'Ghost Whisperer' Boss Speaks Out on Killer Plot: "We Would Never Betray Our Audience!"
Sometimes I don’t know my own strength: My little story from two weeks ago about the (stop reading now, spoilerphobes!) impending death of Jennifer Love Hewitt’s Ghost Whisperer hubby has sparked the kind of fiery backlash that would wipe the smile off even Casper’s face. Who knew? Okay, I did! (That’s why I wrote it. Duh.) Less prepared were the show’s spoiler-wary producers, who now find themselves in the unusual position of doing damage control on a plot twist they didn’t want revealed in the first place. In this exclusive interview, Whisperer‘s executive-producing team of P.K. Simonds, Ian Sander, and Kim Moses set the record straight about “the bomb” they’re dropping this November, and why they’re confident it’ll have fans swooning, not fuming.
Ausiello: Let’s start with the basic question: What’s going to happen to Jim this season?
Simonds: I’ll try to be a little bit coy but not too coy. What we said from the beginning of the season is this is something that we’ve been thinking about and planning for a long time, and the show has been dropping clues and hints for quite a long time. There’s been a lot of Internet speculation about what’s going to happen, and some of it’s right. But what a lot of people don’t understand, what a lot of people have been getting wrong, is why we’re doing it. Number one, what we’re doing is very big and we’re very excited about it creatively, but not because it’s going to get a momentary burst of ratings; we believe it will thrill our audience in a lot of different ways, and reconnect them to the show, and sort of intensify the bond they feel between themselves and our characters. Our show is sometimes procedural in nature in that Melinda meets new people every week and helps them with their problems. But the show has not always been as much about her life and her relationships and her problems. What we’re trying to do is this season is do an overall arc or mythology which is entirely about Melinda and her relationships. It’s also a way of kind of bringing together all the strands of the show, because it is a show, let’s face it, that deals with death. And the reason the audience loves the show so much is that we find ways to deal with death that are honest; we’re not changing anything where that’s concerned. We are going to confront our main characters with death in an intense and personal way, but we’re going to find the real point of the storytelling. It’s not who or what or when, really, it’s about what comes next. And I think a really important thing for the audience to remember is that this is also a show about love. Love between human beings and how powerful and eternal it is. This all began a long time ago as a conversation about how do we make this show even more romantic than it already is. A lot of people feel like the relationship between Jim and Melinda is a wonderful and almost too perfect relationship, and we felt that way too. So we wanted to kind of shake things up.
Moses: And also explore some ghost rules, but still stay true to the ghost rules that were set up in the beginning.
Ausiello: When does this story start to unfold?
Simonds: The bomb is going go off in November. It’s not a literal bomb, but it’s going to feel like one. The repercussions are going to carry forward throughout the entire season.
Sander: This bombshell is part of the mythology and raising the stakes on the mythology. What I believe we’re also saying is that this is not the endgame. It is, in fact, part of, a new beginning of a mythology that we think will become exciting and build over the course of the season. The show will also deliver on what the audience has come to love and expect, and that is Melinda still will be dealing with ghosts, still dealing with their issues and unfinished business. There will be closure at the end of each episode and satisfaction at the end of each episode while she performs that heroic task. In addition to that, we will have that personal mythology that folds back on her.
Moses: In season 1 the mythology was the spirit world is getting stronger. Then in season 2, the veil between the living and the dead is getting thinner, and we continued that into season 3. And the mythology this year is that love transcends death.
Ausiello: A lot of fans are saying that a big reason they tune in is for the Jim-Melinda relationship. Obviously, they’re worried that killing him off will screw with that.
Simonds: We’re not going to confirm or deny anything, and I apologize because we’re all professionals and that seems silly. But we can’t do that. Because if you do that, there are a number of people who are going to use that as an excuse not to watch. And we want people to watch, because the whole point of this is the journey. It’s not about knowing what happens or what’s going to happen; it’s about experiencing it. And we want people to experience that. What I will say is that what the audience cares about is the exact same thing we care about, and we would never do anything to betray our audience or the investment that they have in those characters and that relationship. If there’s one thing they don’t have to worry about, it’s that ultimately that won’t be taken away.
Ausiello: The skeptics out there are saying this story is essentially a ratings stunt.
Moses: It’s definitely not a stunt.
Sander: We’ve all tried those — a big stunt that gives you a lot of flash, and when the dust settles, you’re left with a lot less than you had before. We would never let that happen to this show. It’s too valuable and too important to us to play games with. It’s really not about that.
Ausiello: There’s also a theory floating around that perhaps this idea was born out of David Conrad’s desire to have more to do on the show.
Simonds: We have an embarrassment of riches on this show in terms of our cast. We always want to find ways to use those actors in new and interesting ways, so that was, of course, part of our thinking. None of them have ever complained to us about what we asked them to do, but, of course, all artists ever want to do is something new. I can only assume that they were and are thrilled whenever we can give them new kinds of challenges.
Sander: I’m directing the current episode, and they not only take those challenges, they’re running with them. Anybody who’s been underused who’s getting used more is absolutely relishing it and stepping up. It’s been really great to watch.
Ausiello: Are you concerned at all about the “jumping the shark” factor?
Simonds: For me, jumping the shark is when you change the rules to the show — somehow it’s harder to believe in, or impossible to believe in.
Sander: If the audience feels betrayed with what they believe up until that point, then you run that risk, so, in that sense, we were concerned about it. But we have no concern whether that is actually going to happen. People just need to watch, and if they watch, I can pretty much guarantee that they will be really satisfied with the experience. The show for us has certain rules, and certain sacred trusts with the audience in terms of what we give them every week and the way the world works. None of those rules are broken and none of those trusts are broken. We take that very seriously.
Simonds: The audience is not going to feel betrayed or in any way disappointed as they’re watching this show.
Now it’s your turn, GW fans: Does this game-changing twist have you more or less spooked now that you’ve heard from the show’s creative team? Got ideas on how you’d like to see this particular Ghost story unfold? Sound off below! I guarantee you TPTB will be reading every word.