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Friday, October 19, 2012

Ghost Whisperer

Before we launch into another exciting journey through pop culture past, I just wanted to take the time to explain why today's entry is written entirely in purple.

Today is October 19, 2012, and today just happens to be known as “Spirit Day”. I think that I touched upon how the day was created, but just to refresh your memory, I'll talk about it again.

In October 2010, a Canadian teenager named Brittany McMillan brought forth the idea of Spirit Day, a day in which people wore purple to show solidarity to show support for LGBT youth who have been victimized by bullying. The event was soon promoted by the GLAAD organization and hundreds of celebrities wore purple on this day to show their support.

The reason why purple is used? Well, if one were to take a look at the different meanings of the rainbow-coloured Pride flag, the purple stripe represents “spirit”. I actually had to look that up, because I wasn't even aware that each colour had a meaning to it, but it makes a lot of sense. After all, if a person's spirit is damaged, it can be quite devastating.

Now, while Spirit Day is meant to show support for bullied LGBT people, I want to expand this to show support for EVERYONE who has ever been bullied, because as many of you well know, I have zero tolerance for bullies. So, I am more than happy to show my support for this day.

And now, on with today's topic, which coincidentally also deals with the concept of spirits...though not exactly in the same fashion as “Spirit Day”.

You see, the word “spirit” is one that can have several meanings to it. I already talked about how the word spirit relates to “Spirit Day”. In that description, the word “spirit” could be a synonym for heart or soul. While today's blog topic does contain heartwarming shows that feature a lot of heart and soul, the definition of “spirit” in this sense doesn't quite fit.

There's also the bevy of alcoholic beverages known as “spirits” that make frequent appearances at parties, barbecues, and liquor stores all over the world...but as far as I know, there is very little reference to drinking in this particular show, so you won't see too many “spirits” in this particular show.

No, this show contains spirits of the dead kind.

I'm not sure exactly how many of you out there believe in ghosts, spirits, and the afterlife. I admit that I'm a bit confused about what to believe myself. I would like to believe that there is such a thing as an afterlife, but to be completely honest, I have no proof that such a place exists...and I have no proof that ghosts exist either. Of course, I imagine that some of you will likely pipe in with your opinions telling me that you have proof that ghosts and spirits do exist.

(Actually, if you do have a story to tell about having a close encounter with a spirit or unexplained haunting, please share your stories in the comments section. I would be interested in reading all about it! And, hey, I encourage reader participation!)

So, where am I going with this? Simple. In this entry, we're going to meet a young woman named Melinda Gordon who has the ability to talk to and communicate with the spirits of those who died. She can also help ghosts settle their differences with the loved ones they left behind and can also help the spirits cross over to the other side.

You see, Melinda Gordon is...the Ghost Whisperer.

Ghost Whisperer” debuted on CBS on September 23, 2005 and ran for five seasons, wrapping up its run on May 21, 2010. Former “Party of Five” actress Jennifer Love Hewitt signed onto the main role of Melinda Gordon, a married antique store owner who tries to balance her home life with the former lives of those who appear to her for help. The series also starred David Conrad, Aisha Tyler, Jay Mohr, Jamie Kennedy, and Camryn Manheim.

Ghost Whisperer” is based on the literary works of self-proclaimed psychic medium James Van Praagh (who also served as the co-executive producer of the series alongside Hewitt and John Gray). The show had reportedly been in development for almost two years before it was greenlit by CBS.

In the series, Melinda Gordon lives in the fictional town of Grandview, New York (believe it or not, the town square set that is heavily featured was a recycled set from the 1985 film, “Back To The Future”) with her husband Jim Clancy (Conrad). She runs the “Same As It Never Was Antiques” store with her best friend Andrea Marino (Tyler), and at first, life seems quite normal.

But Melinda also gets frequent visits from spirits who have not yet crossed over. In almost all cases, the spirits end up having some form of unfinished business on Earth, and they ask Melinda's help in order to help their loved ones understand that they are okay. Part of the conflict of the series comes from the fact that some of the surviving loved ones of those whose spirits Melinda can see don't believe in the spirit world, and many of them treat Melinda with bewilderment, hostility, and disgust. Usually by the end of the episode, Melinda will make a breakthrough between the dead and the living, and the spirits soon make their way to their permanent home in the afterlife.

It's also important to know that not all of these spirits have a score to settle, or have revenge on their minds. In many ways, there are many reasons why the spirits end up remaining earthbound instead of crossing over to the other side. Let's take a look at some examples from the first season episode guide, shall we?

  • In Episode 2, she helps a six-year-old boy who is unaware that he was killed when a train hit the car he was trapped in find his parents, all while dealing with the fact that the young boy has befriended a living boy on Earth.
  • When the ghost of a man helps Melinda save the life of a woman who attempted suicide, Melinda learns that the man is the spirit of the woman's dead fiance. The ghost refuses to cross over until he finds out who the person was that received his heart.
  • A woman who passed away during a routine pregnancy begs Melinda to help her husband stop blaming himself for her death.
  • Melinda helps the spirit of a confused comedian make amends with those he left behind.
  • Melinda helps an angst-filled teenage boy who died after finding out he was adopted, and she is asked by him to find his biological mother to find out why she gave him up.
  • Melinda meets the spirit of a deceased young boy who terrorizes his family, as well as all of the nannies that the family has hired, and Melinda has to find out the mystery behind the boy's death.

So you see, these are all examples of some of the plots that Melinda had to endure during the season's five year run. In most cases, these spirits end up having happy endings, but sometimes, they can cause more grief.

When Melinda gets premonitions of a plane crash at the end of season one, she and Andrea go out to warn the people of Grandview about the impending disaster. Andrea is especially worried about her brother, and sets out to try and find him. Just after Andrea leaves, the plane crashes just outside of the town square, killing everyone on board. Melinda is overwhelmed by the idea of trying to help two hundred spirits cross over to the other side, but her stress really rises when a devilish personality tries to convince the spirits to stay earthbound. On top of all that, Melinda comes to the devastating conclusion that Andrea was caught in the crossfire of the plane crash and was killed, her own spirit stuck in limbo between Earth and the afterlife. Melinda is forced to help her friend cross over in the second season opener.

With Andrea gone, the show shifted direction, and added some brand new characters to the mix. Delia Banks (Manheim) begins working at Melinda's store, and is unaware of her gift at first, but gradually learns of the truth. It takes her some time to accept it, but she decides her friendship with Melinda is worth enough for her to accept the truth. Delia's son Ned, also befriends Melinda, and is intrigued by her gift.

As well, we meet Rick Payne (Mohr), a professor who assists Melinda in helping Andrea cross over. We learn that his wife was killed in a crane accident, and that she happens to feature heavily in a third-season plot point (which I won't spoil for you, as all five seasons are on DVD and you really have to see the episodes yourself). And finally, there's Jamie Kennedy's character of Eli James, a man who came back to life following a near death experience in a fire, and gained the ability to hear ghosts. He and Melinda end up forming a friendship, and work together to help spirits cross over in the fourth and fifth seasons.

Oh, one more thing. There is a really freaky plot development that involves Melinda's husband Jim. I warn you ahead of time, it happens right around the fourth season, and the resolution of this storyline is quite out of the ordinary. Some fans may call this particular plot twist the moment that the show jumped the shark, but others may call it the best moment of the entire series. I'll let you be the judge.

At any rate, despite the fact that the show ended up getting huge ratings in its Friday night time slot its first few seasons, by the middle of season five, the cost of producing the series combined with the declining ratings caused CBS to cancel the show on May 18, 2010, three days before the final episode aired. ABC attempted to pick up the show for the 2010/2011 season, but the deal fell through at the last minute.

The move to cancel the show was a devastating blow for its fans, and even Jennifer Love Hewitt spoke out about the cancellation in January 2011 by issuing the following statement. “When you've taken people on a journey for so long, the least you can do is give them a goodbye. For a show that was about unfinished business, we didn't get to finish.”

However, one thing that I can say about Jennifer Love Hewitt is that she really appreciated her fans, and in a video that was posted in October 2010, Jennifer was extremely grateful, telling fans that she appreciated their support, and that the cast and crew of “Ghost Whisperer” would miss them just as much as the viewers would miss them.

Ghost Whisperer” was recently named as the second “most missed axed show” in a Zap2It poll. I can see why. It truly was a show that had heart, soul, and spirit.

Much like the participants of today's “Spirit Day”.

1 comment:

  1. Ghost Whisperer is an American television drama-fantasy-thriller about a young woman who can communicate with the spirits of the dead. The show was created by John Gray and is produced by Sander/Moses Productions in association with Touchstone Television & CBS Paramount Television. It stars Jennifer Love Hewitt, David Conrad and Camryn Manheim (beginning with the second episode of Season 2, which began September 22). The series is based on the work of James Van Praagh, who is a co-executive producer and posts to a blog about the show hosted by CBS. The stories are also said to be based in part on the work of Spirit Communicator Mary Ann Wintkowski.