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.


Michael Hogan

The GuardianTramp

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