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Monday, February 18, 2008


If you've been listening lately, you've heard Tassoula and I argue over the relative merits of FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS and MEDIUM, both TV (gasp) shows on NBC. Tassoula had the audacity to state that Medium was just as good as FNL, adding insult to injury by saying that the interaction between the husband and wife in Medium was at least as compelling and honest as the interaction between Tami and Eric Taylor of Dillon, Texas on Friday Night Lights. The Peabody Award winning Friday Night Lights.

But who was I to ridicule her statements without having actually seen MEDIUM for myself. I'm not exactly against paranormal stuff--I was an X-Files geek back in the day. I'm not opposed to police procedurals as I still consider HOMICIDE, NYPD BLUE, and HILL ST. BLUES cornerstones of the television medium (get it?).

So I downloaded the first season. And I just finished watching two episodes. We've received some listener feedback that says that I really should give it a chance. Now I have. I skipped the pilot because they're usually different in tone than the rest of the first year. For those of you keeping score at home,

1-3 A Couple Of Choices -- newlywed husbands and wives found dead -- police believe husbands shot wives, then themselves -- detective and Allison think otherwise.
1-4 Night Of The Wolf -- woman gives wrong description to police artist while Allison sees what the guy really looked like -- meanwhile Allison's youngest daughter sees dead people.

(We taped the Top Ten of 2007 Cinebanter today and Tassoula incorrectly said that Medium was in its second year. It's in its 4th).

I don't know if these two that I chose randomly are thought of as good or bad, but I wanted some episode which were shown relatively early in the run of the series.


--Medium has way too much blood. Both episodes I saw included someone being shot in the head, while a witness was sprayed with blood and tissue. The first episode included dozens and dozens of crime scene photos. The world needs more happy dramas like FNL and fewer depressing and violent dramas like M. Quote from first episode, "I felt my wife's blood and pieces of her skin on me." Quote from second episdoe, "I felt pieces of his brain on me." Very nice.

--Medium was too easy to figure out. I anticipated dialogue before the characters said it. They have to solve the crime in the 44 minutes alloted, they can't wait around for nuance. In the first episode, I knew the wedding photo was key; In the second, I knew what the dialogue during the phone call would be.

--Because of the time constraints, M needs to hurry up after the last commercial to explain what happened or who is guilty. Or just have a witness come to her senses with two minutes left. Plot of every episode: woman dreams something, finds out how it's related to case, has info that she can't share, rest of police force comes around to her way of thinking, bad guy caught.

--There is some good stuff here. The couple is cute together. You might remember Jake Weber as the oversexed friend on MIND OF THE MARRYING MAN on HBO. He's British, which explains his accent on the show. However, just because the couple talks in bed and tease each other and raise two realistically loud children, does not in any way put it anywhere near the interaction of Eric and Tami. FNL doesn't have a script. They make up the dialogue, they speak over each other, they get angry and make up. M has the couple wait for their turn to speak their lines.

--Good jokes about the "Superhero status" of the mom. Hard to surprise, easy to joke with. She has special powers.

--The D.A. was the bad guy in MURDER ONE. He's good here.

--Husband is a good man and father. He seems to be a nice guy and they are good for each other.

--Dream at the beginning is a fine opening device.

--One last thing. I've seen two episodes of M so far. I've met Star, husband, daughter, other daughter, D.A., and a detective who I'm not sure shows up again. That's six characters plus the extras who show up for one week appearances. By this time in FNL, I'd met Coach, Tami, daughter, Lyla, tall hot girl, Smash, QB1, QB2, Riggins, geeky friend, grandma, car dealer guy, sports radio guy, and all kinds of extra teenagers, parents, and coaches. The stories are so much more varied than M. FNL is the story of a small, rural town and all its inhabitants. M is the story of a woman who sees things.

--Medium doesn't stand a chance against topics like racism, steroids, born-again Christians, Mexican immigrants, hero worship, infidelity, paralysis, later-life pregnancy, heartbreak, mother-daughter competition, virginity, and high school football. No way.




Blogger Tassoula said...

To respond:

Michael, you've mentioned on the show that you're not into paranormal stuff, so I was led to believe this was one of your main reasons for avoiding the show. I'm glad to hear of your X-Files confession.

Thank you for watching it. I appreciate you giving it a shot.

Re: it being in it's second year; we're both right. It began in 2005...and had it not been bumped to mid-season (January) it would've only been on for two years. That said, they 'split' seasons on NBC (just like the Sopranos did in their last years). So while it may technically be the 'fourth' season we've just started, it is still only two years old. It began in the fall season of 2005. I should've talked you into it back then, before we had a show. If I had, maybe we wouldn't be having this fight now.

Your statement "Medium has too much blood" is a valid point, but if you say that, you have to say that about your beloved Wire too. And my beloved Dexter. There's too much blood everywhere, but I don't think it's gratuitous on any of the shows I mention above because they're all cop shows of some sort.

"Too easy to figure out." Sometimes I feel this way too, but it depends on the week. They've had a few to-be-continued cliffhangers and I'll admit that added a lot of excitement.

They have three children; not two (but the youngest is just a baby in season 1, so you may not have seen her much). Not your fault.

I do think because you watched such early ones, you didn't get to see the more realistic banter from the couple. At the end of last season, both of them lost their jobs for different reasons, which created crazy tension in the household and those exchanges were much less "light" (and I specifically remember some interrupting).

The detective does stay on as a supporting character, and people (Allison's brother, a Texas Ranger she made friends with on an early case, etc.) come in and out as they would in real life. I don't think having 15 characters on an hour-long show is necessary unless the topic warrants it (on FNL, and other school-based shows, it does).

The point you make about Medium not standing a chance against FNL because it doesn't tackle the topics you listed below...I think sometimes FNL tries TOO hard to tackle the big stuff, when really, their strength is the relationships on the show (not just the married couple, but parent to child, coach to student, etc.) See how I agreed with you there?

Plus, Medium focuses on 'big topics' in more subtle ways. They've covered alcoholism, rape, blindness, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and stalking. I'm sure there are more heavy-hitters to come, but it's not something I look for each week.

To conclude - I never said FNL was a bad show. I started watching it after Michael badgered me to give it a shot and I loved the first season. This season, one particular storyline took a ridiculous turn and I quit watching; Medium has remained more consistent in my opinion, with the characters progressing naturally in response to their circumstances.

Granted, FNL is more soap-opera like in that each episode is a cliffhanger. But while Medium ties up each "case" (with few exceptions) in each hour, the family portion of the show (which is how this argument started) progresses each week much like FNL.

Nonetheless, I hope Michael watches a few more episodes and gets some enjoyment out of it.

And I hope our listeners will join in this lively discussion.

6:10 PM  
Blogger Chase said...

Sounds like FNL is not long for this world. Maybe the Medium can speak to it from beyond the TV grave? Sounds like a crossover episode destined for success.

12:00 PM  

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