Plot: What’s it about?
I guess I’m going to have to go watch a few episodes of “Party of Five”. Amazingly enough it’s been ten years since the initial breakout success of the show and the actors involved in it. It started with Neve Campbell and her appearance in “The Craft” and “Scream”, then Scott Wolf in “White Squall” and then Jennifer Love-Hewitt with “I Know What You Did Last Summer”. And though not part of that initial breakout gang, Matthew Fox has found himself a nice little comfortable spot on “Lost”. As for the fifth member of the show, well I don’t really know what happened to her. Ok look, let’s face it – when Jennifer Love-Hewitt’s name is mentioned I think of two things. But I want this to be a clean review, so I’ll let you connect the dots as to what those two things are. As television has become “good again” we could mainly attribute it to some major Hollywood moviestars coming (or coming back to) the small screen and Hewitt’s starring role on “Ghost Whisperer” is certainly no exception. The concept isn’t new or fresh, but there’s something about the show that kept me watching.
Hewitt plays Melinda Gordon, a newlywed with the ability to, yes I have to say it “see dead people”. She and her grandmother (and we later learn, her mother) have the ability to see and communicate with the recently deceased and Melinda takes it upon herself to help them “cross over”. Generally there’s some unfinished business and Melinda needs to either find out what went wrong or must make the living aware that their loved ones are with them. The episodes follow the same general premise in that there’s some animosity between the people she’s trying to help and she must bear their insults. Later, of course, they “see the light” both figuratively and literally and all is well. As I mentioned before, the concept isn’t exactly original. It’s essentially a much cleaner version of “The Sixth Sense” mixed a bit with “Ghost”, but something about it seems to work and I’m willing to be that this is more than one person’s Friday night guilty pleasure. The supporting cast adds to the show as well, David Conrad plays Melinda’s paramedic husband Jim; and Melinda’s business partner Andrea (Aisha Tyler) doesn’t share her gift, but is always there to lend a helping hand.
Unlike shows like “Lost” or “Nip/Tuck”, “Ghost Whisperer” doesn’t really tend to build on itself that much, each episode is pretty well self-contained and it’s pretty easy to catch onto the premise of the show after an episode or two. The first season has some pretty recognizable faces as guest stars and with Hewitt being the Producer as well, make no mistake about it – it’s her show. I will admit that I usually pass on a lot of “TV on DVD” because I figure that I can just watch anything on TV that I’m interested in. Watching an entire season is quite a commitment and it’s so easy to sit there and watch episode after episode. However I think CBS is probably producing some of the best shows on network television and after seeing countless promos for this show, I thought I’d check it out (and Hewitt wears plenty of tight shirts, so if you’re tuning in for that reason then you won’t be disappointed either). I’m not sure if “Ghost Whisperer” has gained a new viewer in me, but it’s a nice distraction from some of the other television shows out there and not a bad way to pass an hour. I will say that some of the episodes are fairly emotional and anyone who has lost someone close might want to watch something a little more upbeat.
Video: How does it look?
All of the episodes are presented in a 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer that looks pretty darn good. Most network shows are now being shot and aired in HD, so even watching them on standard DVD is quite a treat. The show takes place supposedly in New York, but according to the IMDB its shot in California. I’m mentioning this because every outside shot is bright and sunny and gives a very warm color palette to the look and feel of the show. The actors wear bright clothes which looks great in this anamorphic transfer. I found very few instances of artifacting, detail is great and the black levels are strong and consistent throughout all 22 episodes. I would say these shows are of equal quality of the HD network broadcast, so if it’s a good picture you’re looking for then “Ghost Whisperer” certainly delivers here.
Audio: How does it sound?
I was actually fairly surprised at the audio quality on some of these episodes. The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack makes great use of voices, wind and some other ambient sound effects that pop up in selected episodes. The main focus of the soundtrack is dialogue and it’s very crisp and clean. There weren’t too many other things that really stood out, by and large television shows aren’t really engineered for sound but I have to say that this one is one of the better ones I’ve heard. As television starts to be fused with movies (on a technical) level, we all win.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This six disc set comes with some pretty good extras, but I’m not sure if it’s quite enough to justify the $72.99 price tag for this set (ouch). A select number of episodes have an audio commentary on them by the show’s producers and I listened to bits and pieces from a few. I’m always amazed that television show commentaries tend to focus on the location and production and the time frame (evidently there’s a lot more pressure to get an episode done and move on to the next one). A few of the episodes have deleted scenes as well and we’re prompted before the episode airs if we want to listen or watch any special features beforehand. The sixth disc also contains some featurettes such as “A Tour of Grandview” the fictional town in which the series takes place. Some mythology about Melinda’s gift and a montage of some of the first season’s episodes. Rounding out the supplements is a blooper reel. If you’re a fan of the show, this has about all you could ask for – a fair amount of supplements, great audio and video quality and some attractive packaging to boot.