The psychic soccer mom we love

The most supernatural thing about "Medium" is how Allison DuBois manages work and family.

Published October 25, 2005 5:32PM (EDT)

At least one of us at Broadsheet felt way vindicated when Patricia Arquette, the petite actress beloved for starring as a hirsute naturalist in the indie flick "Human Nature," won an Emmy for her work on NBC's Monday night hit "Medium." "Medium," you ask? Isn't that a show about a woman who talks to dead people? Well, yes, it is. But after watching another excellent episode last night, Broadsheet had to tell you: "Medium" is also just about the best portrayal of the modern family -- and marriage -- you'll find on network TV.

The show follows wife and mother of three Allison DuBois -- a character based on a real-life woman of the same name -- as she wrestles with the premonitions and dreams that lead her to shallow graves, kidnapped children, murder suspects and other crime scenes. Although she's had visions her whole life, she's only recently begun to understand them and attempted to put them to use. Allison is a law student, and as she works her way through school, she's assisting the Phoenix D.A., using her visions to help trap criminals, ferret out liars' testimony and track down the missing.

If it sounds like too much hocus-pocus, hold on. "Medium" is as much about how to negotiate family and a new, exciting career as it is about spirits. (There's a reason why NBC has branded DuBois "America's favorite psychic soccer mom.") Between dream sequences -- which usually end with Allison shooting up in bed, waking up her grumbling husband, Joe -- Allison and Joe are busy negotiating who will pick up the kids when, getting dinner on the table, who will feed the baby. Their chaos is familiar, in a good way, and there's love shot through everything in this family -- even the yelling. Joe, a busy aerospace engineer, is frequently exasperated with Allison's dashing about and hurried schedule. It's obvious that the earlier years of this couple's marriage were easier: The lines between husband and wife were more clearly delineated, and Joe (played by the delightfully gentle Jake Weber) felt more comfortable.

But Allison is unwavering in her determination to work. The satisfaction she feels when she helps solve a complicated case -- especially when a life is at stake -- is a part of her life she won't forsake. Yet she's also a committed mother who treats her young girls -- who are also starting to have visions -- with a respect and tenderness that seems way more real world than you usually get with TV families. Broadsheet could go on and on. Instead, tune in next Monday at 8 p.m. on NBC (it's a Halloween triple-header!) and see for yourself.

By Hillary Frey

Hillary Frey is the Books editor at Salon.

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