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Reviewed by Will Harris
or a show that has now been around for more than half a decade, it’s rather remarkable how little love “Medium” seems to receive. Although Patricia Arquette picked up the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series in 2005 and was nominated in the category a second time in 2007, the series itself has never been nominated. And after wrapping up its sixth season, “Medium” received the ultimate indignity from NBC: cancelation.
Had this truly been the end of the series, fans would have called it a clear-cut case of cruel and unusual punishment, as the season finale closed with Allison DuBois (Arquette) in a coma. But pop culture coroners barely had time to call the time of death before CBS swooped in and saved the day by picking up the series for a sixth season. It wasn’t what you’d call a huge surprise, given that “Medium” is actually a CBS / Paramount production to begin with, but that didn’t make the news any less pleasant.
Not-much-of-a-spoiler alert: Allison comes out of her coma, fully free of her brain tumor. The early episodes of Season Six show her dealing with some of the repercussions of having waited too long to have the tumor removed, such as a limp and a temporarily-useless right hand, but it doesn’t take long before you’d never know that anything had ever been wrong with her. That’s probably a slightly speedier recovery than you’d see in real life, but, hey, this is television: they could’ve come back for the season’s second episode and said, “Whew, glad I’m all better now!” At least they tried, you know?
That Allison spends a great deal of Season Six as she has in the preceding seasons probably goes without saying: every episode features at least one shot of her jolting upright in bed after one of her typically horrifying dreams, and there’s just as much talking to the dead this year as there has been in the past. As the DuBois girls have gotten older, however, they’ve been finding themselves at the forefront of more storylines, and it’s enabled the show’s writers to venture into different territories.
With Ariel in high school and on the cusp of beginning her collegiate career, there are several strong spotlights for Sofia Vassilieva. The best of these are “Time Keeps on Slipping,” an episode in which Ariel jumps forward in time and finds herself married and with a daughter of her own, and “It’s a Wonderful Death,” where Allison imagines that her tumor has recurred, resulting in her dying abruptly and promptly ruining Ariel’s future by trying to force her to solve the crimes that she no longer can. Bridget’s growing up, too, and her interest in a boy at school makes for a fun focus in “Psych,” but she gets a funnier storyline in “Once in a Lifetime,” where she gets in trouble for repeatedly posting videos of her neighbor doing stupid and embarrassing things. Even Marie gets some extra screen time in a few episodes, but her strongest work comes in “Sal,” where Allison is convinced that she’s talking to the DuBois’ new burglar alarm. (Don’t ask. Just watch.)
There have been several plot arcs surrounding Joe’s work over the years, but Season Six gives Jake Weber the opportunity to play against Joel Moore and Mitch Pileggi. Moore plays Keith Bruning, a young genius who hires Joe to work for him without actually expecting him to do much of anything; he’s the idea man, but he doesn’t want to lose his budget for hiring new employees, so he hires people and basically lets them just sit there. Joe’s not comfortable with that, though, and after an accidental but fortuitous encounter with Dan Burroughs (Pileggi), the owner of the company, he manages to get more involved with the idea side of things. The relationship between Joe and Keith is rarely less than tense, and Keith’s prone to acting batshit crazy on a semi-regular basis, making for some very interesting scenes, to say the least.
If you’ve been watching “Medium” for the last six years, these are the sorts of storylines that keep you coming back, since they’ve done a fantastic job of spreading the wealth around the show’s ensemble. D.A. Davalos has a plum, if depressing, storyline this year, focusing on the anniversary of his daughter’s suicide, and at long last, Detective Lee Scanlon ties the knot. (It’s about damned time!) As usual, there are great guest stars, including Teri Polo, Martha Plimpton, Fisher Stevens, Aida Turturro, Laura Prepon, and Diedrich Bader, who gets to play dozens of characters in the silly but funny "Will the Real Fred Rovick Please Stand Up?" There’s also a cool Halloween episode in which the cast enters the original “Night of the Living Dead” in an extremely effective manner.
It may be six years on, but “Medium” continues to be as funny, sweet, creepy, and thrilling as ever, with one of the most realistic portrayals of family and marriage on television. Better yet, unlike its predecessor, Season Six wraps up in such a way that, had it been the last, fans would’ve walked away happy. But, thankfully, they don’t have to.
Special Features: It’s always a bit disappointing when a show with a verbose creator – in this case, Glenn Gordon Caron – puts out a full-season set without any audio commentaries, but at least you can see that a considerable degree of care went into the creation of the featurettes for “Medium: The Sixth Season.” The five featurettes are spread across the set’s five discs (though they’re not actually split up to offer one per disc), offering insight into particular episodes (“Zombies on the Loose: The Making of ‘Bite Me’” and “The 100th Episode of ‘Medium’: A Celebration”) and the aforementioned creator (“The Mind Behind ‘Medium’: Patricia Arquette interviews ‘Medium’ Series Creator Glenn Gordon Caron”). Also included are looks into the twins who play Marie (“Non-Fat Double ‘Medium’”) and the music of the series. No gag reel or deleted scenes, though. Oh, well.