Melinda Gordon communicates with earthbound spirits, ghosts who cling to the living because they have unfinished business that prevents them from moving beyond the familiar plane of existence that we call life. Inspired in part by the work of famed medium James Van Praagh and of Mary Ann Winkowski, a real-life communicator with spirits, Ghost Whisperer explores the spiritual side of life and death as Melinda navigates among the dead and the living in her sometimes chilling, sometimes heart-rending and sometimes amusing attempts to act as an intermediary between the ghosts and those they haunt. Jim, her husband, worries about the emotional toll this work is taking on his wife as they embark on a new life together. Melinda recently has revealed her gift to her new friend, Delia Banks, a single mom who works in Melinda's antique shop. However, Melinda fears the consequences of drawing Delia into this unconventional world. Melinda also shared her secret with quirky Professor Rick Payne, an expert in occult beliefs and history who thrives on helping her gain insights into the more baffling paranormal phenomena she encounters. For her part, Melinda accepts her unique abilities as a blessing and sometime curse, but always helps her clients, alive or dead, find emotional closure.
Ghost Whisperer is not a show for cynics (or anyone who hates everything with the word "whisperer" attached to it). Though half of the show aims to make your flesh creep, the other half works just as hard to make everything warm and fuzzy. Ghosts walk into Melinda Gordon's life the way snappy dames walked into Sam Spade's office, hitting her up for aid with a hard-luck story and a whole lot of strings attached. Her job is to help them untie the emotional knot that's keeping them earthbound--which usually involves, in one way or another, telling a still-living friend or relative how much the dead person loved them. Whether it's a Vietnam vet who never met his son, a standup comedian who committed suicide, a bride who died on her big day, or a poltergeist child, in the end Melinda--assisted by her hunky paramedic husband Jim and vaguely useless best friend Andrea--will find a way to lead them to the light. (Ghost Whisperer is evasive about its theological implications, but Melinda's black-hatted nemesis from the season's end has a distinctly devilish air.)
Keeping a foot in both worlds as Melinda is Jennifer Love Hewitt (Party of Five, Garfield), an actress who doesn't seem entirely natural; between her cartoonish physical dimension (the show isn't shy about displaying her bosom), her fake eyelashes, and the seemingly molded contours of her face, she's like a life-sized doll. Unfortunately, this quality lends a similarly plastic feel to her telegenic smile and earnest looks of compassion. The scripts are strictly middle-of-the-road tv fare, with obvious turns of plot and heavy-handed emotional crises, but the special effects conjure some eeriness. Extras include docs on the show's development, the lovely opening credits (based on the art of Maggie Taylor), and the paranormal investigators whose work inspired the show, along with a handful of episode commentaries and deleted scenes. Fans will not feel cheated. --Bret Fetzer
The second season of Ghost Whisperer--that cornucopia of spookiness, warmhearted crescendos, and cleavage-emphasizing outfits--strengthened the show's basic formula with tighter writing and engaging new characters. After an opening episode that resolves the first season's cliffhangers (with a black-hatted baddie and a beloved "earthbound spirit" in peril), our heroine Melinda Gordon (Jennifer Love Hewitt) launches forward with three new friends: Dr. Rick Payne (Jay Mohr, Jerry Maguire), a prickly, sarcastic professor of the occult; Delia Banks (Camryn Manheim, The Practice), a skeptical but warmhearted realtor who helps Melinda run her antique shop; and Delia's son Ned (Tyler Patrick Jones), a rebellious but goodhearted scamp. More significantly, the ratio of creepy thrills and beatific resolutions has been recalibrated to crank up the thrills. Which is good news--while helping ghosts find the light may be Melinda's reason for being, those happy endings are more satisfying when preceded by scary special effects and what-will-happen-next chills. On top of that, the show's creators carefully weave in a season-long story arc that culminates a three-episode conclusion (which, naturally, leaves plenty of questions open for the third season to investigate) involving a rival ghost whisperer whose motivations are not so selfless as Melinda's. Clearly, the show's fans were hungry for more of Melinda's stoic, hunky husband Jim (David Conrad); not only does he get many more opportunities to be unflinchingly supportive, he gets haunted by a supermodel and has a best friend who starts dating Delia. Stories range from a vengeful cheerleader to a phantom dog to an old boyfriend of Melinda's, who even in death hasn't gotten over her winsomeness. Most often people are haunted by family members and lost loved ones, who--though they knock things over, possess the living, and generally raise a ruckus--are almost always seeking forgiveness or to pass on sage advice. Through it all, Melinda summons her pluck and marches into danger wearing what seems to be an endless supply of flowy coats and low-cut party dresses. Ghost Whisperer is a love-it-or-hate-it show, and those who love it do so passionately. The show's creators reciprocate with an abundance of extras, ranging from earnest episode commentaries and behind-the-scenes docs to a series of "webisodes" of an internet serial about a bicycle delivery guy learning to cope with death to a peculiar "Jennifer Love Hewitt Speed Painting Video." --Bret Fetzer
The first thing you'll notice about the third season of Ghost Whisperer: More special effects! In the opening episode, a street collapses into a black, yawning crevasse. Eternally dewy Jennifer Love Hewitt stars as Melinda Gordon, who speaks to the dead with a firm glint in her eye and an abundance of cleavage (though the costume department is a tad more discreet this time around). With the assistance of her hunky husband (David Conrad), her skeptical best friend (Camryn Manheim, The Practice), and a wisecracking professor of the occult (Jay Mohr, Saturday Night Live), Melinda helps ghosts cross over to the other side. But woven through the entire third season is Melinda's investigation into her own family secrets (featuring Martin Donovan, The Opposite of Sex, as Melinda's mysterious father), culminating in a high-stakes season finale that's much more satisfying that season two's fairly forced conclusion. Mind you, this season is unlikely to convert viewers who prefer their ghost stories without warmhearted resolutions (almost every ghost just needs to tell someone how much he/she love him/her), but there are some clever twists and setups: A dead photographer creates pictures from the afterlife; a mother actively cultivates being haunted by her dead son because she's afraid he's too young to cross over on his own. Several episodes reveal how the town of Grandview is built on the ruins of an older city, which is--surprise!--full of unhappy ghosts. This gesture towards cultivating a mythology smacks a bit of Buffy the Vampire Slayer or The X-Files, but who doesn't like a haunted underworld? The more the show leans towards spookiness and sprinkles the earnestness on lightly, the stronger it is. Fans will be pleased with the abundance of extras, which include commentaries, webisodes, making-of documentaries, backstory about Melinda, and an entertainingly snarky interview with Mohr. --Bret Fetzer