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"Ghost Whisperer" Review

By Shawn McKenzie 11/12/2005

I have decided not to let other critics try to influence my opinions.  Okay, I’m not a robot…I can make up my own mind obviously, but sometimes the opinions of other critics make me dread watching a movie or a TV show.  Almost every critic said that CBS’s “Ghost Whisperer” wasn’t a good show, so when I finally got the opportunity to watch my TiVo’ed episodes of the show, I really liked it.

When Melinda Gordon (Grace Fulton, Melinda as a young girl) was little, she saw dead people, but rather than be freaked out by them, she used her ability to help people by communicating with them and resolving unfinished business with the living before they crossed over into Heaven or wherever.  They were “Earthbound spirits” her grandmother (June Squibb), who had the gift as well, used to call them.  Now that she is an adult, Melinda (Jennifer Love Hewitt) still sees ghosts, but she doesn’t always understand her powers.  The living don’t always believe that she sees ghosts (they think that she is a con artist), and the dead don’t always believe that they are really dead.  She recently became married to Jim Clancy (David Conrad), a paramedic working at Mercy Hospital, and she moved with him to a small town called Grandview.  Jim decided to become a paramedic after watching his younger brother Dan (Rodney Scott) die when they were children in an accident.  He is supportive of Melinda and her talents, but he only asks if she can balance it with the rest of the things in their life.  Currently, he has been busy renovating the house that they live in when he isn’t at work.  Melinda’s friend and business partner in their antique store called Same As It Never Was Antiques, Andrea Moreno (Aisha Tyler), knows about her powers as well, but isn’t always sure how to help her.  She was an assistant D.A. back in New York, but now she likes the small town life.  Melinda is sometimes confused by the messages given to her by the ghosts, but she always helps her clients, alive or dead, find their emotional closure before they go into the light (which only the ghost can see.)

The ghosts come in three versions:  silly, sweet, and (supposedly) scary.  The silly ones are the average-looking people whom Melinda doesn’t even realize is a ghost until they notice that she can see them (and they usually ask for simple things, like finding a safe deposit key in a raincoat pocket.)  The sweet ones aren’t scary, but they are sappy as heck.  They usually just want to tell a living loved one that they love them or they ask for their forgiveness.  The scary ones look like they just crawled out of the grave, and the ominous music plays in the background (followed by trippy dreams, a la NBC’s “Medium.”)  They don’t scare me, and so far, they never mean any harm to Melinda or anyone else (except when they try to encourage the living to do harm, when they make things explode to freak the living out, or when they want to mess with the living’s head by possessing them.)

John Gray created the show, and it is based in part on the work of medium James Van Praagh (who also serves as the co-executive producer for the show.)  It isn’t very scary, but it is heartwarming, which is an odd mixture.  I like to think of it more as a “Highway to Heaven”-type show rather than a “Touched By an Angel”-type show, only because the acting and writing is better.

No offense to Patricia Arquette, but I personally think that Hewitt is a better actress than she is (Arquette may have won the Emmy for Best Actress in “Medium,” but I was shocked that she was even nominated, much less won…and I like the show!)  Sure…Hewitt is obviously hot, and she doesn’t hide her ample assets in some of those tops she wears, but hotness doesn’t always translate into good acting.  She can be believable in her character, and her chemistry with Conrad is good.  He is just essentially a plot device, since he doesn’t have too many scenes, but I like him.  Tyler is another matter.  I liked her when she was the host of E!’s “Talk Soup,” but as an actress, she isn’t the best.  I hope that they do an episode where gets to stretch her chops a little more.

Let’s put our cards on the table and admit it…the show is essentially a rip-off of “Medium.”  That show became a rare hit for NBC, and with all of the networks wanting to cash in on supernatural shows like it and ABC’s “Lost,” a talking-to-the-dead show for CBS was inevitable.  “Medium” is a lot creepier and bloodier than this show, but it is almost as entertaining.

I guess my other fear about watching the show was the involvement of Van Praagh.  I hated the 2002 CBS miniseries “Living with the Dead,” starring Ted Danson, and his show “Beyond with James Van Praagh” was just a rip-off of “Crossing Over with John Edwards” (actually…both shows sucked.)  Maybe the problem is that I don’t believe in ghosts.  It’s weird, because I do believe in some superstitions and fate.  Real ghost stories are always lame to watch for me personally (that’s why I don’t like the Sci-Fi Channel’s “Ghost Hunters”), but fictional ghost stories aren’t bad if they are told right, and this show gets it right.

Am I glad that “Ghost Whisperer” replaced one of my favorite shows on TV…“Joan of Arcadia?”  No, I’m not…but at least I’m not from the same crowd that is panning it (I think that some of them might be still bitter about the cancellation of “Arcadia.”)  If I did believe in ghosts, it would be a nice thought that there were real spirits out there that wanted help from me so that they could go into the light.  This show may be a little sappy at times, but the good writing and performances save it from going overboard in the sap department.

Get James Van Praagh's novel, Talking to Heaven: A Medium's Message of Life After Death:

Get Van Praagh's novel, Heaven and Earth: Making the Psychic Connection:

Get Van Praagh's novel, Meditations with James Van Praagh:

Ratings System:


Try to catch this show every week...

If a better show is on, tape this one...

If nothing else is on, maybe this will be good...

If this show is on, change the channel immediately!


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