Last season, Ghost Whisperer took a huge creative risk. Jim (David Conrad), the supportive husband of Melinda (Jennifer Love Hewitt) died, refused to cross over, and stepped into the body of a dying man named Sam. Melinda and viewers knew Sam was Jim, but it took Jim, whose soul suffered some sort of amnesia in its new body (which viewers still saw as Conrad’s), some time to figure it out. He finally did, and the season ended with the couple learning that they were pregnant (the baby is Jim-Jim’s) and that the child will be able to do “much, much more” than his mother, who can see and hear dead people.
It paid off: For the first time, when CBS talked about the show’s renewal, the word “no-brainer” was used. “That conversation had never gone that way before,” executive producer P.K. Simonds admits. “We were in a much stronger position, and that had everything to do with the risk that we took and the new life that we injected into the show. I think sometimes the audience forgets that they’re looking at a choice: Either they watch their show take risks and sometimes frustrate or annoy them, or they find themselves in a letter writing campaign to save the show. Luckily, no one had to write any letters to save us, and that’s a nice position to be in. We lost some viewers, too, and I’m very, very regretful about that. Obviously, my hope in the end is that we’ve gained more than we lost.”
In Season 5 (premiering tonight at 8 p.m. ET on CBS), the show doubles down: After Hewitt directs her own labor scene (!), it flashes forward five years. The jump allows them to get son Aiden (Connor Gibbs) to an age where he can actually be “the key” watcher Carl said he’d be in the season 4 finale and to get Jim through medical school. He’s now practicing at a hospital that will become “the centerpiece of our storytelling and the new interesting dark places we intend to go,” Simonds says. Here, Simonds offers more teases for what we can expect in season 5…
• Aiden’s gifts to create drama. “It’s a mystery in the first episode what those abilities may or may not be,” Simonds says. “This child can see and sense things that Melinda can’t, and some of those things that he sees are things that don’t want to be seen and that no one in our world has seen yet. They’re threatened, and when things are threatened, sometimes they take action.”
• For the first time, a view of what happens after you see the light. “This is a spiritual show, not a religious show,” Simonds says. “We’re not trying to make any big religious statement about what happens next. But we do think that there’s this metaphysical question that we’ve always had on the show: Melinda is able to see and communicate with spirits who are on that specific plane of existence that is beyond life but before what we’ve been calling the light. We’ve never said what happens when they leave that plane and cross over or under. What we’re basically saying is that it’s a little more complicated than it appears, and there’s beauty but there’s also darkness. If there’s someone or something that lives on that next plane, what relationship do they have to the rest of us? Are they friendly or are they not? The answer is both. When they’re not friendly, how much jeopardy do they pose to our characters? The answer is a lot.”
• More Jim! “He will have a new and deeper involvement in what Melinda does,” Simonds says. “The hospital is where a lot of the action takes place. The thing about hospitals is, a lot of people die there. Hospitals are especially haunted places. Hospitals have morgues, and this one is no exception. In fact, this is a very interesting morgue with a lot of its own mojo.”
• Melinda to have more worries than your average mother: “She’s the mother of someone very, very special and she has an obligation that any parent feels — you want to raise your child well and hope that they’ll contribute something to world — but she has the added burden of knowing that this child could, because of his gifts, play an even greater role. She’s not raising the savior, but she’s raising a child who could have a huge impact in making the world safer from dark forces that most of those around them don’t even know exist.”
• New storylines for Delia (Camryn Manheim), Ned (Christoph Sanders), and Eli (Jamie Kennedy). “Delia has gotten her real estate business back on its feet, partnered with somebody, and opened her office which is next to Melinda’s store. She’s dating, not one but several guys,” Simonds says. “Ned is now at Rockland University, and largely the result of growing up around Melinda, he majors in anthropology of the occult and is able to provide some occasional research into the phenomena she’s up against. We finally get to meet Eli’s parents under circumstances that only our characters could.”
• An interesting Halloween episode. “Knowing ghosts are real does make Halloween a little more complicated for Aiden,” Simonds says.
• The series’ 100th episode. It’s the 15th episode this season, and it too will be directed by Hewitt. “It promises to be explosive,” Simonds adds. “That’s all I’m going to say.”
Are you psyched for Season 5 now? Or are you already frustrated and annoyed?
Photo credit: Cliff Lipson/CBS