23 July 2008 | D_Burke
A Classic Young Adults Show- WAY Ahead of It's Time
"Ghostwriter" was a show that was very original, very cool to watch, and began and ended well ahead of its time. It's a great piece of '90's nostalgia, not to mention a terrifically entertaining show. It was admittedly not well acted at times, and at other times had very unrealistic scenarios (excluding the appearance of a ghost that takes words and writes with them), but the show had so many strengths to make up for those weaknesses.
First of all, the cast of kids they had was amazing. Casting Sheldon Turnipseed as Jamal Jenkins was perhaps the best thing the producers of the series had ever done. Judging from this early piece of acting, it is absolutely surprising that Turnipseed has ended up on the "Where Are They Now?" list and has since appeared to drop off the face of the planet. He was a great leading character, not to mention an outstanding positive black role model. If Turnipseed ever decided to crawl out from the rock he has been hiding under for the last thirteen years or so and try acting again, he could reach the same A-list status as Denzel Washington or Jamie Foxx.
Blaze Berdahl was also very good as Lenni Frazier, even though her hip hop songs probably can't stand the test of time. She was just a very fun and outgoing character, and someone I would have loved to have been friends with in grade school or junior high and beyond.
Also, Berdahl's character was the token white character (save Rob, the short-lived but equally appealing character played by Todd Alexander) in a show that dared to be more diverse than many shows before or even since. In any other show made for the tween audience even today, there's usually one white girl, her white friend with different color hair, and her other black friend who has the same hair style and acts exactly the same. If the show were predominantly black, the scenario would be exactly the same.
But having a show with this diverse a cast, other shows would be accused of being too preachy. At no point in my watching this show as a youth, or even catching snippets as an adult, did I feel that a message about the human race was constantly being shoved in my face. Rather, I thought the show reflected some great insight as to the many faces of middle class NYC youth. Furthermore, the characters were developed so well that they felt less like bland stereotypes and more like actual human beings that you could possibly visit in New York. It actually made me want to live in New York as a youth, too.
Although it was a PBS show designed for kids, I'm not exactly sure even today what the show was trying to teach. This fact could be a testament to the show's ability to make entertaining stories without being known strictly as an educational show. If I were to make a guess, I would say that the show's intent was probably to teach about the importance of reading and writing. Looking back, the show actually made me want to write a lot more, and I remember wishing my penmanship was as neat as the show's characters' was. The show was also perhaps the first to frequent the use of computers, and to even talk about the World Wide Web. Of course, this was in the days where modems were bought separately from computers, and dial-up was the only way to connect. Still, there weren't even a lot of mainstream shows at the time who made major plot points about the new Information Superhighway, and that eventually became very powerful stuff.
I remember "Ghostwriter" ended abruptly, still with a legion of followers. It's a shame that the show's demise was based solely on lack of funding (as far as I know), because it remains one of the most original television shows ever aired. This show has been off the air for over a decade, and has seldom been aired in syndication. It hopefully will get the DVD release it properly deserves, and maybe we'll even find out whatever happened to Sheldon Turnipseed.