BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — There has been quite a bit written — or at least joked — about the fact that CBS thinks a show about a young woman who talks to ghosts will prove more popular with viewers than a show about a young woman who talks to God.
The network canceled "Joan of Arcadia" and, come Sept. 23, will replace it with "The Ghost Whisperer," hoping more and younger viewers will be interested in a series about a young woman (Jennifer Love Hewitt) who can see and talk to dead people.
So, does CBS Entertainment president Nina Tassler think ghosts will skew younger than God?
"I wouldn't use those words exactly," she said. "The truth is anytime you put a new show in an existing time period, you're taking a risk. You're betting on it doing better. That's really where it comes from."
But, do you think it will skew younger because of the ghosts?
"Right now the show appeals to all demos," Tassler evaded.
Gee, she ought to be in politics.
Actually, Tassler has made it clear she wishes "Joan" could have remained on the air. And she's not just blowing smoke when she says the network did try to bring viewers back to a show that started off strong and then fell off in the middle of its first season (2003-2004).
The cancellation was "a big disappointment for all of us (and) me personally," she said. "We lost probably about 24 percent of our audience the middle of the first year. We never got them back.
"We went through massive marketing campaigns, promotional campaigns. We just couldn't get the audience back. It was very disappointing. . . . If you could tell me where that audience went, I would love to know."
WHAT'S REALLY ODD is that the final couple of "Joan" episodes introduced a character played by guest star Wentworth Miller — a character named Ryan Hunter who seemed, perhaps, to be the personification of the devil.
In addition to his current starring role on "Prison Break," Miller guest stars in the pilot episode of "Ghost Whisperer" as a dead soldier the title character helps.
"It's strange how that worked," said Miller, who met with the producers of "Joan of Arcadia" last fall. "By the time they called back about the role, he had been cast in "Prison Break," but "Joan's" producers still wanted him for their show.
"They knew that my commitment was, of course, to Fox and to 'Prison Break' and that I would not be able to continue that character's arc on the show if 'Prison Break' was picked up. . . . But I don't think they were worried about that because, at that point, they had bigger fish to fry," Miller said.
He shot the pilot of "Prison Break" in December, and while waiting to find out whether it would be picked up, got the guest-star role in the "Ghost Whisperer" pilot.
"I thought that was a very sweet and sentimental kind of show," he said. "It was certainly a change-up from a show like 'Prison Break,' which is action/thriller."
And even Miller finds the whole "Joan of Arcadia"/"Ghost Whisperer" coincidence rather interesting.
"I do find it strangely poetic, though, that a character who shows up on a show about God to play something kind of Satanic winds up in the very last two episodes of that show and the appears in the show that replaces that show on its exact time and night the following season."