“Dead People Don’t Play Flip Cup”: The Nonsensical Pleasures of ABC Family’s ‘Monica the Medium’


“I spend most of my time with dead people, and dead people don’t play flip cup,” says Monica, early in the series premiere of ABC Family’s Monica the Medium, which aired Tuesday. If we were lucky, this would be a scripted dramedy about a hard-partying ghost attending a paranormal university. Instead, it’s ABC Family’s most ridiculous currently airing show — and you might love it.

If nothing else, the premise is original: Monica the Medium is a reality series about Monica, a junior in college who also happens to be a medium. She deals with a lot of the same stuff as her peers: roommate troubles, attractive boys, parental disapproval, etc. The difference? “My roommates don’t really know how hard it is balancing being a medium and a college student,” she laments at one point. Later, she is seemingly making eyes with a guy, only to explain that she’s feeling a spiritual energy from beyond that’s attached to him. The tension between Monica and her mother is not about grades or boozing; it’s about how talking to the dead might mean that Monica is possessed. At the very least, her mom is worried that she’s going against her religion.

The pilot episode introduces us to Monica and her college roommates — the thinker, the free spirit, the one who talks to dead people, etc. — as they’re prepping for one last summer party. At the party, during a game of flip cup, Monica feels the spirit of a partygoer’s father, recounts how the father died, and shares a message from the spirit. “It blew my mind. Hashtag: shocking,” the bro says eloquently.

The entire episode is full of unintentionally hilarious quotes like that. “It’s really hard trying to find a guy when you’re a medium and a college student,” says Monica. Later, in a department store: “I’m just trying to find a dress for tonight’s blind date when all of a sudden I kept hearing a spirit come through.” (At the store, she speaks to many spirits for employees and customers; at one point, someone marvels about how, through Monica, she learned that her grandparents want her to continue taking linguistics classes.)

One of the big stories this season, I suppose, is Monica trying to have fun and find a boyfriend during her junior year. It’s a problem that her medium-ness keeps interrupting. She can’t go shopping without being bombarded by spirits who want to say hi to their children or help a granddaughter pick out her course schedule. She can’t talk to a hot dude without seeing his father drowning in Panama. When her friends set her up on a blind date, the boy cancels last minute. “He found out,” Monica’s friend says ominously, “found out that you’re a medium and backed out of the date.” In an interview segment, Monica complains to the camera, “College boys suck. Once they find out I can talk to the dead, it freaks them out and then they’re long gone.”

Monica the Medium isn’t what you would call a must-see television show, and much of it that is obviously contrived — but it’s also the sort of programming that’s so entertainingly nonsensical you can’t look away from. It’s a college student who is a medium! She drinks beer and talks to the dead! She flirts with boys and summons spirits! It’s absolutely ridiculous, and I am on board for the entire season.