Monday, December 14, 2009

100 Episodes and counting...

We had a party today on the Village Square to celebrate 100 episodes of Ghost Whisperer. Speeches were made, cake was eaten, pictures were taken. It was great. I wish you could all have been there.

I said some words to offer thanks to the people who make the show possible. There were many folks I didn't single out, because there wasn't time. Everyone who works on this show deserves special praise, for lots of reasons, but a few need to be singled out here, mostly because of what they mean to me.

These are people who not only make the show possible, they make my life liveable. They're my fellow writers, who live and work with me, helping decide what stories we tell and how to tell them, helping write those stories and rewrite and rewrite them. It's very hard work, very intense and stressful, and without their imagination, patience, bravery and energy, none of what you see on t.v. would even be dreamed of, let alone real.

Start with Laurie McCarthy. Remember that name. She's one of the most brilliant writers I've every worked with, and I've worked with some greats. She's the engine of our writers room, constantly driving stories forward with the artfulness, specificity and craft required to make good film. She's also an exceptionally gifted writer on the page.

Then there's Mark Perry. I've worked with Mark for over a decade, and the day we were able to recruit him to the show this show became very blessed. Mark writes some of our most distinct episodes, since his voice is so much his own. They're often the funniest shows, because that's who Mark is -- one of the funniest and smartest writers I know. Winner of Emmy's and Golden Globe awards, and blessed with a biting wit (we sometimes call him Snark B. Perry), he keeps the room in hysterics day in and day out.

Jeannine Renshaw is in many ways the soul of the show. She's been here longest of anyone on the writing staff (except John Gray), and knows the rules better than anyone. It's a very hard thing to hold an entire episode in your head, with all of its complex ins and outs, but Jeannine has the kind of exceptional brain that does this without breaking a sweat. She's a multi-threat, with skills and experience in each of the genres we have to master every week: mystery, relationship drama and the supernatural.

The Blake Sisters, Melissa and Joy, have been here since the beginning of season four. If you're wondering who came up with all those clever show titles, now you know: it's Melissa, punster extraordinaire. Joy has a quick wit and a highly tuned b.s. meter that keeps us all honest. Together they're excellent writers, and separately they're masters of diplomacy and filmmaking in their frequent roles as "grownups" on the set.

Stephanie SenGupta is our newest writer and has instantly made herself indispensable. The single most joyful, professional and pleasant person I've ever worked with, she has a world class gift for combining all the oftentimes contradictory challenges of writing and producing for t.v.: storytelling, writing, collaborating, haggling, and always, no matter how difficult these other parts of the job become, laughing.

And we can't forget John Gray. He's not so much a day to day presence the way he once was, but he continues to contribute in countless -- and priceless -- ways. He writes and directs at least two episodes every year, including the season finale. This year he graciously consented to write the 100th episode, a special gift to the show and the fans -- and to Love, who gets to direct a John Gray script.

Lastly, a shout out to our amazing support staff in the writing department: my assistant Dan Sinclair, writers room scribe Ben Chaney, script coordinator Steve Gottfried, writers assistant Steve Cwik, and writers p.a. Andrew Steier. Awesome, funny, gifted guys, every one of them.

You're all the wind beneath my wings. And boy are my arms tired.

Thanks.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

DON'T MISS THIS EPISODE!!!

There are probably two episodes you absolutely can't miss this season. Okay, maybe three. And this is one of them.

Not just because it's a great show -- terrifying, heartbreaking, groundbreaking -- but because in this episode, "Lost in the Shadows," you're going to see more of the other dimension -- and what lurks there -- than at any other time this year. It's gripping, disturbing, fascinating, and very important.

Any parent who has ever lost a child, any child who has ever been lost, any friend who has had to watch another friend dying, won't want to miss this show.

Check it out, everyone. This is the show you've been waiting for...

Enjoy!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Come for the dancing, stay for the Shadows...

First off, let's put some rumors to rest. Love did her own dancing. No body doubles, no pros standing in. Trust me, she suffered the bruises to prove it. You try hanging upside down from a pole in fishnets. The woman deserves a medal. Or at least a day off. (Don't worry -- she got one.)

Second, this episode is about a lot more than dancing. There are some big surprises in store. You're going to see things in this show -- and the shows coming up -- that you've never seen before. But it's just the beginning.

And for at least one key character, the beginning of the end...

(Yes, you heard that right.)

Pay close attention, and enjoy!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

They're heeeere....

Okay, now that you've seen episode 505, "Cause for Alarm" (if you haven't, go to http://www.cbs.com/primetime/ghost_whisperer/ and catch up quick!), you're beginning to glimpse where we're going this season. Aiden talks about some new "friends" which he sees but apparently Melinda doesn't. And, well, I'm not going to give anything away other than to say, everything you see on this subject is VERY IMPORTANT. Pay close attention, and don't miss an episode after this. Especially this week's Halloween show. And the one after that. And the one after that. And really REALLY the one after that...

Random factoid from recent episode: Believe it or not, the house Chad Lowe's character lives in (in the panic room episode that just aired), which looks like an industrial park or something, is actually a regular (rich person's) house. It's in Malibu, California. Move to Malibu, and you could live in a house like that too. (But don't forget to pack your winning lotto ticket.)

In the writers room we're breaking episode 514 right now, and things are really starting to heat up. Not in the writers room -- it's freezing in there. (Lousy thermostat. I wish I were kidding.) No, I'm talking about the season "arc" -- the big story we're telling in Season Five. We're starting to reveal a lot more about key supernatural elements, including the Book, and the Beings that you're going to meet soon. And man, are things going to get crazy and weird. I mean, CRAZY. And WEIRD. (You're supposed to pay attention to word choice here -- I don't have time to post a lot, so these infrequent items are clues...)

John Gray is busy writing episode 515, our 100th episode, to be directed by Love, which has been on the drawing board for some time, because it's so important. If you've been keeping up, you might have read that it's going to be "explosive." What can I tell you? Sometimes you need to believe what you read.

That's all for now. KEEP WATCHING. Because the season's big twists and developments (to borrow an AFI Top 100 Movie Quote, from the movie Poltergeist) -- THEY'RE HEEEERE....

Friday, October 2, 2009

Don't miss tonight!

Or any night, for that matter. We're starting to build this season's big mystery -- new enemies and new dangers, and maybe some new friends too -- and every week's episode has an important piece of the puzzle.

Tonight pay special attention to the ghosts. Oh, did I say ghostS, plural? I guess I did. I don't want to blow anything, but really, I'd be blowing it more if I didn't urge you to pay close attention. There's more to this episode than meets the eye. Don't miss a moment.

Enjoy!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

One week and counting...

It's sometimes an odd thing to work on a t.v. show and be experiencing it in your own time -- reading scripts, watching cuts, breaking upcoming stories in the room (we're currently conceiving episode number 11!) -- while knowing that the audience, who have us outnumbered about a million to one, has the entire fifth season still to catch up on. It's a lot different from doing a play in that way.

You do sometimes wish people could know what you know, though. I imagine folks out there have some anxiety -- what's gonna happen? Is it gonna be scary? Is it gonna stink?

Well, I won't try to predict your reactions. But I can tell you this. Networks and studios spend a lot of time trying to make entertainment more like a science. And why wouldn't they? They're in business to make money. How do you boil t.v. down to numbers? There's ratings of course. Then there's testing.

At regular intervals, most networks like to test all their shows. They want to know what you think about characters, season arcs, storylines, episodes, wardrobe, props, everything. They recruit audiences, give them dials to spin, and then sit them down for long "focus groups." Then they crunch all the data and discuss it with us. They could probably save themselves lots of time and money and just read some message boards. (But no t.v. professional will admit doing that...)

Anyway, why am I telling you all this? Because they tested our first episode, and according to all the analysis, you loved it.

Or you will, once you've seen it.

I sure hope they're right. I know I loved the show. But I'm kind of biased.

Love did a GREAT job directing. Connor, the boy who plays her new son, is an exceptionally talented young actor. And the rest of the cast and crew did exactly the kind of excellent work we've all come to expect.

Tune in next week and let us know what you thought. And we'll have some more tidbits and news as the season heats up. There's a LOT you need to catch up on, after all.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

It's the kid, stupid.

You've waited patiently for news about next season. Now that Comic-Con's over, we can tell you what we told the crowd there, and a few tidbits extra...

Season 5 in a nutshell is this: It's the kid, stupid. This season's big story is going to be driven by Melinda and Jim's new little guy, Aiden. Carl the Watcher told Melinda that her son would be able to do what she did, “and much, much more” -- and he wasn't lying. From the first episode -- brilliantly directed by Jennifer Love Hewitt -- it will become apparent what some of those gifts are. And that's because, yes, we're jumping five years ahead. I'd like to pretend we agonized over the decision, but really it was a no-brainer. No one wants to miss those early moments of young parenthood for Jim and Melinda -- but those moments are far outweighed by what we'd miss if we didn't jump forward to the time when their son first starts to display some of his special abilities. Plus, you can't do anything very interesting with a newborn. You can feed him, you can change him, you can put him down for a nap. But that doesn't make for very good t.v. Trust me, I've tried.

And what about those special abilities? Well, we're not going to give that away quite yet. But as I've suggested on this site before, the boy is going to be able to see and sense things that his mother Melinda can't. Which means a few different things. For one, it changes the rules. When we see through the child's eyes that there is a whole other plane of existence that we never knew existed, and we see that plane is populated by beings both good and bad (very very very bad), suddenly all our assumptions go out the window. All kinds of things can happen that never happened before.

For another, Melinda's job gets a little more interesting. Having a child who sees and senses things no one else does can help -- and hinder -- in her work. But she has a brand new job, too, and one that's even more complicated than the job she had before. All of us with kids know parenting is a big responsibility. You don't want to screw it up. You want your kids to be happy. But you also secretly hope (and worry): what if they grow up to be President? What if they find themselves in a place where they can make a change? Or, let's say, fight off the forces of evil? With a child like that, you REALLY don't want to screw it up. You have a big responsibility. You have to prepare that child for the job he has to do, and protect him from everyone and everything out there that wants him to fail. Or worse...

Melinda and Jim have a son who sees things that no one in their world has ever seen before. And some of those things don't want to be seen. At all...

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

I swore to myself...

... that I wouldn't turn this blog into piffle, with constant frivolous personal posts, but since I'm embargoed from giving you any real news about the show until Comic-Con this weekend (if you can get to San Diego don't miss it, and if you can't, make sure to read the coverage), I felt I should check in with SOMETHING. So...

Here's what happened: I just took some vitamins. I don't know why. I have no particular faith in any healthful benefits of vitamins, since all the claims have been counterclaimed ad infinitum. Except one benefit. The placebo effect. I believe in the placebo effect. Because the placebo effect relies on a human's ability to deceive himself into feeling better (or worse). And that's a big part of my day, every day. So the way it works is: I take vitamins and I feel better. What's wrong with that?

All you kids, take your vitamins! And watch the show, every Friday night at 8.

(And check back in after Comic-Con, when we'll have more real news to share...)

Sunday, June 28, 2009

All systems go...

Season Five is on the pad and ready to lift off. But just like any launch, ours has had weather problems up to the last second. Were we going to keep shooting on film or switch to digital? Were we going to find the right actors to play vital new roles? (Which doesn't only mean finding the actors, but also making numerous complex individual deals even for actors who won't get the part, circulating casting tapes all over town, and when necessary convening a dozen very powerful and busy adults into a room to scrutinize the skills, likability and facial features of a small child.) And last but not least, would the Universal Studios Tour trams outside our windows drive everyone MAD??? It all came down to the wire in a grueling week that I hope doesn't get repeated for at least, well, realistically, another few. Except for the way it ended. That I'd be happy to repeat, over and over, and soon. Thanks to the herculean efforts of Donna in casting and Love in preproduction and Kim and Ian everywhere else, it all came together at the last second, and the pieces are now in place for a very exciting new season. Cameras roll Tuesday, a little after dawn, in Los Angeles.

Down at our end of the hall, the writing pipeline is flowing faster and faster. Jeannine did a draft of 502, this one inspired by personal experience, when her daughter received a chain email claiming to carry a curse. Mark got his outline approved for 503, which digs painfully but comically deeply into the family secrets of one of our regulars. Meanwhile John Gray is hammering out the story for 504, which will peel back a gooey layer or two on the haunted history of a key new location. (You'll want to pay special attention to that story this season.) Melissa and Joy are in the room hatching a sleek techno thriller, and Stephanie is noodling a Halloween chill ride.

And Chief Platespinner Laurie continues to do an excellent job making sure that not only do none of the plates crash, but all of them sing.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

A very big day

Friday we had our first pre-production meeting for the new season. Headed by first episode director Jennifer Love Hewitt. Writers have been working for exactly one month to produce the first in a long line of scripts. And it's ready to go.

What's a pre-production meeting? Well, here's what happens: Heads of every department join to go over the new script in minute detail. You've heard it before and it's true: Shooting a t.v. show or movie is like waging a war. A whole lot of people have to do their very specific and challenging jobs at precisely the right moment so certain things happen on film when they need to happen. Or else. If one person fails, you have to do it again. And again. Which costs seconds or minutes.

In film, seconds are like lives: once you lose them you can never get them back. And every single member of the crew feels their loss. Because now there's less time to do the next take, the next shot, the next scene, all the rest of the work for that day and that week. Something somewhere WILL suffer.

That's why we have meetings before we shoot. And meetings. And meetings. Because every minute invested ahead of production saves precious seconds when the cameras are rolling.

Friday's meeting was also important for other reasons. As I've said before, we're making some big changes this season -- changes on every level. Where, when, what, who. And when you make changes on a show, you want to make sure people FEEL it. Which means changing not only the where when what who, but the how. New rules on the inside mean new rules on the outside. Meaning the show is going to look a lot different this season. And a key driver of this change is J Love herself. With a mandate to shake things up -- and with her own artist's restless desire to do things differently -- she came to the meeting armed with a raft of new ways to shoot the show. New staging, new filming techniques, new effects. You're going to see them from the earliest scenes of the first episode.

But let's be honest. Many of of you probably don't care that much about what happened at the pre-production meeting. You want to know what's going to happen. What's in that script that we were prepping?

Here's all I can tell you: there's a bowling ball. There's a hospital. There's a ghost. There's a goodie bag. There's another ghost. Several more, actually. There's a baby. There's a party. There's a morgue. There's a very strange dream. There's a ticking clock (literally) (and figuratively). There's a very old book. There's blood. There's tears. There's joy.

Check in again in the coming weeks for more...

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Don't hate me, but...

I couldn't resist giving people a little more to chew on than whatever slim pickings might be available through traditional channels. Plus I thought some of you might enjoy getting a glimpse of the back and forth between t.v. show producers and their lords and masters at the networks. "Lord Master" is a "current programming" executive at CBS, and a while back he asked me for an email summary of our plans for next season, such as they were at that early date. I sent him the following email, from which I've "REDACTED" content here and there (and okay, almost everywhere) to avoid spoiling too much for those of you who want to be surprised...

And I swear, this is the actual email; I didn't just create it to be cute...

================

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: "P.K. Simonds"
Date: Fri, 8 May 2009 12:56:23 -0700
Subject: BULLET POINTS FOR SEASON 5
To: Lord M
Cc:

Lord, per your request:

For Season 5 we're refreshing the show again, shaking things up and making big changes to keep our storytelling bold and surprising.

In a nutshell, the season will be very much about REDACTED and REDACTED, and especially Melinda's GIFTED CHILD. The scope of his powers -- which turn out to be REDACTED -- will gradually become apparent, and will help reveal a strange and dangerous new supernatural dimension to Melinda.

High Points:

-- Melinda's baby will be born in a dramatic REDACTED

-- Soon thereafter, REDACTED

-- Melinda and Jim have waited on pins and needles to see what gift their child might have, but REDACTED

-- Because the child has little understanding of his gift, and less control over its intensity, it puts him REDACTED

-- The child's gift also opens NEW PSYCHIC PORTALS to Melinda when REDACTED

-- Melinda learns of dimensions of the beyond she'd never known about. Dimensions that harbor both miraculous and lethal spirit energy, and whose limits are not even fully known to the WATCHERS.

-- One of these dimensions finds a focal point in the REDACTED, since it's a source of so much emotional energy -- and so many restless spirits.

REDACTED

-- Clues to the meaning of all this will continue to be found in the BOOK OF CHANGES, which Eli still safeguards against mysterious dark forces.

-- Eli may get his own unasked-for new connection to the spirit world when REDACTED come back to haunt him as ghosts.

-- Lots of stories will now be accessed through REDACTED where REDACTED has begun a new career. It's a REDACTED that becomes more of a character as its complex history is gradually revealed.

REDACTED

Thanks for all your support.

P.K.

==============

Like I say, don't hate me for being a tease. There's actually more information here than might be apparent at first glance. As time goes by -- and we know more -- we'll give you some more hints...

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Writers Day One

May 19, 2009. Today was our first day in the Writers Room. We welcomed our newest writer Stephanie Sengupta (a longtime vet of the Law and Order dynasty and a very talented writer who happens to also be a longtime fan of our show) and we talked about the big ideas for the season. (Did I mention the ideas are BIG?) Then we took turns pitching individual episode ideas. We have an excellent writing staff, so there were some excellent pitches. Prepare to be seriously entertained this season.

Oh yeah, and we wasted a little time catching each other up on what we did for our summer vacation. (For writers of network television, summer vacation comes in the spring.)

I also sat down with Exec. Producer Ian Sander and Production Designer Mayling Cheng, to talk about sets for the upcoming season. Because of some big story developments, (BIG) our sets need to be heavily reimagined and rebuilt. Not to mention the fact that we're finally returning to our backlot sets, which burned down almost a year ago. There'll be some changes there, too. See if you spot them. (Hint: We're incorporating some elements of the Warner Bros. backlot which we shot on all last season, whose "town square" -- formerly of Gilmore Girls fame -- looks a little different from ours.) Universal Studios, our longtime home, where we shot before the fire, is working literally around the clock to get our backlot sets ready for us by our production start.

We're booking directors quickly -- talented vets from years past, as well as some new faces to keep things fresh. And we're watching to see what CBS does with their schedule. We haven't officially been given our timeslot yet, and rumors are flying about interesting new possibilities as far as who we might be scheduled with. (The competition from other networks looks interesting too...)

More soon...

Gotta Love Love

May 18, 2009. Flying back from New York where I had a terrific meeting with John Gray (congrats on a first rate season finale, John!), followed by a great time watching Jamie do his stand up routine. For some reason even after working with the guy for a year I had no idea Jamie could be THAT funny. (If you ever get a chance to see him don't miss it, and make sure he does his "I'm a good girl" bit -- one of the funniest (if raunchiest) routines I've ever seen.)

Possibly even more amazing, however, was the sight, after Jamie's show was over, of Jennifer Love Hewitt, International Superstar and Preferred Paparazzi Prey, cheerfully manning the sales booth and making change for fans of Jamie's who want to buy books, dvd's and t-shirts as souvenirs. She has a smile (and correct change) for everyone, poses for pictures, and just as often volunteers to hold the camera for fans who want their picture taken with Jamie. (Apparently there are still a few people who don't know who Love is.) Then she helps pack everything up and shleps it to storage for the next show. I knew the woman could take care of herself and others, having been served amazing home cooked meals by her. But still. To see it in action like this. Unreal. We could all use a roadie like J Love.

Looking forward to the official call from CBS telling us we're coming back to Fridays at 8pm. Until then we're moving forward with our story work. It's going to be another intense year for viewers, so get ready!

Here goes nothing. Well, hopefully something...

First official blog entry. The site wasn't up and working when I wrote the post that's below (or the batch that follow), so the posting dates may not match the entry dates you see. After the first few posts, expect this to act like a real, grownup blog. Thanks for your patience...

May 14, 2009. 2pm. I'm writing this on a plane to New York to meet with John Gray about storytelling for next season. (And going to see Jamie and Love at one of Jamie's comedy concerts.) Might also run into some tv biz friends who are all in the city for "upfronts". Recently spent a week with Laurie McCarthy and Mark Perry hashing out broad outlines of season five. But it's always a good idea to go back to the Originator for a booster shot of Ghost Whisperer mojo.

The writing staff will be reconvening full time next week. Good news is the network just let us know (a little ahead of the official announcement, so we can start setting our schedule and hiring directors) that we've been picked up for next season (!), and that they're very happy with our early thoughts about story directions for season 5. Bad news? Well, there really isn't any yet because there isn't much news at all. Doing a show means managing up to eight episodes at a time, all in various stages of writing, preproduction, production and post production. Now is the best part in some ways because it's all in the dream phase (and not yet in the all nighter phase!) As any writers out there know -- or dreamers of any kind -- things are always best in the dream phase.

So what are we dreaming about for next year? Big dreams. We ended the season with a "hopper" full of interesting episode ideas, but as a showrunner you always hope to come up with more than episodes. You want to find a big idea. A way to look at a season that helps it become an event of its own. That was what last season gave us. We want nothing less for next. If you're wondering what that means, there are plenty of clues in the season four finale that just aired. But there's also lots you don't know -- and hopefully won't guess! The show is going to make some very big changes. As always, we're looking for stuff that gives us interesting stories to tell, stories with high stakes. And we want to find life-changing challenges for our characters to give them -- and the audience -- the most thrilling journey possible.

Perhaps you're wondering: Is anyone going to die? Dudes, the show is called Ghost Whisperer. People are going to die. Including people we care about? Well, otherwise, I mean, who would care...?

Stay tuned to this blog and to Ian and Kim's blog on tvguide.com, and we'll keep the tidbits and clues and insider stuff coming.

And as always, thanks from the bottom of our hearts for watching.

P. K. Simonds