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Grant-ing 'Three Wishes'

And 'Whisperer' looks a lot like 'Medium'

If you're going to copy another network's TV show, you could do worse than what "Three Wishes" has done.

It's certainly no coincidence that this new NBC series, which debuts Friday at 8 p.m. on Ch. 5, is so much like ABC's hit "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition." All networks try to replicate successful shows, even if they're on other networks.

But, hey, can we complain about a show that sets out to help deserving people?

Each week, the show travels to a small town (Cedar City will be featured in an upcoming episode) and finds three wishes worth granting. It's sort of "Home Edition" times three.

Country-music star Amy Grant is utterly charming as the show's host. She's joined by "contributors" Carter Oosterhouse ("Trading Spaces"), Eric Stromer ("Clean Sweep") and Diane Mizota ("Trading Spaces: Boys vs. Girls"), who lead the do-gooder teams.

Friday's premiere travels to Sonora, Calif., where a young girl is struggling to recover from horrific injuries in a car accident, a teacher suffering from leukemia wants nothing more than a decent football field for the local high school, and a young boy wants desperately to be adopted by his stepfather.

Yes, it's sort of overdramatized in spots. Yes, there's an element of stage-managed emotion and heightened drama for the cameras (and, they hope, for the ratings).

But the bottom line is that they're helping people.

My only reservation is the wishes-audition process. The producers scout out small towns and arrive with an anchor-wish or sorts. (In Friday's episode, it's the girl who was in the accident.) Then they set up tents and ask the townsfolk to come down and present their pleas.

Which could be sort of like "Queen for a Day" — the people with the most pathetic stories, um, "win."

Fortunately, we don't see a lot of that in the first episode. (And some "smaller" wishes are granted, too.)

"Three Wishes" is part of the movement toward feel-good reality shows — a trend that's worth encouraging.

Of course, "feel-good" is in the eye of the beholder. And "Three Wishes" is absolutely, positively the new show most likely to make you cry.

GHOST WHISPERER (Friday, 7 p.m., Ch. 2) is a show you might watch for the first time and say, "I think I've seen this before!"

And you have. It's called "Medium," and it's on NBC on Monday nights.

Jennifer Love Hewitt stars in "Ghost Whisperer" as a young woman who Sees Dead People. And they need her help.

Weirdly enough, it's supposed to be based on the experiences of psychic James Van Praagh, who's a producer. And male. Which Hewitt is not.

Anyway, Hewitt plays Melinda Gordon, a young woman who's always been able to see and talk to dead people. It's weird, but she's used to it.

That is until a creepy-looking ghost (Wentworth Miller of "Prison Break" and "Joan of Arcadia") shows up begging for her help. He scares her, and he's supposed to scare us at least a bit.

Without giving too much away, she does her best. And the show quickly turns from creepy to schmaltzy.

"Whisperer" isn't an awful show, it just isn't in the least bit original. If you've never seen "Medium" — or any of the dozens of movies or TV shows that have used this same device — you might enjoy this more.