This supernatural TV program, hilariously called Ghost Whisperer (and airing on CBS Friday nights at 8:00 pm), exists primarily to satisfy all those viewers still in mourning over the cancellation of Touched by An Angel or Highway to Heaven. Yes, that broad swath of middle America that includes mostly overweight, middle-aged women who collect angel figurines.
Not that there's anything wrong with that. Not a thing. It's just not my cup of tea, let me put it that way.
You see, I can't take a show like this seriously. Every pretentious line of dialogue and sincere, compassionate stare just makes me crack up. Even the title is unintentionally funny. Ghost Whisperer? Hmmm, did anybody stop to think that "Whisperer" is a descriptor that has so far been linked to animals, as in The Horse Whisperer, or The Dog Whisperer? Applying the terminology to the afterlife is ridiculous, insipid and insulting. Are ghosts just like harmless little puppies? Or more like stubborn colts? You tell me, spunky little Jennifer Love Hewitt!
Perhaps all new television shows should herewith be re-named to include the descriptor "Whisperer." The West Wing should be re-named Oval Office Whisperer. Lost should be re-titled Island Whisperer. Prison Break could be called Jail Whisperer. That somebody actually imagined we could take seriously a show saddled with this ludicrous title just proves how hilariously out of touch Hollywood is. And yet -- spank me!!! -- this is apparently the number # 1 show on Friday nights. Still, I just can't bring myself to say to my wife, "hurry up, 'Ghost Whisperer' is coming on..."
But I kid Ghost Whisperer. (Gosh, I love typing that title...)
Here's the plot of last night's installment "On the Wings of a Dove:" Melinda (Jennifer Love Hewitt) is apparently capable of communicating with the dead, and so a shirtless, vaguely Hispanic-looking ex-con ghost who died in her husband Jim's ambulance (he's an EMT, you see...) latches on to Jim (David Conrad). This begins to make him act cranky. At first, Melinda thinks Jim's just not that into her anymore, but then realizes hubby's got a monkey (er, ghost...) on his back. So she learns from the spirit that he needs forgiveness from the parents of a man he accidentally killed. When that doesn't work out, Melinda realizes that the spirit can "pass on" to the next world only if he makes peace with his own family: a wife and young son. With Jim's help, she facilitates the spirit's ascent to the afterlife.
And so we get a long, syrupy story wherein everybody is healed because Melinda passes on the ghosts's heartfelt message of forgiveness. Yes, all the characters in the drama learned to laugh at life again!
With a spoon.
Even really bad supernatural shows (like Supernatural...) at least try to appear a little spooky. There's some attempt at mood (mist, night shooting, anything...), so I was shocked at how totally plastic, fake and BRIGHT Ghost Whisperer appears...as though the creators know they are catering to an audience that can't stand the least little bit of ambiguity or reality. Nope, it all has to exist in a perfect, protected, affluent consumer bubble of designer clothes, streetside cafes, boutiques and high-end furniture. And storywise, it must concern earnest Jennifer Love Hewitt's angsty "grappling" with her gift. Based on last night's episode, I'd say she needs to grapple with her hair-stylist (is it a wig or what? It looks terrible...). First things first, Jennifer...
Why am I so hard on Ghost Whisperer when I can give Supernatural, Night Stalker, The X-Files, Buffy or A Haunting the benefit of the doubt? Well, I can make a case-by-case argument for any of those shows, but not a one of 'em so blatantly reduces matters of life, death and spirituality to something so safe, predictable, harmless and frickin' boring as the equation stewed up here, which is an unholy hodgepodge of New Age "forgiveness" and Christian afterlife principles. The prevailing wisdom seems to be that the dead remain in our world because they somehow failed to live up to a Christian moral code in life, and once they pass on their messages of "acceptance," "forgiveness" and the like, they can just hop an elevator to Heaven, going straight up.
Let me whisper this: I don't know if there is a God. Or a cosmic intelligence. Or a spiritual presence. I'm not closed minded or anything, and I do have my own spiritual beliefs. But if there is a God in the traditionally-accepted sense, I just can't imagine that he/she/it will operate by such a simplistic cause-and-effect (and Western-minded) set-of-principles. I mean, I don't think we could ever fathom the mechanisms and logic of God. I just don't. And you know what? We shouldn't even try to do so. We have better things to do here on this planet than trying to second-guess the Divine (hear that Pat Robertson?). And so programs like Ghost Whisperer only reduce the spiritual and metaphysical mysteries of our existence to trite little meaningless parables that allow viewers to wallow in the smug superiority that they know the right way to live. Instead of raising questions about faith, religion, spirituality and the afterlife, Ghost Whisperer just wants to...re-assure people of things they already take for granted, and more so, to do it between commercials.
If I want whispering in the supernatural genre, I'll just rent Sixth Sense again. Now there was a kid who knew how to whisper...
From now on, call me The Blog Whisperer! Or don't.