'The Others' Has A Ghost of a Chance

By John Carman, San Francisco Chronicle

Sure, ``The Sixth Sense'' was a huge box office hit, but -- they always say this -- its success had nothing to do with this new TV show.

``The Others,'' NBC's series that also happens to be about people seeing ghosts, was probably well into casting for its 107th episode before anyone ever heard about ``The Sixth Sense.'' You betcha.

So who knows? I can tell you one thing. ``The Others'' might have been in development since 1954, but it was never going to see the light of night until moviegoers went berserk over ``The Sixth Sense.''

One isn't exactly like the other. None of the lead characters in ``The Others'' is dead, and the new TV series features a bunch of ghost-spotters, not just one haunted kid.

Co-produced by ``X-Files'' and ``Millennium'' veterans Glen Morgan and James Wong, the show is slowed by a kind of dreamy languor and is infused with about the same deadly degree of levity as ``Millennium.''

But ``The Others'' has something. Tomorrow's pilot delivers some slick jolts -- watch out for the bathtub before the opening credits -- and next week's installment focuses harrowingly on a grieving widow who is visited by her late husband.

The ``Others'' of the title are a small group of otherwise dissimilar Bostonians who are bound by their supernatural abilities. They see ghosts, or they feel the pain of the dead, or they can traverse the border between life and death.

Elmer Greentree (Bill Cobbs) is an elderly medium. Warren Day (Kevin J. O'Connor) is a neurotic misfit with an extreme sensitivity to the ``other side.'' Albert Taylor (John Aylward) is a grouchy blind man whose senses other than sight are heightened. Ellen Satori (Melissa Crider) is a New Age ``sensitive.'' Mark Gabriel (Gabriel Macht) is an empathic young doctor. Miles Ballard (John Billingsley) is a college professor with an interest in the paranormal.

The group makes a reluctant convert tomorrow in the person of Marian Kitt (Julianne Nicholson), a college senior who has a couple of ghostly confrontations with a student who previously lived, and died, in her dorm room.

Marian is creeped out in her first contact with the ``Others,'' but she's joined the oddball group by the end of the first episode.

The supernatural genre is one of the toughest to crack in TV, but ``The Others'' appears to be a sharper, better produced entry than most of its predecessors.

With luck, it'll latch onto a berth alongside ``The Pretender'' and ``Profiler'' and skate ahead for years in Saturday obscurity. On the networks' Saturday schedules, you see, there truly is life after death.