Tuesday, January 04, 2005

The medium is the message

In related criticism of the hour-long scripted drama genre, I caught the pilot of NBC's Medium last night. It seems promising, despite all the expected cliches; the only thing I'd change would be to actually show the ghosts the psychic of the title, Allison Dubois, talks with, on a more regular basis. Of five or six times she received information from the spirits, the actual conversation was shown only twice. Admittedly, one of the scenes without such visuals (interrogating a teenage child molester, describing the ghost of his own prior abuser and the abuser's abuser, and so on, as invisibly filling the room) was probably all the more effective for it. However, the others wouldn't have suffered for a more demonstrative means of exposition. What did strike me - as something I'd thought network TV might have learned to keep a handle on in the last few years, let alone in the two months - was just how much derision was shown for red states by the smugly superior lead, and the plot in itself. Having contacted the Texas Rangers about a vision she's had about a crime committed in Texas, Dubois is flown out from her home (California?) to help. From the moment the airplane carrying her is shown over baked-earth plains, the soundtrack starts up with twangy bluegrass, and doesn't really quit until she's back home. When she lands, the suspicious local Ranger captain outlines the crime's circumstances, before demanding to know how and why Dubois is privy to such minute details thereof; his "Are you understanding me so far?" is met with a haughty "I speak English...and you do a passable job yourself, yeah." Captain Push (Jeebus, guys; did "Captain Shrub" seem too obvious today, or something?) is portrayed as a grade-A jackass, a fumbling redneck who claims to be a "career crimininalolagist." Push quizzes Dubois on which of a number of crime scenes are real and staged to test her psychic cred, at one point taking her to a one-room shack whose sole contents are an unmade bed and a nightstand covered with condoms; her comment is "Something happened here, all right - but I don't think it was any crime. At least not where I come from." The antipathy towards Texas - quaint land of highways, dusty fields, motels, and prisons, populated only by drooling perverts and cowboy-hat-wearing hicks - is almost palpable. Sure, the pilot had to have been shot long before the election, before it was more or less realized that this kind of big-media contempt for half of America just might have been a factor in the outcome, but I'm sure some minor editing could have been done in the past two months. A disquieting thought: What if it already has been, and this is what's left?

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