Medium: Season Two (DVD)
Created by Glenn Gordon Caron
Distributed by Paramount Home Video
When my set of Medium second season DVD's arrived, it was like visiting with an old, dear friend. I was a big fan of Season One and watched every episode of Season Two when they first aired. But NBC, in its infinite wisdom, elected to replace Season Three with the already sagging in the ratings Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip and will be holding off on running new episodes of Medium until after football season -- and on Sunday night no less! So, for DuBois-deprived fans the box set couldn't be released at a better time.
If by some chance you haven't seen any episodes of Medium or aren't familiar with its premise, it follows the DuBois family: Dad Joe, an engineer; Mom Allison, who works for the Phoenix District Attorney's office; and their three daughters, Ariel, Bridget, and Marie. The hook? Allison is both a medium and a psychic. The reason the show works so well for me is because it really operates on two levels. First is the focus on Allison's job. Every week she helps DA Devalos (Sandoval) and Detective Scanlon (Cubitt) solve one type of crime or another (usually a murder) using her abilities. Almost always the episode begins with a dream, and the fun is in watching her unravel its meaning to find the criminal. Things seldom turn out as one would expect.
But it's the second level of the show that is its heart and soul -- the relationships among Allison and Joe and the three girls. "Chemistry" is a word you see bandied about ad nauseam in reviews, but in this case it couldn't be more true. Arquette and Weber are the most believable couple on TV right now; and Vassilieva, Lark, and the little Carabello twins who share duties as Marie have grown into their characters so well that it's hard not to think of them all as a real family unit. In my Season One review I went into a lot more detail about their interactions, so I'll refrain from repeating myself here, but I must reiterate the top-notch quality of the acting from both the regular cast members and the numerous guest stars.
In Season Two we are treated to David Carradine and Patricia's real-life older brother Richmond Arquette in memorable roles. Kelsey Grammer has a turn getting inside Allison's head as well, but more about that particular performance later. Conor O'Farrell and Ryan Hurst more than ably continue their portrayals of Devalos nemesis Larry Watt and Allison's brother Michael, respectively. Best of all, Arliss Howard reappears as Captain Push when, in the opening episode, Season One's cliffhanger is nicely concluded. However, as much as I love Howard's character, I have to admit my personal favorite has become Dr. Charles Walker, so brilliantly played by Mark Sheppard. His calculating evilness simply oozes off the small screen whenever he appears. According to one of the interviews on Disc 6, we can expect to see him again, and I can't wait to learn what tricks he has up his sleeve for Allison -- and the audience -- next.
Aside from the episodes in which those actors appear, my favorites from Season Two include:
- "The Song Remains the Same," in which Allison gets a tune stuck in her head and Patricia shows off her dancing skills.
- "Light Sleeper," in which Allison begins sleepwalking and exhibiting other bizarre behavior.
- "Sweet Child O' Mine," in which we learn about the child Allison miscarried before having her daughters. Meanwhile, Joe struggles with Bridget's growing affection for a stray dog. This is one of the most touching episodes of the entire season.
- All three installments on Disc 6: "The Darkness is Light Enough," in which Allison dreams of a faceless man terrorizing a blind woman; the aforementioned Kelsey Grammer-starring "Death Takes a Policy," in which Allison faces off against Death himself (the ending is truly one of the most clever of the series); and my overall favorite of the season, "Twice Upon a Time," in which Allison enters an alternate reality where she's a powerhouse attorney in her own right, married to a man who's not Joe, and childless. It's in this finale where Patricia's acting chops and star power especially shine via her seemingly effortless ability to switch gears completely between the Allison the audience knows and the Allison she apparently wanted to be at one point in her life. The folks running the Emmys were definitely asleep at the wheel not to have nominated her again in 2006.
Which brings us to the No. 2 star of the season (following Patricia): Episode 9, "Still Life," the first hi-def 3-D broadcast in television history. When I first heard that the minds behind Medium were planning a 3-D episode, I was cautiously optimistic. That sort of thing often sounds great in theory, but more often than not the execution fails to live up to expectations. In the case of "Still Life," however, that couldn't be further from the truth. The episode is quite amazing. The basis of the show with Allison's dreams and visions is the perfect medium (ha ha) for such an undertaking. The storyline writers David Folwell and Craig Sweeny came up with involving paintings that show Allison the truth behind a murder is nothing short of inspired. As we learn in the featurette "Medium in Another Dimension," it's thanks to Pee-wee Herman that we got to experience this treat in the first place (I'll leave it to you readers to investigate the story behind that for yourselves).
Speaking of featurettes, I have to say I was a bit disappointed by the Season Two special feature offerings -- mostly because we were so spoiled by Season One's bountiful goodies. The primary extra is a roughly 26-minute cast and crew interview featurette that doesn't break a lot of new ground other than explaining the decision to make Season Two more Allison-centric so that she becomes an actual part of things rather than just an observer. Fourteen of the twenty-two episodes are briefly discussed by various writers, producers, directors, and actors, which was informative and entertaining enough; but I still wanted more. The "Day in the Life" segment, which follows Sofia and Maria throughout the course of their day from 7:00 am rehearsal to wardrobe to hair and makeup to their constantly alternating schedule of shooting and schoolwork, is amusing and shows both girls in an extremely positive light. Maria is a bundle of energy, very funny for her young age, and a true animal lover while Sofia is as poised and professional as you'd expect. They no doubt have long, productive careers ahead of them should they elect to remain in the business. The Q&A is a bit of a throwaway; why only this short excerpt and not the entire panel is shown is not made clear. The five-minute gag reel is good for a few laughs and, much like the one included for Season One, highlights Sandoval as the primary on-set prankster.
The commentaries are all immensely enjoyable, but I'm still waiting for Arquette and Weber to play along for at least one episode. Hearing them comment on the series and their work would be an extra special bonus. Definitely the most enlightening featurette is "Another Dimension." It goes into detail as to exactly what was involved in making "Still Life" and how difficult a process it was. The limitations on colors, the tilted sets, and the special cameras were all worthwhile in this reviewer's opinion. Kudos to NBC for shouldering the added expense; the payoff was tremendous. Let's hope Glenn Gordon Caron was correct when he said it's a good possibility we'll see something like this again.
Interestingly enough, the "real" Allison DuBois is nowhere to be seen in this collection. I missed her insight and comments, but it makes sense that she would begin to fade into the background of the show. Medium is Patricia's baby now, and she's who fans no doubt think of when they hear the name Allison DuBois.
If, like me, you are just biding your time until January when Season Three makes its bow, then you'll be thankful to have these DVD's available to help fill the hours. If, on the other hand, you somehow missed the boat on the series and wonder what all the fuss is about, you are lucky to have a few extra months to catch up with the rest of us. Of all the paranormal-themed shows currently on the air, Medium is the one that resonates most deeply with me. It's smart, adult, incredibly well written, and often downright creepy. What more could a discerning horror fan want from a show?
Four cast and crew commentaries (Episodes 3, 8, 9, 12)
Collectible 3-D glasses (2 pairs)
"The Story of Medium, Season Two" featurette
"Medium in Another Dimension" featurette
"A Day in the Life of the DuBois Daughters" featurette
The Museum of Television and Radio Q&A with cast and creative team (excerpt)
4 ½ out of 5