Whatever its fate commercially, producer Glenn Gordon Caron’s work has usually been distinctive, from “Moonlighting” to “Now and Again.” In that respect, there’s an air of disappointment surrounding this latest foray — a ho-hum addition to TV’s burgeoning crime blotter starring Patricia Arquette as a reluctant case-solver who sees dead people. “LAX” didn’t set the flight path terribly high for the show’s bruising slot vs. whichever “CSI” plays Mondays, but “Medium” will need a large dose of luck to see much of a future.
Arquette plays real-life psychic Allison Dubois, who earns a consultant credit on the series. Call it a psychic hunch, but I’m guessing she isn’t quite as attractive as Arquette, who fits into the Clarice Starling school of beautiful women who hang out around homicidal maniacs.
The main wrinkle, actually, is that Allison has done what she can throughout life to downplay her abilities, happily married as she is to an aerospace engineer (Jake Weber) with three adorable kids. Past 30, she’s interning at the D.A.’s office, where she can’t always suppress the urge to blurt out visions about cases based on photos she files or testimony she overhears.
An encounter with another psychic who senses her “special” gift prompts Allison’s hubby to fax various law-enforcement officials, with the Texas Rangers flying her in to investigate a missing-kid case about which she couldn’t possibly have known. This creates a nifty guest role for Arliss Howard in the premiere as the lead ranger, while providing Allison a chance to strut her stuff by chatting up a dead girl.
Series puts Allison back in the D.A.’s office under a hard-bitten boss (Miguel Sandoval), but even in a second episode, the combo of psychic crime-solver by day, wife and mom by night — arranging kids’ play dates mixed with examining mug shots, to her husband’s chagrin — doesn’t prove particularly riveting. Nor is “Medium” as creepy as the promos imply, at least initially failing to tap into the “Silence of the Lambs” or “The X-Files” niche in any substantive way.
Unfortunately, Allison is such a passive heroine that it’s hard to get too involved with her, and Arquette doesn’t bring much life to the role. Moreover, the episodes made available are virtually devoid of supporting players or any workplace tension to augment her relatively staid (by TV standards, anyway) home life.
If there’s a plus here, at least using ESP to clear cases dispenses with the need for all the forensic criminology overrunning the airwaves. Still, inasmuch as the show comes from a sister CBS division, its survival may require reaching out to the kindred spirits at that network to try working out a more inviting title — something like “CSI: Petite Medium at Large.”