”My name is Melinda Gordon. I just got married, just moved to a small town, just opened up an antique shop. I might be just like you…except from the time that I was a little girl I knew that I could talk to the dead. ‘Earthbound spirits’, my Grandmother called them. The ones who’ve not crossed over because they have unfinished business with the living, and they come to me for help. To tell you my story, I have to tell you theirs.”
So goes the opening for each episode of this first season of Ghost Whisperer, a series that blends drama, horror and comedy to carry its audience to an emotional place. I can imagine a lot of viewers crying at some point or another during almost every episode, which is a credit to the show’s makers, but they’re aided by the fact that their show deals so much with death, life, love and grief.
As for that combination of genres, Ghost Whisperer is predominantly a drama, but the episodes range from mildly spooky to truly frightening. Melinda Gordon (Jennifer Love-Hewitt) generally helps one spirit per episode, and there’s certainly an interesting array of ghosts and situations, from a fallen Vietnam soldier, who shows up because the son he never met is expecting his own first child, to a comedian who committed suicide but realized too late that he was making a mistake. The spirit’s situation is usually the driving factor for whether the episode is scary or just spooky.
Melinda’s task is to help these spirits, and this often involves getting a message to a loved one. Here I have a complaint for the writers. These situations work like this: Melinda is talking with the loved one and the spirit. She’s the only one who can communicate between them, as the loved one can’t see or hear the spirit. So, Melinda is helping to deliver the spirit’s message. The problem is, she doesn’t deliver them word for word. Sometimes, she even drops little details and just offers the main gist of it to the loved one. We’re talking about a dead husband’s final message for his grieving wife, and Melinda’s being choosy about what she passes along! This was incredibly frustrating for me.
Aside from that complaint, I found the show entertaining and I did get caught up in the emotion on a fairly regular basis. The writing ranges from decent to strong, and it’s those strong moments dealing with big emotions that work best.
Ghost Whisperer’s main cast is just three: Jennifer Love-Hewitt, Aisha Taylor (C.S.I., 24) as Melinda’s friend and partner in the antique business, and David Conrad (Crazy, Boston Public) as Melinda’s paramedic husband. All three are strong, but Hewitt is obviously the star, and her performances carry the series. Her character’s life is a struggle between the living and the dead, and it’s an emotional rollercoaster. Hewitt does a fine job with it all.
Things get really interesting in the season’s two-part finale, as we start to learn more about where this show is heading. Here Melinda finds herself trying to help the passengers of a commercial airliner, and up against a mysterious and wicked spiritual adversary. Finally, there’s a great twist ending, and a cliffhanger moment calling for viewers to stick around for season two.
So how’s the DVD set?
All 22 episodes of Ghost Whisperer are presented on six discs, in 1.78:1 widescreen format. The transfers look very nice, with natural colours, good blacks and fairly sharp picture. It’s a bit soft at times, but that’s my only complaint, and it’s a minor one.
The menus are stylized, animated and accompanied by music.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix does a good job. Dialogue is clear, and there’s decent use of surround channels to add atmospheric effect and to punch up the more intense moments. The show’s score is at times beautiful, mystical and intense as it weaves together the heart-wrenching moments with terrifying spiritual encounters. The 5.1 track handles it all very well.
Audio is English-only, and just English subtitles are available.
Ghost Whisperer – The Complete First Season delivers a pretty strong set of extras. We get audio commentaries and deleted scenes on selected episodes, five featurettes and a blooper reel.
The audio commentaries feature the show’s director and producers, and they’re pretty interesting. They offer good insight on casting, writing and the show’s production.
The deleted scenes are worth a look, but they don’t add anything very interesting. I say these should always offer the option of a commentary track, because it’s far more interesting to hear why the scenes were cut than it is just to watch them. No commentary here, unfortunately.
On disc six you’ll find the remaining special features. The first is a making-of featurette called Can You See Me? The First Season of “Ghost Whisperer”. It runs about 22 minutes, and covers a lot about the show’s initial development and the production of these first 22 episodes.
Next up is Second Sight: The Clairvoyants of Ghost Whisperer, an 8-minute featurette about the paranormal consultants working on the show. Melinda Gordon is actually based on a real-life woman who “busts ghosts” for a living, and here we learn about her experience. We also hear from co-executive producer James Van Praagh, who is a professional medium. Interesting stuff.
The third featurette is A Tour of Grandview, the show’s fictional small town setting. Neat fact about this set? It used to be the town from Back to the Future. This one runs about three minutes, with Love-Hewitt taking us around between interview clips from the production designer.
Then there’s Ghost Whisperer Mythology, a featurette about the title sequence and the mythology built into it. Pretty cool stuff. This is definitely one of the most creative opening sequences on TV, and it’s even more interesting after watching this piece.
The final featurette is Scare Tactics, which offers 11 minutes on utilizing visual effects and sound design to create the show’s frightening effects.
Last up is a Blooper Reel. It’s short, so you might as well watch it, but don’t expect a lot of laughs. Note to whoever makes these things: getting the giggles is only funny when you’re actually there.
Ghost Whisperer is a surprisingly good show that banks on the emotional power of death, life, grief and love. It’s presented here on a quality 6-disc DVD set, with good audio and video, and a strong collection of bonus material. Fans won’t be disappointed.
Special Features List
- Audio commentary on select episodes
- Deleted scenes
- Can You See Me? The First Season of “Ghost Whisperer” featurette
- Second Sight: The Clairvoyants of Ghost Whisperer featurette
- A Tour of Grandview featurette
- Ghost Whisperer Mythology featurette
- Scare Tactics featurette
- Blooper Reel