Last night, in a horrific ending to a truly great television program, “Medium” concluded its successful seven-year run on network television.  CBS rescued the show after a five-year run on NBC; but after two seasons on its network, CBS drew down the hammer and cancelled the show.

Medium starred Patricia Arquette as Allison DuBois, mother of three, who would dream of horrible murders and help solve them.  Her perfect husband, Joe, played by Jake Weber, held the family together with resolve and a rumpled, lovable, gumption.

For some reason, Medium executive producer Glen Gordon Caron, decided to end his television series with a cruel final episode that felt more like an “F-U!” to CBS than as a proper farewell to a faithful audience.

Medium was always about the vindication of victimization.  Allison would dream about a tragedy and help resolve it with the police and District Attorney.  The triumph of goodness over evil was the human centerpiece of every episode.  In the end, Medium betrayed its own moral mandate for a temporary, and brittle, revenge by killing Joe.

For Caron to decide, in his last gasp, to kill Joe in a plane crash and make Allison and her children suffer without a father — was unjustified in the context of the virtue of the show. Sure, killing Joe is an easy means to an irrevocableTwilight Zone ending, but it was unfaithful to the emotional merits of the entire series.

Joe said good-bye to his wife, but not his three children?  That would never happen.  Joe was always the stand-up-and-do-right father and and put-upon Darren Stevens-like Bewitched husband, and he was never intentionally cruel to anyone.  To have Joe selfishly create a false dream to help Allison grieve was so far out of the wonder of his character that it didn’t make any sense.

There is no way around the added-on sappy ending that Allison lived 41 years without Joe, and even though they were reunited in the end after her death, you still cannot get over the fact that their children and grandchildren were cheated out of growing up and older with Joe in their lives.  Sure, that happens in real life all the time, but Medium was never about the duality of real life.  Medium was about singularly setting things right that go awry in life in ways in which we are unable to abide in our personal station.

The final credits for the show were touching, but full of remorse.  Not our remorse, but rather Glen Gordon Caron’s clear remorse for ruining our vested faith in his franchise by killing Joe.  Having each cast member “wave goodbye” to us as actors, and not their on screen characters, was a cheat of a way out of an unconscionable mess.  “Oh, come on,” the final credits cry, “Don’t be sad Joe died.  None of this was real.  We’re just actors!”

The written notification that the “real” Allison DuBois and her husband and children are still alive and well put the nut on the rusty bolt that we’d been played for seven years by Glen Gordon Caron, and he was having his final twist of revenge at our expense in the farewell episode.

Now let me take a moment to share a personal reflection about Jake Weber and what a great guy and actor he is in every way.

In the late 1980’s I was a graduate student in theatre at Columbia University in the City of New York, and Jake was a rising actor at the Juilliard School.  One of the first shows I saw after moving to New York to attend Columbia was an Off-Broadway spectacular called “Road” and Jake was one of its young stars.  The show was set in a warehouse theatre and the audience was seated on all four sides — arena style — but we were seated on a single balcony level, so the entire play happened below us.  It was an amazing way to watch a play and I was moved by the spectacle.

Jake was the star of Road.  He was electrifying and dangerous and you always wanted to see more of him.

I was so moved by Jake’s performance that I knew I had to have him in a reading of one of my plays at Columbia.  I looked him up in the Manhattan phone book and found him — right there! — with a telephone number and address.  I called and Jake picked up the phone.  I told him who I was and how much I’d enjoyed him in Road and he was gracious.

When I told him I wanted him to do a reading of one of my plays, he gently turned me down.  I pressed him a bit and said I’d make arrangements so he’d only have to show up one night to read in performance, no rehearsal required, and I even offered him everything I had in the world — $20.00USD cash — if he would only show up and read the lead role for me.  The trip from Lincoln Center to 125th Street, I argued, was only about a 12 minute subway ride away.  I wasn’t quite begging Jake, but I sure was trying my best to plead with him.

Most people would have start yelling at me at that point or just hung up the phone — that’s the New York Style of doing business, but Jake was born in England, so perhaps he has a more refined system of core values that those surrounding him — and Jake again, kindly, refused saying he’d missed a lot of classes at Juilliard and that my performance date conflicted with one of his classes.

Jake said he was on academic probation at Juilliard and that if he “missed one more class for any reason” he would be summarily dismissed from the program.  Jake didn’t have to share those personal details with me, but he did, and I didn’t feel rejected as a Playwright, I felt disappointed by the system.

I was heartbroken, because I knew Jake was a great talent and he would’ve made my show so much better.  I thanked him for his time and patience.

Who knew, 20 years later, that Jake Weber would break my heart a second time by dying, and successfully killing off the legacy of a wonderful television show?

Killing Joe DuBois in the final Medium episode forever poisons the rerun pool for the show — and perhaps that’s just fine by the miserable Glen Gordon Caron — but for the millions of fans who faithfully watched the show each week — well, we’ll never be able to see the show again with the same innocence because we still have Caron’s final “F-U!” ringing in our eyes: Joe dies in the end, and we’re watching a corpse stumble through his life until his unjustified killing takes him away from the family we used to love almost as much as our own.

12 Comments

    1. Hi Jacob —

      Thank you for your touching comment. Yes, the final Medium episode story was strange and intricately written — but it didn’t much match the tone or timbre of the entire Medium series — the final show was hopelessly out-of-phase, and that’s not a clean way to put a great series to a fruitful end. I don’t really blame the writers because they only write over the bones of which they are given by the producer. This last script had Glen Gordon Caron written all over it — and he was one of the credited writers for the episode.

      Sometimes I think it’s best to just let a show end mid-stream without notification instead of trying to tie everything up into a single bow. Pre-planned final episodes like Medium’s tend to be twisted and colored by external factors like revenge and hurt feelings — and all that then plays an unfair major role in the construction of the farewell episode — and the danger in that dying is that it taints everything upstream that came before it that made the show what it was in our hearts.

  1. I’m so sorry to see the end of this, David. I so enjoyed the show. It seems like at the end they were setting up this for Joe though, right? There was some tension about him that I didn’t like so much.

    1. Yes, Anne, you’re right there was some clunky, out-of-character foreshadowing for Joe’s character. He was a little meaner and frustrated with Allison. He *almost* cheated on her. None of his anger ever felt right or genuine, though. She had a brain aneurysm, after all!

      When Joe’s mother died, she made a comment to Allison about something terrible happening in the future, but refused to tell Allison — and us! — what she “meant.” That’s was clunky. Now we know. It was tinny.

      There were also strange soundings coming out of the Medium television production camp that the characters would “get what was coming to them” or something like that in the end — and it all seemed rather ominous and stale and out of proportion for the goodness of the entire series.

      What a waste of a wonderful, final, mandate. How many shows get a planned opportunity to go out the right way and say a proper, but feasible, “goodbye” to their fans?

  2. David,

    It’s always sad when a television program ends on such a sad note. That was quite an amazing story about your encounter with Mr. Weber and a good lesson to all of us about how we should handle turning down opportunities we can’t take — not with rudeness and phone slamming but with the etiquette of a gentleman.

    I never watched Medium however I do think it strange that the actors would be waving goodbye at the end of the run.

    1. I didn’t know about Medium until Janna discovered the show several years ago. She likes Patricia Arquette. When I saw Jake Weber was part of the cast, I was sold. Jake had a hard role to hoe: He was the eternally supportive husband and always understanding dad. Not much variety of emotion in that, but he always make it work each week with great texture and believable motivation.

      Yes, the closing credit were really odd. The only explanation is that they were a panacea for the horrible killing of Joe. On its own merits, the final show was interesting — but as a closing memento for the entire series, it was a drastic failure.

  3. I never watched Medium when it ran on TV. Now with much more time on my hands I have been watching it addictively on Netflix from season one on. I’m only up to season 6 so haven’t yet seen Joe die but just read of it here. My heart is just breaking and yes I know they are only actors but that really was a pissy thing for the writer to have done. Joe Dubois was what I would call the perfect father and the perfect husband. A smart man of great integrity and to me gave me great hope that out there great men really do exist even if they do spent half their life in boxer shorts, take their own kids to school and could really use a haircut. Well you’ve ruined the dream for me Mr Caron. Now, if anyone is so very blessed to find their Joe Dubois, they will know that anything this good is either make believe or will come to an abrupt ugly end leaving devastation and heartache. You created the great integrity of Joe Dubois, and then like the typical mean ass kid you stomped all over and destroyed him when you weren’t getting your own way. I can’t help but hope someone does a Dallas tactic and Allison wakes up and it was all just an ugly dream.

    1. A year and a half later, I’m still disappointed with the end of the series, Cara. It still feels like all the time I invested in the show was wasted — it was a joke in the end. It’s a cruel way to end what was a warm and inspirational program.

  4. I was so heart broken over Joe’s demise. I even had trouble sleeping! I never watched in on tv. I started watching it on netflix down to the last devastating episode. So so sad that he was gone and wouldn’t be there for his children or grandchildren. I never looked up the show so I was completely taken away by his death. Why Joe?! Why?
    Alison really annoyed me sometimes, but I always loved Joe. Come back, Joe!

    1. To this day I am still stumped by how the show decided to wrap up — what had been — a warm and friendly family drama at its core.

      My only thought is the show somehow ended on bad terms behind-the-scenes, and the decision-makers decided to even some odd score with the network and basically kill everyone off and make it as if nothing ever really happened that we thought happened. The franchise was immediately cheapened, and poisoned, on purpose.