Your next box set: Medium

This underrated supernatural police procedural stars the excellent Patricia Arquette as Allison Dubois, part psychic investigator, part suburban mum

Think of Patricia Arquette and you very likely think of her role as kickass callgirl Alabama in the 90s cult classic True Romance – directed, of course, by the mighty Tony Scott, who died last weekend. Since 2005, though, Arquette has been quietly starring in underrated supernatural police procedural Medium.

Arquette's character Allison DuBois is a psychic medium working for the district attorney in Phoenix, Arizona. She dreams about crimes, sometimes before they have happened, gets given clues by ghosts, can talk to dead people – and eventually persuades the authorities to use her abilities to their advantage. Which all sounds pretty preposterous, until you realise it is based on a real-life Allison DuBois, a "psychic profiler" who really did work in law enforcement and serves as consultant on the show. Writer Glenn Gordon Caron, who also created Moonlighting, based Medium on the real Dubois' memoirs.

One of Medium's major strengths is the way it contrasts ghostly investigations into often grisly cases with Allison's altogether more normal home life. Jake Weber (an Andrew Graham-Dixon/Edwin Van Der Sar lookalike whose dad was a drug dealer for the Rolling Stones in the early 70s) plays her husband Joe – a sardonic, slightly baffled engineer who never seems to get a full night's sleep because his wife's always shaking him awake by the shoulder to tell him about her latest gruesome dream. Arquette and Weber make a convincing couple. Accomplished child actors play their three daughters, who turn out to have inherited their mother's ability; as the girls discover when they hit puberty, the gift can also be a curse. They all bicker affectionately and make one of the most likable, believable families you'll find anywhere on television.

Arquette is excellent: dreamy and distant at times, tired but tough, her suburban mumsie exterior hiding a steely determination to see justice done. She won an Emmy and got three consecutive Golden Globe nominations for the part. Other familiar faces pop up too, often as villains: Kelsey Grammer, Neve Campbell, Eric Stoltz, David Carradine, Emma Stone, Arquette's siblings David and Rosanna. Anjelica Houston has a recurring role as a private detective who teams up with Allison.

Like The Ghost Whisperer for grown-ups or a small-screen Sixth Sense, the series demonstrated admirable ambition too. One episode pays tribute to Night Of The Living Dead, with Arquette inserted into footage from the George Romero horror. Another gets stuck in a Groundhog Day loop. Others delve into the dreams of multiple characters, parody serial killer cliches or are filmed in the style of a 60s sitcom. At one point, Allison's spirit transfers into the body of a middle-aged man (played by Jeffrey Tambor of Larry Sanders Show and Arrested Development fame).

Medium was cancelled last year after seven series. Fortunately, Caron's team had sufficient warning that the end was nigh to write a fitting finale. This is one deceased show that's worth investigating.

Contributor

Michael Hogan

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Your next box set: Boomtown

Original and offbeat police drama that explored cases from the differing perspectives of its seven main characters

Paul Brown

14, Feb, 2012 @2:30 PM

Article image
Your next box set: Braquo
Full of guns, knives, torture and the odd defenestration, Olivier Marchal's Braquo is as brutal and brilliant a cop drama as you could hope for, writes Phelim O'Neill

Phelim O'Neill

14, Jun, 2012 @3:00 PM

Article image
Your next box set: Wallander
Of the three TV Wallanders, Rolf Lassgård is the most shambolic, the most human – but you wouldn't want to smell him, writes Vicky Frost

Vicky Frost

21, Jun, 2012 @3:31 PM

Article image
Your next box set: The Bridge
The perfect mix for fans of Wallander and The Killing, this Swedish-Danish co-production combines interesting characters in a well-paced, satisfyingly twisty thriller, says Vicky Frost

Vicky Frost

22, Nov, 2012 @3:30 PM

Article image
Your next box set: The Killing I-III
The complete Forbrydelsen trilogy will delight both those who have never watched The Killing and those who have, but want to savour again Sofie Gråbøl's superb portrayal of Sarah Lund, writes Vicky Frost

Vicky Frost

20, Dec, 2012 @5:55 PM

Article image
Your next box set: Dixon of Dock Green
It's remembered as the gentlest of bobby-on-the-beat dramas, but in fact Dixon was an unremittingly grim and tough police procedural, writes Tim Dowling

Tim Dowling

19, Jul, 2012 @7:00 PM

Article image
Your next box set: Midsomer Murders: John Nettles My Top Ten
Favourite episodes plus an extra disc in which Nettles explains his choices and delivers some illuminating anecdotes

Laura Barnett

25, Feb, 2011 @8:00 AM

Article image
Your next box set: Bones

Lucy Mangan: Everything about this forensic crime comedy is a little better than it needs to be – and it has my favourite line in the entire history of television

Lucy Mangan

10, Jan, 2013 @4:28 PM

Article image
Your next box set: Unit One
This Danish crime series, featuring a female homicide detective, was a big influence on The Killing. And it's perfect for anyone suffering from Sarah Lund withdrawal

Stuart Jeffries

03, Jan, 2013 @2:37 PM

Article image
Your next box set: Prime Suspect
Whether she's grittily leading her cop team in another lurid murder case or dissolving in tears at home, Helen Mirren's Jane Tennison is always a compelling act, writes Alex Needham

Alex Needham

08, Sep, 2011 @8:30 PM