It might not get a lot of hype, but NBC’s “Medium” has quietly turned into one of the network’s most reliable bench performers.
The drama about a psychic (Patricia Arquette) balancing her family life and her special powers gets very little help from the network’s promotions department. The past few seasons, NBC hasn’t even seen fit to put the show on its fall lineup, saving it for midseason.
Despite that, “Medium” still reliably draws around 7.5 million viewers every week, often surpassing its “Heroes” lead-in. The show doesn’t do quite as well in the key adults 18-49 demographic, but it’s more than held its own opposite tough competition such as “CSI: Miami” and “The Bachelor.”
Given fourth-place NBC’s myriad of woes, having a steady performer like “Medium” in its arsenal has proven to be something of a gift for the network.
The man behind “Medium” is Glenn Gordon Caron, the creator of ABC’s 1980s classic “Moonlighting.” He recently took a break from preparations for the “Medium” season finale to talk to TelevisionWeek deputy editor and columnist Josef Adalian via e-mail about his show’s never-say-die performance, those rumors of a “Moonlighting” movie and why he still hasn’t watched “Battlestar Galactica.”
TelevisionWeek: So “Medium” is now officially the longest-running show of your career. You’ve done shows that have ended quickly, as well as a hit show that ended earlier than many fans would have liked. What’s allowed “Medium” to go the distance?
Glenn Gordon Caron: I think the ability to enjoy long-running success with any television show is a happy confluence of talent and circumstance. “Moonlighting” was an enormous hit, but its ambitions … or perhaps my ambitions for it, ultimately doomed it.
I didn’t understand how to make a television series, and frankly didn’t want to understand. I wanted to make a movie every week and that’s what we did. To some extent I exhausted the system and certainly some of the talent involved, and when they finally got rid of me the thing sadly imploded.
Many years later, with “Medium,” I think I had finally learned how to do a television show. I now enjoy the limitations of the medium. I think I’ve learned how to use them to the show’s advantage. I am also blessed with very gifted collaborators, and in Patricia Arquette I have a star who is just as big a perfectionist and just as much a snob as I am.
TVWeek: “Medium” has sometimes appeared to be an afterthought to NBC; no one executive has ever claimed ownership of the show and trumpeted it. And yet, you’ve hung in there. Does this prove that buzz is overrated in TV?
Mr. Caron: I honestly have no idea what it proves. I’m just grateful that NBC finds a place for us every year.
TVWeek: Do you wish NBC did more to make “Medium” a bigger presence on its air? You’ve mentioned in other interviews that the fact that it’s not owned by NBC has contributed to a lack of promotion on behalf of the show.
Mr. Caron: It is simply a fact of life that networks are going to spend more money promoting shows they “own” than in shows they “rent.” The problem becomes more complicated when the renter also has a network of their own and is reticent to spend money promoting a product that they will ultimately have to compete with. And that’s why God invented 3-D episodes and big guest stars.
TVWeek: What sort of odds would you set on a sixth season of the show? How have you handled the season finale?
Mr. Caron: Our finale is without question our most provocative ever. As for whether we’ll be back or not, I think we have proven that even if you don’t schedule us in the fall, if there’s a weakness in the schedule our show can come on and bring back a sizable and reliable audience. I think NBC knows that that’s a valuable asset to have in your portfolio.
TVWeek: You’ve had some amazing guest stars on the show. Anyone still on your dream list?
Mr. Caron: Of course. But half the fun is in the surprise and I’d rather not ruin anything…
TVWeek: If there is a season six, what can fans look forward to?
Mr. Caron: Without giving away our season ender, it’s difficult to discuss. Suffice it to say, we’ve only begun to scratch the surface of the stories to tell.
TVWeek: Is it easier or harder to produce a primetime show compared to when you did “Moonlighting”? Everything seemed more fun back in the 1980s.
Mr. Caron: It’s always hard to make a good show. But it’s also great fun. The technology has certainly made it easier to do things that I used to dream about back in the ’80s. Mixing animation and live-action. Using special effects to enhance storytelling. We live in a wonderful moment to be a filmmaker and a dreamer.
TVWeek: Speaking of “Moonlighting,” this May will mark 20 years since Blue Moon shut down. Are you finally ready to consider “Moonlighting: The Movie?” Or at least a reunion special?
Mr. Caron: I get asked this all the time, and frankly I am very conflicted about it. I don’t really know what a “reunion special” is, though I suspect it’s one of those Godawful things where we all stand around and pat ourselves on the back and attempt to ignore the fact that we’ve all gotten older, and the thought of being involved with something like that just makes me sad. As for a “Moonlighting” movie, that’s more complicated. Never say never, I suppose.
TVWeek: Are there any shows on TV right now that are” can’t miss” for you? Any other writers who excite you?
Mr. Caron: When I’m doing a show it’s very hard to watch other shows. Having said that, I wait breathlessly for “Curb Your Enthusiasm” to start each year. When “The Sopranos” was on I was jealous of the time and care they were afforded. People don’t talk about it much, but whenever I happen to catch an episode of “ER,” I’m reminded of what a great show it is. I think John Wells is an amazing producer. I am a bad friend and tend to stack DVDs of friends’ shows on my desk to watch at a later date. Three years after it went on the air, I finally watched J.J. [Abrams]’ pilot for “Alias” and I was humbled by it. Man, is he good. I keep making dates with myself to watch “Mad Men,” “The Wire,” “Battlestar Galactica.” Someday.
TVWeek: Whenever “Medium” wraps up, what will you do next? Do you have an idea for a new show?
Mr. Caron: I am working on several things. Bruce Willis and I have a movie up our sleeves. I am also working on a comedy with a very talented guy you never heard of who you’ll be talking about soon named Andrew Gurland. I have several series ideas in the works and have optioned a couple of books that I’d love to make into films. I am simultaneously excited and panicked by the idea of actually having the free time to get any of these things done.