Friday, April 4, 2008

Jennifer Love Hewitt's "Ghost Whisperer"

It's Friday night and I've been sick all week. I've got all the symptoms, the weather is bad, and the supply run has left me exhausted, all of which lends a blanket, hot tea, and my couch the appearance of a great weekend. By the time 8pm rolled around, I was wrapped up tight and on the "Night Time Formula," settled in and ready for my first viewing of the CBS prime time thriller, "Ghost Whisperer." Oooh, spooky!


"Ghost Whisperer" sounds interesting enough, even though I've never felt compelled to tune in before. I guess there's a lot of shows on Friday and Saturday nights that I've never seen, most of which have not made it to the third season. Watching TV on weekends is exactly the sort of thing I try to avoid, which is a smart move now that I'm stuck inside with the flu and bored out of my mind. Scanning the list of options, and being a fan of the supernatural, it was obvious what I'd be watching.

I'm not sure where I know Jennifer Love Hewitt from (I want to say "Scream") but I can't deny her marquee value on network television. Not sure what the general opinion of her is, but I find her to be rather easy on the eyes. Actually, after an hour she starts to look a little like a cartoon character, kind of goofy and awkward, not the typical bland starlet that fits whatever the mold of perceived beauty happens to be at the moment. I think it's great, and I bet there's a female audience that can really identify with that. Her character is said Ghost Whisperer, a title that I'm not sure is directly referenced anywhere in the show, who operates pretty much how you'd expect a Hollywood clairvoyant would, meaning the authorities have come to trust her help in solving crimes. Of course, that's pretty much her hobby, her real bread and butter comes from operating an antiques store, which I find to be a solid plot point in a show that is otherwise completely out there. I say that having been involved in collecting all my life, with experiences that would seem to indicate the human love of materialist things transcends mere life and death. I once saw a Hot Wheels car launch off my coffee table, without any explanation, in an apartment that creeped my girlfriend out, and I've heard other collectors make similar observations. Having a attractive psychic handling previously owned, beloved objects makes sense for the character. It didn't come into play in this particular episode, but I'll bet it has plenty of times before.

I didn't catch the title of the episode, but a brief synopsis will do. It centers around the teen aged son of one of Ghost Whisperer's associates, who is entering into his first relationship. Both teens are portrayed by twenty somethings. Weird stuff starts happening to the boy, like a door slamming and bloodying his nose. In fact, from what I can tell, most of the supernatural occurrences take the form of a door or window slamming. That's not exactly playing up the scares as far as most horror audiences are concerned, but then, this program is more of a mystery, so I'll take what I can get. Later, when the next door neighbor gets locked in the basement, the screen goes black, we hear a quick scream, then cut to some other scene. Zero tension in what would have been show stealer handled in a theatrical presentation helmed by someone like Wes Craven. Back in the day Wes would have made us all uncomfortable by showing her getting tormented by unknown forces while strange voices and mood lighting drove the point home. To the show's credit they create a reasonably ominous presence when depicting the actual spirits of the deceased, in this case, the girl's dad. Nothing major, just some quick glimpses leading up to GW quickly turning around and coming face to face with an actor in pancake makeup who wasn't there a second ago. You've seen that before and by now can get over any thrill the trick might yet provide. Anyhow, this ghost is causing trouble and it's up to GW to sort things out and provide closure so the spirit can "go to the light." That's an old favorite, ain't it? What if nothing happens when you die? What if you just start decomposing? I think I'd feel pretty gypped after decades of implied transcendental experience. By a half hour into the program it is revealed the ghost is really the girl's mom who died of cancer and is bald and kind of mannish looking (with the help of make up, of course.) The ghost mom is desperate to keep her children together as a family, so prior to death she drills her eldest in home economics and then sticks around on the mortal plain to oversee their safety. The strange happenings are then attributed to a ghost dad, while their mom is said to have a headache, be away on business, to have been kidnapped, etc. The kids bury her in the backyard and stick to their cover until GW shows up and figure's out what going on. The family drama is finally resolved by the return of the mom's big sister, the kid's aunt, who adopts them and frees the ghost. This happens because GW has lengthy conversations with the undead, and is a good listener.

I doubt very much that I'll be sick next weekend, or any of the following weekends for that matter, so I probably won't be watching "Ghost Whisperer" again soon. Although I found it enjoyable enough, I don't think a thirty something, single male is the target market. I think it's safe to say this show is for housewives and little girls, and maybe the occasional dude on extra-strength cold remedy. Since it's been around this long it would seem that it will be here for a few more seasons, so I won't feel bad if I miss it. Married guys with wives who like to hijack their TVs could be in worse shape. J Love, yo! Looking at the rest of the schedule reveals few options, just a lot of bimbos in a lot of reality shows. "Ghost Whisperer" gets my approval simply for being an honest, old fashioned attempt at a narrative that isn't about doctors, lawyers, or detectives.

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