During NBC’s portion of the January TCA press tour, I spotted “Medium” creator Glenn Gordon Caron at the network’s cocktail party. I cornered him long enough to tell him how excited I was for the series to return, then I asked him why the show hadn’t scored its own panel that day, even though the miniseries “The Last Templar” had. Caron shrugged and acknowledged that “The Last Templar” was an NBC-Universal production and “Medium” wasn’t, but if he had anything else to say about his show’s home, he was polite enough to hold his tongue.
Now that “Medium” has found a new home on CBS…well, Caron’s still polite, but he doesn’t mind acknowledging that he had some problems with the way the show was underpromoted in its time on NBC. (He also didn’t mind getting off a one-liner about how “the last time we came here, NBC made us walk here.”)
“You know, it’s so hard in this environment to launch a show and sustain a show,” Caron acknowledged. “I think we’re all incredibly grateful to NBC, we were on their air for five years, and nobody wants to take shots. I think there were times along the way when everyone, even people inside NBC, thought, ‘Gee, maybe if we gave that show a little more attention, if we publicized it a little more vigorously, it might actually do better for us and might bring more viewers to the network.’ I don’t think there’s been any great secret there. It’s been written about; it’s been talked about. Having said that, we had five fairly fruitful years at NBC. Looking back, could things have been done differently? Absolutely. Ben (Silverman), who is actually a friend, said some harsh things I’m sure he regrets about our show…and, by the way, you guys play no role in this whatsoever.”
I’m just saying: there are critics who’ve been supportive of the show, and I’m definitely one of ‘em.
Okay, back to business.
“Truthfully, we’re grateful to NBC,” said Caron. “We had a nice run there. But the good news is we’re on CBS now, and for the first time in three years, we’re going to do 22 episodes. We’re beginning a season, knowing when we’re premiering: in the Fall and doing 22 episodes. And as a storyteller, that’s a huge thing. It means I can say to you, sir, ‘And on Halloween, we will be doing thus and so.’ That’s a luxury we’ve not had for three years, and those are the sorts of things that are frustrating when you’re doing a show. But it beats not working.”
Indeed, it does. But as happy as he was about bringing the show to CBS (it’s perfect, really, since it’s a CBS production, anyway), Caron did at least try to keep the show where it was by writing a cliffhanger ending to the Season 5 finale…not that the plan actually worked.
“What I was trying to do was write an ending that was so provocative that it would be impossible to cancel the show,” he explained. “You saw how that worked out. It was sort of me being a wiseguy, frankly, and really trying to stack the deck in such a way. And for what it’s worth, NBC was complicit. We don’t make the shows in secret. I said, ‘This is what I’m going to do: she’s going to have a brain tumor, she’s going to go into a coma, and we’re going to put up a sign that says, ‘To be continued.’ And they said, ‘Great.’”
Caron gave us a big scoop, by the way.
“There’s so many of you here, I guess I can let the cat out of the bag: she comes out of the coma,” he revealed, with a grin. “And she’s on a different network. It’s the damnedest thing!”
Caron’s pleased about the series that “Medium” has been paired with on CBS, but how can he not, really? I mean, could there be a more perfect companion show than “Ghost Whisperer”?
“I think ‘Ghost Whisperer’ is clearly a show that people really like,” he acknowledges. “And, frankly, given our history, it’s nice to follow a show that people really like. And ‘Numb3rs’ is also a very, very well-done show. So it’s nice to be part of a night of entertainment that clearly works for people.”
In terms of what else we can expect from the upcoming sixth season, Caron played things relatively close to the vest, but he did offer up a bit of information, specifically about the episode which will air immediately prior to Halloween as well as a tidbit about an upcoming guest director.
“It’s actually the vestige of an idea that I had way back when I was doing ‘Moonlighting,’” he explained. “When I was doing ‘Moonlighting,’ we had bought the rights to this old AIP drive-in movie, ‘Mothra vs. Godzilla,’ and we were going to mat Bruce and Cybill into it, but it was one of those ideas I just never got around to doing. So this year we’ve actually gotten the rights to the original ‘Night of the Living Dead,’ and we’re going to insert Patricia into it. It’s going to be sort of the landscape of her dreams during that particular episode. That’s one of the things that we have going on.
“As always, we have interesting people come to play with us, interesting people coming to direct the shows and act in the shows. Marc Webb, who just finished directing ’500 Days of Summer,’ the one thing he wants to do is direct an episode of ‘Medium,’ so I said, ‘Well, okay, if you really want to.’ And he’s going to come play with us. You know, we mix it up as we go along. Ours is a show that we really try and leave ourselves open to the possibilities that come along, as opposed to locking ourselves in for an entire season with a game plan. It’s always worked for us, particularly because we have three young people who are constantly changing and growing, and we want to take advantage of those things.”
In closing, I thought I’d include some comments that Caron and Arquette had to say about the suggestion that NBC’s biggest issue with “Medium” was that there wasn’t enough of a fan buzz about the series. In fact, when the matter came up, Arquette leapt into the fray before Caron could even open his mouth.
“I just want to say that the same way that we were sort of led to believe we were going to get picked up, I think our audience was also led to believe that to some extent,” she said. “And I know on all of the bloggings and all of the fan sites, that was early stories that they had picked up and then ran with that. So I don’t think our audience ever felt we were in jeopardy of not getting picked up.”
“I think it’s probably a more complicated conversation than we have time for here,” noted Caron, “but the short version is I think sometimes people make a mistake and think we are in the buzz business. We’re not in the buzz business. We are in the broadcasting business, which when you do it right is a very long-term business. You are talking about telling a hundred-chapter story.
“Also, because there are so many different ways for audiences now to communicate with storytellers, I think that we get sort of myopic. We say, ‘If we are not getting Twitters, then we are not being effective.’ The truth is, people communicate in a whole variety of ways and different audiences in different ways, and we consume, we experience shows in different ways. So, you know, a great example being…and I’m not casting aspersions, but ‘Chuck’ is a really, really good show that NBC has attempted to launch twice and only really been able to bring a certain locus of people to. Now, those people have created a tremendous amount of buzz about that show, but that hasn’t translated into people actually watching the show. So, at the end of the day, you have to say, ‘Okay, very effective buzz, but what does that say about the worthiness of the show on the schedule?’ Our show…I don’t know quite how to quantify the buzz. Clearly, for NBC, we didn’t create as much buzz as ‘Chuck,’ but we did attract more viewers. So it was their choice to make.”
I dare say that millions of “Medium” fans believe it was the wrong choice…but, hey, the show is still on the air, it’s on the network that actually owns it, and it’s actually paired with a show that it should be paired with. Seems like a win to me.