Ghost Whisperer went extra hard in the special effects department — and critics loved it

By: Start TV Staff     Posted: April 29, 2019, 4:25PM

On Ghost Whisperer, ghosts come in all forms and create all kinds of chaos, depending on a certain mix of circumstances that has led them to have unfinished business. Sometimes it's loose ends, other times it's vengeance, and every time, Melissa Gordon takes the time to hear them out and sort it out. It's a show that only works if the ghosts are as present for the viewer as they are for Gordon, and for that reason, from the very start, the show had to put extra effort into its special effects, ultimately with Emmy-nominated results.

With each episode of Ghost Whisperer, Melinda Gordon encounters a new ghost. It was this gutsy premise that led the supernatural drama to go further than most TV shows to make each ghost feel unique. If you listen closely while watching the episodes, you'll discern that no two ghosts sound alike, as sound editors and mixers said this was a priority in making the show, mainly because it all needed to sync with the spectacle of the visual effects happening simultaneously onscreen.

The show's supervising sound editor Mark Friedgen once explained: "They come up with lots of interesting visuals on this show and those need sound to help support the images they're trying to get across in their storytelling." Sometimes that image is Brie Larson getting locked inside her car by a vicious ghost, or Hilary Duff wrestling a sheet seemingly trying to suffocate her. Other times, it's a haunted dollhouse, or an old inn, or a hip comedy club. Each introduction is like a movie in itself, acting out a desperate spirit's attempt at contact, and with each season, the show seemed to best itself in its special effects.

By the fourth season, Ghost Whisperer would at last get an Emmy nomination for all this careful attention to haunting. The episode that did it was one of the show's most ambitious stories. In an episode called "Ghost in the Machine," Melinda must go into a computer to find both a ghost posing as a video game player and an online predator stalking young girls, existing as a ghost hunter both in the real world and in digitized form in a video game called Virtual Life. The end result impressed the Emmy crowd enough for the nom, but not for the win.

Ghost Whisperer faced stiff competition, pitted against the pilot episode of Fringe, the conclusion of a two-part Battlestar Galactica episode ("Daybreak: Part 2"), and two episodes of Heroes ("The Second Coming" and "The Butterfly Effect"), which ultimately won. But before its final season, Ghost Whisperer would also receive Emmy nominations for its music and opening titles, receiving ample attention for its undeniably chilling style through its initial run.

The believability of Ghost Whisperer's special effects is just one way the show respects its audience's professed attraction  to the supernatural. (The New York Times once surmised of the show's popularity: "Everybody's got a ghost story.") The same year Ghost Whisperer's special effects earned the Emmy nomination, Variety summed up the success of the show, "With its themes of the afterlife and extrasensory perception, Whisperer was tailor-made for building a strong following among true believers." (And yes, in case you were wondering, Jennifer Love Hewitt has confirmed she is a true believer.)

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