Background: The mid 1960's were a magical time for most Americans. They were still years away from the Watergate scandal, Vietnam was not a pressing issue yet, and the counter culture movement was just getting underway in any significant manner in limited areas. Hollywood churned out scores of movies with fantastical elements as the driving mulligan, responding in part to the huge scientific leaps made as part of the US Space Program. The television networks were borrowing heavily from one another just as they appear to do today and the need to "keep up with the Jones'" led NBC to commission Sidney Sheldon to make a weekly show based on a magic hotty to compete with Bewitched that opened in the top ten the previous year. The show he came up with in 1965 was the beloved I Dream of Jeannie and today's review is of the complete second season that comes out next week.
I Dream of Jeannie: Complete Second Season was the first season to be shot and broadcast in color, thus ending the controversy over the colorized episodes released from the previous season. The familiar story has been in syndication for decades now, detailing the misadventures of an Astronaut (Major Anthony Nelson played by Larry Hagman) who finds a magical lamp on a beach containing a hot looking genie (Jeannie played by Barbara Eden) in the then contemporary 1960's. The only guy that knows about Jeannie is Major Roger Healy (Bill Daly) and Roger is determined to keep her presence a secret since the discovery of such a powerful magical force could cause great turmoil (causing mankind to rely on magic instead of old fashion American values like perseverance, hard work, and the advancement of science). There were a number of regulars in the cast but only Dr. Bellows (Hayden Rorke) really had any significant presence in the show. He would see all sorts of strange occurrences and try to figure out what was going on, playing the perfect foil for the leads.
Like most men, a youthful Barbara Eden with magical powers and the willingness to serve me as her "master" worked on several levels. The sexual angle was downplayed by network censors (this was the sole major difference from Bewitched in the first season) but even unstated, it was present every time she showed up on screen in her harem outfit (or even the contemporary outfits she occasionally wore). Let's face it; the idea of a national hero (a bachelor astronaut one at that) with a beautiful live in maid was a major step apart from other series of the times as the times were changing, but only slowly.
The ability to do almost anything, go almost anywhere, and interact with almost anyone was routine in the show although the writers seemed to focus all of their efforts on providing reasons why it was a bad idea as they showed all the unintended consequences of the use of magic. Nine of the season episodes were even titled My Master, the… where Tony would find himself magically enhanced by Jeannie's powers, getting to see the ups and downs of talents or meeting historical figures. His time travel exploits were just as fraught with time line issues as anything you'd see in Star Trek, needing to set things right after initially blundering into situations when placed their without any foreknowledge by his magical playmate. Her naiveté at how the world worked after being trapped in the bottle for so long (I suppose you could say that might've been a metaphor for alcoholics in some ways too) also caused more problems then it solved though part of that was Tony's reluctance to rely on her powers even after they set the wheels in motion in an episode.
The use of contemporary issues and problems as they conflicted with the magic was the main draw of the show though. All of us can sympathize with not liking the Internal Revenue Service so when Jeannie inadvertently shows off her master's previously nonexistent wealth to an IRS agent (wonderfully played by comedian Paul Lynde to the hilt), he tries to make things right by ditching the art work, safe full of money, and other material goods that she blinked up by hauling them off. It doesn't work of course and only her powers can restore the previous order that existed before she meddled. In Rain Maker, Tony ponders the use of Jeannie's powers as the means to save folks in need, resulting once again in a series of mishaps that are ultimately beneficial but serve as a stern warning (yet again) of the unintended consequences of taking short cuts to achieve something without working for it. These days, most of us would have watched enough TV episodes of various shows to figure out most of the loopholes and ended up rich, happy masters to such a genie but the way the show embraced the cultural ideals of the time might rub some of you the wrong way. That was the formula though; Jeannie using her powers that cause a problem and Tony suffering the brunt of the matter until both of them figure a way to restore the natural order of things. Interestingly enough, the formula worked far more often than not, resulting in solid ratings throughout the five year run of the show.
I could outline every episode but the truth of the matter is, and I've been watching the show since the latter few seasons aired on broadcast TV, it is so firmly established in our collective pop culture history (still playing in syndication all over the world even today) that there's no need to do so. The slapstick humor, gentle way that the characters treated one another, and all the plot twists we've seen hundreds (or more) of times all have added up to a show that would never make it today in the jaded, cynical world we live in. It was telling how the writers played straight-laced Tony as a company man in every way EXCEPT when it came to telling his superiors his secret (perhaps they remembered all to well the McCarthy Hearings and didn't buy into the "big brother knows best" scenario that the show - and other shows of the time – seemed to accept as reality). There were some continuity errors too (Bellows mentioning the $3 million found in Tony's bank account from episode 15 in episode 3 in the past tense as one example) but overall, I have always had a warm place for the show that didn't solely rely on the physical beauty of Ms. Eden in her costume and getting the entire set on four discs in their broadcast order, looking so good, is clearly worthy of rating a Recommended. Here's a list of the episodes and air dates according to several reliable sources online, the order congruent with their place on the DVDs:
1) Happy Anniversary 12 Sep 66
2) Always on Sunday 19 Sep 66
3) My Master, the Rich Tycoon 26 Sep 66
4) My Master, the Rainmaker 3 Oct 66
5) My Wild Eyed Master 10 Oct 66
6) What's New, Poodle Dog? 17 Oct 66
7) Fastest Gun in the East 24 Oct 66
8) How to Be a Genie in 10 Easy Lessons 31 Oct 66
9) Who Needs a Green Eyed Jeannie? 7 Nov 66
10) The Girl Who Never Had a Birthday Part 1 14 Nov 66
11) The Girl Who Never Had a Birthday Part 2 21 Nov 66
12) How Do You Beat Superman 28 Nov 66
13) My Master, the Great Caruso 5 Dec 66
14) The World's Greatest Lover 12 Dec 66
15) Jeannie Breaks the Bank 19 Dec 66
16) My Master, the Author 26 Dec 66
17) Greatest Invention in the World 9 Jan 67
18) My Master, the Spy 16 Jan 67
19) You Can't Arrest Me, I Don't Have a Driver's License23 Jan 67
20) One of Our Bottles is Missing 30 Jan 67
21) My Master, the Civilian 6 Feb 67
22) There Goes the Best Genie I Ever Had 20 Feb 67
23) The Greatest Entertainer in the World 27 Feb 67
24) The Incredible Shrinking Master 6 Mar 67
25) My Master, the Pirate 13 Mar 67
26) A Secretary Is Not a Toy 20 Mar 67
27) There Goes the Bride 27 Mar 67
28) My Master, Napoleon's Buddy 3 Apr 67
29) The Birds and the Bees Bit 10 Apr 67
30) My Master, the Swinging Bachelor 17 Apr 67
31) The Mod Party 24 Apr 67
Picture: I Dream of Jeannie: Complete Second Season was presented in the original 1.33:1 ratio full frame color they were shot in over 40 years ago. The colors were almost painfully bright and I noticed no editing of the episodes (I timed a couple for comparison purposes to syndicated releases; noting that they were all longer on the DVDs by a significant amount). The fleshtones looked accurate and the usual flat lighting of broadcast TV assisted greatly in how the show has held up even now. Some of the stock shots employed looked grainy and second rate but they were few and far between, never interfering with the writing or story of the episodes. There was some grain and the resolution was akin to a show from back then but it looked substantially better than the syndicated versions of the show that I have seen a great many times, warranting the upgrade for fans of the show.
Sound: The audio was presented in the original monaural English as processed by Dolby Digital. It was as clean as I've ever heard it and while there were a few weaker moments, the standard TV formula for mixing vocals, music, and special effects was applied here. In short, the primary audio track was basic but decent. There were also similar tracks in Spanish and Portuguese that seemed a bit off to me (I have no idea of how well they were translated though) but this is usually the case with dubbed tracks. The show had Closed Captioning with Spanish and Portuguese subtitles (no Portuguese subtitles on episodes 2, 7, 24, or 26 though) that were easy to read if you speak the language.
Extras: Sadly, this was the one weak area of the 4 disc set; no extras. The closest thing to an extra would be the plot descriptions on the back of the thin pak DVD cases inside the cardboard box. I would have really enjoyed hearing some commentary by the cast and any remaining crew members but it was not meant to be.
Final Thoughts: I Dream of Jeannie: Complete Second Season was a charming show that held up nicely for me. The theme music of season two still bounces through my head (and gamblers may note that the I Dream of Jeannie slot machines so common in casinos across the nation seem to beckon folks like me all too readily because of it). If you like the show on cable or in local syndication, getting the episodes in order and so nicely mastered is enough reason to justify the purchase, even without extras. While I hope the following seasons rectify this dearth of extras, as a pop culture reference, the show is distinctly American in too many ways to count but addresses the universal appeal of magically getting more than earned without the hard work needed to make material wealth relevant. You can also revel in the numerous guest appearances by a wide range of stars, Barbara Eden's hot looks, or the silly comedy but the show struck a chord that resonates to this day for some of us.