''I see the truth,'' yelps Allison DuBois on NBC's new midseason drama Medium. ''It's like a frickin' television show!'' And a pretty stylish one at that. Based on real-life clairvoyant Allison DuBois, Medium's psychic dreams of the future and speaks with the dead who crowd her days, à la The Sixth Sense. DuBois is played by Patricia Arquette, who, with her predawn voice and pale, jigsaw beauty, has attracted otherworldly roles in the past, from Stigmata to Nightmare on Elm Street 3. Should Medium's initial ratings hold, she'll join Crossing Jordan's Jill Hennessy and Cold Case's Kathryn Morris as the leads of quietly booming, female-driven detective series.
A flustered, oft-gloomy mother of three, Allison is energized when she begins using her powers to help catch killers for the Phoenix district attorney (the always great Miguel Sandoval, who costarred with Arquette in 2002's Human Nature). Why TV's psychics always see abducted children and knife-wielding killers rather than birthday parties and folks going grocery shopping is a question that remains...a mystery.
Elegantly filmed, Medium is quite eerie when it stays within the chilly purview of its star. When she's murmuring to a child molester that she can see the man who molested him...and the man who molested him...in a line of abuse dating back past the 1950s, Arquette's innate hush is an asset. But when she's called on to let loose in fury at her failure to predict a hurricane that washed away evidence, well, Arquette doesn't really do fury the whole, crucial scene feels like a good-night kiss that lands on an ear.
What Arquette does do handily is banter with costar Jake Weber, who makes up for his Mind of the Married Man wrongdoing as Allison's playfully doting husband. Not only is he a rock, he's a rocket scientist, and he sends out necessary test balloons of doubt whenever Allison feels too unimpeachable about her powers. There's a soothing flow between husband and wife, a tug of mundanity and humor and sex that makes the show feel weighted and lived-in, despite its intimate dealings with the unliving.