I DON'T KNOW if dead people watch television, and neither does anyone else.

Most networks consider anyone over 49 dead already, but Nielsen still includes them in their measurements, if only to amuse CBS, which knows that people well into their early 50s continue to buy things they've seen on TV.

Once we stop breathing, we presumably become immune to pleas of even late-night cable advertisers, so the counting stops.

So, there's no way of knowing how the no-longer-living might feel about, say, CBS' cancellation of "Ghost Whisperer" or about last week's reports that ABC had passed on reviving it.

I'd like to think that they're laughing themselves silly, if only because that's the reaction I had every time "Whisperer" 's Melinda Gordon (Jennifer Love Hewitt) floated by in one of those long, flowing dresses, heading off to persuade yet another lost soul to to get moving toward the light before the light changed.

Oddly, I don't have the same problem with CBS' "Medium," even though Allison Dubois (Patricia Arquette) also sees and talks to dead people from time to time. I don't think it's just that Allison dresses a bit more like your typical working mother and that my fondness for the show is rooted in the family dynamics, not its psychic investigations.

I think it's also the way she talks to the ghosts, which strikes me as less condescending than Melinda's approach.

And certainly less so than the dead-side manner displayed by the aspiring ghost whisperers on Syfy's "Ghost Hunters Academy," which makes its second season debut tonight with an episode set at an old tuberculosis sanatorium in Kentucky.

Maybe you didn't know that there was a "Ghost Hunters Academy," the show that, along with the original "Ghost Hunters" and its other spinoff, "Ghost Hunters International," makes up Syfy's equivalent of CBS' "CSI" franchise.

With, OK, a slightly smaller budget for music rights and special effects.

Apparently the rapid expansion of the "Ghost Hunters" brand has left TAPS - that's The Atlantic Paranormal Society, to you newbies - tapped out. In need of recruits, it formed the "Academy," a sort of Hogwarts without quidditch that provides training for adults who'd like to spend their evenings with cool gadgets, waiting for things to go bump in the night.

Did I mention, this is a "reality" show?

Maybe TAPS doesn't actually need psychic investigators all that much, given that the plan is to add only one at the end of each season, after weekly elimination rounds in which the would-be ghost hunters are judged in a number of areas, including their abilities to get along with the living and to talk creatively to the dead.

Since this latter skill mostly is about not scaring ghosts away, efforts involve lots of vague encouragement, telling, for instance, a nurse who's said to haunt the place after hanging herself there, that no one's judging her.

No one thinks to ask her if she's judging them.

But really, how could she not be, assuming she's even there?

These are adults, walking around in the dark, carrying a variety of small gadgets that measure minute temperature changes and record - they hope - spectral sounds and images. And they're talking psychobabble to people they can't see.

If the afterlife includes cable, this might be the thinking dead person's answer to "Punk'd." *

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