Ghost Whisperer has been one of the unexpected successes of recent television seasons. The show debuted in 2005, which was an unusually rich year for fans of fantasy TV.  Ghost Whisperer premiered alongside the science fiction series Invasion, Surface and Threshold and the spooky Supernatural and Night Stalker. At the time, Ghost Whisperer was seen in some quarters as a cash-in on the success of Medium. That show had been a popular and critical success as a mid-season replacement on NBC the season before. On that basis, Ghost Whisperer was given an even chance of success. As it turned out, it was one of only two shows in the aforementioned list to survive beyond a first season (the other being Supernatural). According to the Wikipedia page for Ghost Whisperer, it has just been renewed for a fifth season (although at the time of writing I couldn’t find this confirmed elsewhere).

GWSGGhost Whisperer has now reached its fourth season and established a loyal fanbase. Concomitantly, Titan Books has decided that there is sufficient demand for the publication of a guide to the show. That book, called Ghost Whisperer Sprit Guide, is a 176-page publication that includes articles on the history and the making of the series and a detailed look at the spirit world that underlies the series’ mythology.

Like Medium, Ghost Whisperer focuses on the experiences of a psychic. In most other respects, though, the shows are dissimilar. Whereas Medium‘s Allison Dubois (Patricia Arquette) uses her ability to help solve crimes, Ghost Whisperer‘s Melinda Gordon (played by Jennifer Love Hewitt) gets involved in criminal investigations only incidentally. The character acts as a conduit through which spirits contact living people in order to resolve unfinished business. Ghost Whisperer also differs from Medium in its setting and mood. Medium takes place in the city of Phoenix, where killers and other psychotics are a constant menace. Ghost Whisperer is based in the town of Grandview, Pennsylvania, which is reminiscent of the romantic settings of It’s a Wonderful Life and Gilmore Girls.

On the aesthetic side, the Ghost Whisperer Spirit Guide falls somewhere between the glossy, large footprint format used by Titan for its Official Companions to Joss Whedon’s Firefly and the same publisher’s mostly black and white paperback-style series for shows that include Stargate SG-1, Stargate Atlantis and Smallville (which I have reviewed on BNN reviewed here and here). The Spirit Guide is full colour throughout and printed on relatively heavy, high quality paper. It is not a large book, however, being only about 9.0″ by 7.5″ in size.

The writers of the Ghost Whisperer Spirit Guide are Kim Moses and Ian Sander, two of the show’s executive producers. The content they have chosen is clearly aimed at the series’ fans rather than people with a general interest in the making of a popular television show. As the title suggests, this is primarily a guide to the Ghost Whisperer ‘universe’. There is a section devoted to behind-the-scenes material, but it comprises only 18 pages. There is also an interesting six-page section on the genesis of the show that includes an account of the impact of the 2008 fire that destroyed sets on Universal Studios’ backlot.

Key to the creation and subsequent writing of the show has been the involvement two self-professed mediums, James Van Praagh and Mary Ann Winkowski.  These personalities are consultants on the show and Van Praagh is also an executive producer.  They are interviewed in the book about their work as mediums, but don’t expect to find them challenged over their claims to paranormal abilities. The Ghost Whisperer Spirit Guide presents them as uncontroversial, although that is not the case. In fairness to the writers, a critical examination of the supernatural basis for the series is not the intention of the Spirit Guide, nor would it afford the consultants the credit the producers evidently feel is due. If it is skepticism that readers want to satisfy, therefore, Google will be a better place to look.

ImageThe rest of the Spirit Guide consists of a Foreward by Hewitt, an introduction to the phenomena that are said to make up the spirit world, articles on the show’s characters (including input from the actors), and episode outlines for the series’ first three seasons. The breakdown of each episode is very short and will be disappointing to anyone looking for the kind of anecdotes that are characteristic of Titan’s Companion volumes for other series. In order to cover so many episodes, each breakdown includes only a brief synopsis of the plot, a ‘Ghost Rule’ and the name of a prominent piece of music.

An unusual feature of the book is the Web links that come at the end of several articles and encourage fans to explore numerous aspects of the show. These are part of the series’ so called ‘parallel universe’ and represent an attempt by the producers to expand fans’ interaction beyond CBS’s home page for the show. This includes a website for the Spirit Guide itself at www.gwspiritguide.com.  Other aspects of the parallel universe are also covered in the book, including the online companion series The Other Side and the websites that can be accessed through CBS.com.

Titan’s Ghost Whisperer Spirit Guide will maintain the publisher’s reputation for nicely produced and entertaining books for fans of popular films and television series. If you wish to get more deeply immersed in Ghost Whisperer‘s mythology and learn a little about how the show is made, this book is recommended. If it is making-of material or a critical examination of claims of supernatural phenomena that you want, though, the Spirit Guide won’t satisfy you.

Michael Simpson is the Associate Editor of the Vancouver-based film and TV website CinemaSpy and a freelance writer on a wide range of topics (CinemaSpy; Home).

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