.  Glen Gordon Caron, who created the highly successful series MOONLIGHTING, has made a big return to network TV with a new series called MEDIUM... and Patricia is the star.

Now if you watch NBC at all, chances are you've seen countless ads for this new series.  The network clearly has a lot of faith in it, and it's easy to see why.  Now is a time where supernatural and otherworldly concepts are all the rage in film and TV.  Movie studios are clamoring for the next big ghost storyline.  But MEDIUM draws it's influence from a real person.  The show is based on the life of a research medium named Allison Dubois.  Apparently the real-life Dubois has been using her psychic abilities to help police solve cases, and has been for some years.  Kelsey Grammer (Frasier himself) is serving as Executive Producer of this new series.

The show opens with Allison (Arquette) having an unusual dream, that goes south quickly.  She then wakes up in a panic.  Her husband (Jake Weber) tries to console her, but Allison can't help her feelings at the moment, especially when she can see a bevy of dead people staring at her from across the bed.  She's become fully aware that her visions mean something, and doesn't quite know what to do about it.  So in an effort to help her out, Allison's husband sends a fax containing some of her visions to different law enforcement agencies.  Soon thereafter Allison is contacted by Texas Rangers, who wonder how exactly she happens to know certain pieces of information that have never been released.

The pilot sets up what Dubois is dealing with, and shows us her initial attempt to use her abilities for good.  It's a fascinating premise for a show.  Arquette is, as she always is, very likable in the role.  Playing a mother of three young girls, she's not your typical gifted hero, and that's refreshing.  Patricia is given an opportunity here to show different emotions as well, since there are frustrations about not understanding her own visions, or just trying to convince others that she's not making it all up.  Arliss Howard plays the skeptical Texas Ranger in the first episode, who consistently tries to trip up Dubois, and fails every time.  Caron also directed this episode, and does a fine job with subtle style and thoughtful storytelling.  It's not loud or in your face, but rather told gracefully, letting us relate to this woman and her feelings.  In many ways you could call this show a solo piece.  Sure, there are other actors here, but it's really all about Allison, and that's a good thing.  When you have a character like this, it's never a good idea to risk cheapening it by forcing too many supporting roles into the story.  I get the feeling this show will feature different guest stars each week, but always focus primarily on the main actress.  Caron knows that having a central focus can make a show great.  MOONLIGHTING worked because it never strayed too much from the two main stars.  MEDIUM works because the main star IS the show.  It's a character and personality that is strong enough to do all the lifting, and they've got themselves an actress that can handle all the layers it comes with.  Plus it's nice to see a show where you can concentrate all your attention on one protagonist for a change.

I think the setup is good, and I'm anxious to see where it all goes from here.  With a storyline like this, the possibilities are endless.  There is also potential to go into some very dark places, and see how that affects this sweet mother of three.  Even if you don't buy into the concept of this woman, you'll most likely find the show very interesting in theory.  Give it a shot, and you might just discover one of the best drama series to come along in quite sometime.  Anyone can make a CSI clone, but stories based on a real person is something I'll always take a look at.

If you missed MEDIUM on it's premiere night, you'll have another chance to see it this Thursday, January 6.  NBC is presenting an encore presentation of the pilot Thursday evening.  Check your local listings to see when it's playing.  It's regular night is Mondays after LAS VEGAS.  Also check out the official MEDIUM show website by clicking HERE.


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