My roommate has acquired DVDs of the show Medium, and we’ve been slowly working our way through episodes. The show is a drama about Allison DuBois (played by Patricia Arquette), a psychic who consults for a District Attorney’s office, and apparently is loosely based on an actual person. Ms. Arquette recently won an Emmy for her role in the series, an award which I must reluctantly concede was likely well-deserved.

Allision Dubois is portrayed as a mother, wife, and (initially) law student in Arizona. Upon growing acceptance of her paranormal abilities, she chooses not to pursue law school, and instead finds herself using her abilities as a special consultant to the DA. As the series progress, we see her struggle to come to terms with the impact of her dreams and visions both in her family life as well as in her profession.

Earlier, I used the word ‘reluctantly’. During the inevitable armchair strategizing that accompanies any television show with less-than-perfect characters, I came to realize that my observations were not finding fault with the writing of the episodes. Indeed, both the writing and the acting seemed all too realistic, and therein lay the problem. I was bothered that Allison showed doubt, hesitation, and all the other human emotions that I suppose are to be expected in her circumstances. She got moody, she made irrational choices, and she made decisions based on fallacious logic.

The criminal justice system sees the fractures in society, the edge cases and boundaries of what is considered right and just. If we are to draw bounds to define humanity, this is undoubtedly where they would be drawn. Paradoxically, this is perhaps the worst place for human frailty and weakness to be displayed. As the audience, we are shown, and encouraged to accept any excesses as necessary in the pursuit of justice.

What bothered me the most was the episode in which Allison assisted in jury selection. If we accept the show’s premise, we have a case in which near-omniscience has been applied to the sentencing phase of a trial but not to the conviction itself. This breakdown reveals a preoccupation with individual cases, and a lack of recognition that the justice system itself is something more than bureaucratic scaffolding. Had she applied her abilities to the prisoner directly and confirmed his guilt for herself, I would not have been so disappointed.

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