Pop Culture Gadabout
Tuesday, March 07, 2006
      ( 3/07/2006 02:51:00 PM ) Bill S.  

LEVITATING TOYS – Sometimes a well-edited promo can get you watching a teleseries you might otherwise ignore. I'd managed to avoid CBS's The Ghost Whisperer since its fall debut, but last week's ad – which promised the scariest ep yet – piqued my curiosity. From the previews, you might think that last Friday's entry was delving into Exorcist-style scares. But, aside from a dream sequence that promised more than the ep delivered, the ep proved pretty soggy: a few rote scenes with toy cars flying about and an unfortunate nanny getting nudged down the stairs. Though we're initially led to believe that the story's specter is a malicious spirit, in the end he turns out to be a young dead boy worried because his careerist mother isn't paying enough attention to his baby sister.

Placed in the time slot formerly occupied by Joan of Arcadia, Whisperer plainly aims to combine its supernatural premise – antiques dealer Melinda Gordon (blandly pretty Jennifer Love Hewitt) can hear and see dead people – with feel-good resolutions. So where the ads promised a story of dark ghostly deeds (not to mention, a possibly demonic infant!) the end results revolved around our workaholic mother (Lori Loughlin) learning to drop back on the overtime.

Watching the show, I couldn't help comparing it to the other psychic lady series, NBC's Medium, a comparison that does not do CBS's show any favors. One of the things that elevates Patricia Arquette's series are its well-placed family scenes: those moments when heroine Allison Dubois' stressed-but-patient husband Joe (Jake Weber) chafes against the demands both her job and psychic talent make on their family life. A techie, he can also be counted on to offer a rationalist explanation for his wife's seeming visions, which at times can lead to believable marital tension. In contrast, Hewitt's Melinda Gordon appears to have no such stressors. Both her hubby Jim (David Conrad) and shopkeeper business partner Andrea (Aisha Tyler) accept her ability to commune with the dead without once going, "Ignore 'em, maybe they'll go away!" or futilely attempting to introduce the light of Sweet Reason into the proceedings.

If this were a larger-than-life fantasy like Buffy we might accept such Scooby Gangisms in less than half a season. But Ghost Whisperer traffics in domestic hauntings, so the burden is on the writers and actors to concoct a believable mundane life for their heroine. In this, they fall down big-time . . .
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Pop cultural criticism - plus the occasional egocentric socio/political commentary by Bill Sherman (popculturegadabout AT yahoo.com).

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