I have to give the producers of Medium credit. They continue to come up with ingenious plots. On Monday, February 14, 2005, we had a case of a young woman who committed suicide. That was the ruling, from the beginning. And it was right. But the reason for her suicide and exactly what led up to it were what gave the case its twist. The preliminaries were teased out by our heroine Allison Dubois through dreams the victim kept sending her from beyond the grave. You'd think that she might just tell Allison straight out. But that's not how these things work, at least, not all the time. These cases have set me to wondering how our view of the world and our theories of justice would be changed if we had a chance to talk to the people who have died recently. Might their last minute conclusions be different from the way we see things after they've gone. There are times when I wish we could consult the dead more fully than we do. But I guess that would interfere with the most popular of our current philosophical nostrums: we have to move on.

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The new crime series on CBS, Medium, is creepy by design, featuring as it does a good-natured, commonsensical housewife who also has the ability to tell what others are thinking and who frequently talks to dead people. But the episode for February 7, 2005, got more creepy than usual because it involved crimes that will not be committed until seven years in the future. The evil doer in this case was a seemingly sterling citizen who goes out of his way to help people. But our heroine detected evil in his heart and was invested with the name of a fourteen year old girl  he will murder when she's twenty-one. The producers are playing with a concept that's being increasingly discussed among psychiatrists -- that some people are intrinsically evil and there's nothing to be done about them except to lock them up. If they have the freedom to kill, they will kill. Furthermore, there are signs that reveal who these people are. No psychiatrist I know of claims the ability to discover them the way Alison does -- through dreams and visions. But some do claim the ability to give a person a test and tell, thereby, whether he's a psychopath. This, to say the least, is an extremely dangerous idea which, if it takes hold in society, is bound to be misused horribly. Clinicians who think evils deeds can be stopped by testing people are devoid of historical imagination. That many TV producers suffer from the same deficiency I guess we can take for granted.

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A "medium" -- according to one definition -- is somebody who can talk to dead people. I don't know if there are people who can do that but, evidently, enough of us think it might be so that it keeps the concept alive. On TV, it's latest manifestation is a new series, titled (guess what) Medium, which had its premiere episode last night (January 3, 2005). I wouldn't go so far as to say it's must-see TV, but it's a reasonably watchable program that shouldn't disgust an idle hour. And on television nowadays, that's pretty good. The best thing about it is the acting, which is subdued enough to seem real. Patricia Arquette plays the person with special powers, a character said to be based on the real Allison DuBois. What Ms. DuBois has actually done, I don't know. I suppose I could try to find out but, for the moment, I'm content to let her ability to see into dark regions come to me through fictional representation.

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