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The Ausiello Files for Sept. 26, 2008

Our TV scooper dishes on a ”Ghost Whisperer” death and a reprieve for ”Prison Break”’s Jodi Lyn O’Keefe

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Killer ‘Ghost’ Story Spooks Fans
A few weeks ago, I broke the news on EW.com about the impending death of Jennifer Love Hewitt’s hubby, Jim (David Conrad), in Ghost Whisperer. Well, the scoop ended up sparking a fiery fan backlash that would wipe the smile off even Casper’s face, and now the CBS drama’s spoiler-wary producers find themselves needing to scare up some serious damage control.

While showrunner P.K. Simonds declined to confirm that Jim will meet his maker in season 4, he cautiously stresses, ”We would never betray our audience.” He allows, however, that Hewitt’s Melinda ”confronts death in an intense, personal way” this November, adding that whatever happens is ”not so much about who or what as it is about what comes next.” Translation: The show’s called Ghost Whisperer, people! You do the math!

Of course, keeping Jim’s spirit around risks an eerie ”been there, done that” feeling: Melinda’s dead BFF, played by Aisha Tyler, popped by to say ”Boo!” in season 2. Also, such an easy fix could be seen as a shameless ratings ploy, in light of the show’s 13 percent dip in the Nielsens last season. And if the drama decides to make Jim’s story line more high-concept, á la the movie Ghost (a direction that sources tell me is likely), it could be accused of jumping the shark. ”People just need to watch,” insists executive producer Ian Sander. ”I guarantee they will be satisfied with the experience.”

O’Keefe Catches a ‘Prison’ Break
The be- and re-headed Sarah Wayne Callies isn’t the only Prison Break lady to cheat death this season. Turns out Jodi Lyn O’Keefe had been informed last spring that her evil alter ego, Gretchen, would be killed off in the Sept. 1 season premiere. But, while shooting season 4’s episodes over the summer, executive producer Matt Olmstead says ”the presence of her character was missed, so we decided to go with plan B.” Luckily, Olmstead already had a plan B. ”We had shot [her death] scene both ways,” he explains. ”Once where she’s shot three times in the chest, and once where it cuts out before the gun goes off,” allowing Gretchen to dodge a bullet, so to speak. And although Olmstead admits O’Keefe’s firing and rehiring made for some awkward conversations, it was worth it since she’ll now be tackling a juicy, redemptive story line, complete with a possible daughter we never knew she had. ”Her power base has been removed, and now she’s on the run like our guys,” he says. ”It’s another level to play as opposed to the preening, swaggering, cocky killer.” And it certainly beats playing an unemployed actress!

Ausiello digs up fresh dirt on what you’re watching every day on EW.com.

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