Ghost Whisperer: Season Two
For most people the ultimate mystery is what happens after we die. Many people believe in sprits or souls that survive and try to reach out to the living. Stories involved with mediums or other people that can communicate with the deceased. Some of these shows are quirky and played as dark comedies, such as HBO’s ‘Dead Like Me’ but technically that was more on the supply side of the equation. In the last couple of years two series have been added to the network lineups that are concerned with women who can talk to the dead. The one under consideration here is ‘The Ghost Whisperer’. Here, a young woman uses her gift to speak to the dead who are unable to ‘cross over’ and are restricted to an existence between the worlds of the living and dead. She has to discover what is holding them back, help them resolve it and sends them on their way. The first season was much lighter in tone and themes but with this second season the series gets darker and more dramatic. This change took the series in a new direction making more of a season long arc than the ghost of the week tales that comprised the first season. The writing has improved and the introduction of the darker side of conversing with the dead adds to the impact and drive of the series. It also allows for better character development showcasing the talents of the cast. The first season suffered from too little suspense and corny dialogue but it seems that the writing staff has learned their lessons in season two. Even if you were not a fan of season one this DVD box set is the perfect opportunity to get to know the show.
In the sleepy little New England town of Grandview Melinda Gordon (Jennifer Love Hewitt) appears to be a typically nice young woman. She is recently married to her husband, Jim Clancy (David Conrad) and runs a quaint antique shop in town named ‘The Same As It Never Was’. The thing is ever since she was a little girl Melinda was a ghost whisperer, a person able to communicate with the earth bound sprits of the dead. Usually what is keeping them earthbound is something small and easy to rectify. Since their messages to Melinda are often cryptic she has to do a little detective work to help the ghosts along their way. With the first episode of season two things take a sinister turn for the cute girl who chats with the deceased. At the end of season one there was a big plane crash that killed all on board. The dead are all around Melinda and it may seem just like a busy season for her when a man in a hat, Romano (John Walcutt) tells her that he wants to keep all the souls earthbound, away from the light. He causes the death of Melinda’s best friend, Andrea Marino (Aisha Tyler). As the second season starts Andrea is caught between the earthly plane and the light being pulled by Romano to the dark side. Romano begins a campaign of terror directed at breaking Melinda. She appears to her ensuring her that he will have her as well. Melinda seeks out some help at a near by university. Professor Rick Payne (Jay Mohr) specializes in all sorts of myths, the supernatural and the occult. At first he thinks that Melinda is just a wacky gal but as soon as she convinces him to investigate Romano his office is vandalized including death threats in ancient languages. This gets his scientific interest running and he helps Melinda understand that Romano was a cult leader in the 30’s who pulled a mass suicide of hundreds of his followers.
In the second episode there is a slight return to the old format but the specter of the dark Romano and an evil ghost whisperer, Gabriel Rance (Ignacio Serricchio), alter the overall mood of the series. One day while working in the store a pre teenaged boy tries to shoplift. She calls his mother, Delia Banks (Camryn Manheim) who is a local real estate agent. Eventually she takes the place of the late Andrea as partner in the store and friend to Melinda. The difference here is unlike the accepting Andrea Delia is a skeptic unwilling to fully accept Melinda’s unorthodox ability. Melinda seems to come across ghosts everywhere. They turn up while she and her husband are camping, when she gets her engagement ring restored and of course at the morgue. There is a return to the darker themes when Melinda meets her evil counterpart. He wants to prevent her from helping the dead into the light. Once again she has to turn to Professor Payne for his expert help.
This is a transitional season for the series. Not only does it deal with the addition of the dark side in the form of Romano and the evil whisperer there is an emotional arc for Melinda. Although she helps so many dead people reconcile with the living she finds her grief over Andrea very difficult to cope with. This does succeed in humanizing the character and make the show more emotional and character driven. In one episode Jennifer Love Hewitt is reunited with her ‘Party of Five’ co-star, Lacey Chabert in a little bit of stunt casting. The more sinister aspects of the series are not pushed in every episode. They are parsed out over the season slowly in an attempt to build suspense. They have a little more work to do on pacing and balance but they are further along than in season one.
Jennifer Love Hewitt is always a delight to watch. Now I had to confess to my wife that part of my enjoyment of this series is Hewitt’s obvious beauty and her perchance for wearing dresses that look more like night gowns. Still, she is a talented actress who is more than able to present an unusual character in an acceptable way. It’s good to see a young actress who is never in the tabloids for drunken antics. Hewitt is a solid performer who is serious about her craft. In this season she plays a young woman who not only has to deal with her ability and the looming dark side but the loss of a dear friend. This series may not fully showcase her talents but it is a very good vehicle for her. David Conrad is the ever supportive husband. Conrad portrays Jim as a kind hearted paramedic who accepts his wife’s strange side job with love. Aisha Tyler added a lot to the series and her exit leaves a big hole but Camryn Manheim is such a great actress that she creates the new role with exceptional style.
CBS through Paramount has given the public an exceptional DVD release here. The anamorphic 1.78:1 video is extremely clean, which it should be considering the newness of the material. The color balance is great with above average contrast especially in the many darker scenes. As usual for a prime time television DVD set the Dolby 5.1 audio is light on the use of the sub woofer. Other than that the sound field is solid and well constructed. There are plenty of extras to keep you going long after you finished watching the episodes. Three choice episodes include commentary tracks featuring the producers. There is a little interactive ‘Crystal Ball’ game included on disc one. Disc five is heavy with extras including ‘A Conversation with the Living’ where the cast gets to chat about the changes in the story lines and character development. ‘Ghostly Visions’ looks at the special effects makeup used for the departed. ‘Grandview Graveyard’ allow you to click on headstones to get the back story of some of the ghostly guest stars. On disc six there is ‘Melinda’s Closet’ which gives a peak at the rather revealing outfits Ms Hewitt gets to wear. Rounding things out are some webisodes, trailers and a Jennifer Love Hewitt speed painting video. Okay, this is not a great series but it has potential and worth the watch.