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Pity poor Joe Dubois. Every night, there are several dozen dead people standing at the foot of his marriage bed. Talk about performance anxiety.
You see, Joe's married to Allison DuBois, and those dead folks are there to speak with her. Allison hears and sees dead people, who help her solve crimes and earn a living as an assistant to the district attorney, who can always use something to help him stack the deck in the courtroom.
That's the basic premise of Medium, Channel 3's latest addition to its Tuesday night (8:46 p.m.) schedule and starring Patricia Arquette, whom some might remember from True Romance in the early Nineties.
It's been a bumpy road, but Arquette's finally achieving success. This series is a big hit abroad, but maybe they're seeing something (besides those dead people) that we don't.
For example, the opening: this is the second show we've caught in the past month that's stolen the music and substance of the X-Files opening (the other was The 4400) practically bar for bar. Fans of Mulder and Scully will think their favorites are back once they spot that blinking eye at the end of the opening of Medium - the same one that stared back at them on Chris Carter's masterpiece.
Thankfully, we like shows with dead people talking, so we hung around long enough to learn about DuBois's gift and its impact on her otherwise normal, as-American-as-apple-pie family. Because at first Allison is having all kinds of trouble making her legal internship and law school studies work while taking care of three little girls and a horny husband who works for NASA (yeah, right).
It's those damn dreams she keeps having, the one with the creepy guy in the prison telling her about "the way the blood would slowly seep out and cover your white skin" after he sliced her neck off. Brrrrrrr...
There's also the clich d scoffing at her clues - shown in creepy flashback, black and white - by her legal colleagues, until her "powers" are proven. Question: if she can see the future and the past, why isn't she on Wall Street?
Asked to explain her gift by her husband, one of those who so want to believe, she simply says: "I just... know." Kind of like how we just know there's going to be a commercial break every eight minutes on Channel 2. "I see the truth - it's like a freaking television show," says Allison.
Hey now, let's not get personal, lady.
Naturally, we follow Allison around as her gift repeatedly proves out - what a shocker, huh? - and she runs into another medium who advises her not to fight her gift, asking her: "Why are you at war with what you are?"
Because without it, there would be no plot, Einstein! Psychics obviously aren't what they used to be...
Joe finally thinks of a way to determine whether or not his wife's really just a nut case or does have some gift: he writes away to the various legal departments offering clues she's seen in her dreams. Before you can say Hi-Yo Silver, the Texas Rangers are on the phone, inviting her down to the Lone Star State to find a missing body.
Fortunately, the murderer's dead little sister has spilled the beans on big brother to Allison. Allison correctly guesses that the disbelieving Texas Rangers captain recently had heart surgery, earning his trust, and a good old "hunch" by our psychic ("I'm either part psychic or part psycho") supplies the last piece of the puzzle. She's a hero, a star, even though she almost blew the case when she failed to predict the storm that washed away the dirt around the spot where she was sure the body was buried. But hey, Danny Roop doesn't do much better...
Arquette's pretty convincing as DuBois (who, the show makes a point of telling us, really does exist). If so, we can only hope things work out as conveniently for her as they do for her TV counterpart, who seems to run into the right ghostly or living clue with consummate ease. Not quite believable, we say.
The script's not bad, however, with two lines sticking in our heads: Allison's asking the Texas Rangers captain - while discussing the relationship between the dead sister and her killer brother - "Didn't you sense something between David Cassidy and Susan Dey, even though they were brother and sister?" And when she's given permission to interview the suspect, his protesting attorney shouts: "Don't make me call The New York Times!"
Producer Glenn Gordon Caron (Moonlighting) gets a lot right here, but we're not sure this isn't just a slightly more convincing Tru-Calling or 1-800-Missing.
Still, if Allison's free, we'd love it if she could ask one of her dead friends where we put that diskette we need. We know it's in this room somewhere, but we haven't a ghost of a clue where.