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I Dream of Jeannie: The Complete Series
Some shows just never seem to go out of style. These timeless pieces of television history have the unique ability to entertain us just as much today as they did when they were originally released. Catching these classics on air can be tricky and many of them can't even be found anymore. Keeping that in mind it's really no surprise that studios release all manner of collectable packages this time of year. I Dream of Jeannie is a perfect example of one such collection put together just in time for the holidays.
Comprised of all five seasons, I Dream of Jeannie assembles the previously released discs from the individual DVDs, slaps a new label on, and puts them together in one attractive and unique display case. Shipped in a clear plastic package, the Complete Series of I Dream of Jeannie comes with a case that's designed to look like Jeannie's bottle from the show. Complete with a cardboard cap that fits into the top of the bottle, this box is a great showpiece for fans of the series and it looks dead-on accurate from the front in terms of design. The practicality of this set is a complete other issue, but we'll get into that later. For now, let's focus on the show itself.
I Dream of Jeannie got its start way back in 1965 and had some moderate success right out of the gate, even though it didn't quite dethrone Bewitched or garner much attention at the Emmys. The show gained in popularity over the years, and looking back on the series it truly seems like highway robbery that it didn't "hit" with audiences and critics. Even so, the show went on to garner 139 episodes prior to going off the air in 1970.
Taking place during the height of the space program's popularity, the show was about a NASA astronaut, Anthony Nelson (Larry Hagman), who found a genie's bottle when a space mission went awry. On the desert island, Nelson picked up the bottle and unwittingly released Jeannie (Barbara Eden), the beautiful genie who had been imprisoned inside the bottle for 2,000 years. Being the gentleman that he is, Tony disregards Jeannie's attempts to throw herself at him, and merely wishes for a ride home and sets her free. Considering she fell in love with him at first sight though, Jeannie isn't about to let Tony get away. She sneaks a ride with her new master and heads back to his home at Cocoa Beach.
From this point on the show explores the daily life of Tony and Jeannie as they learn to live with each other. Tony just wants to have an ordinary life, he's engaged (temporarily), has a great job, and for the most part things are peaceful at home, but Jeannie introduction adds an element of chaos that is unprecedented. Considering Tony is Jeannie's master, his wish is her command, and she's more than willing to do whatever she can for her man. She is the subservient woman who caters to her man's whims. It's kind of sexist if you really dissect it, but it works within the confines of this show and it's important to remember that this was the 60's after all.
The first season of I Dream of Jeannie gets many of the fundamentals right and there's a formula at work here, complete with running gags that remain throughout the series. Probably the biggest theme here is that Tony spends most of his time attempting to conceal Jeannie from those around him. Most episodes are set up so that Jeannie does something magical and then blinks out of existence, leaving poor Tony to fumble for an explanation. A lot of this could have been remedied if he just locked the front door to his house, but then again I suppose things wouldn't have been quite as interesting if he did.
Along the lines of Jeannie doing things that put Tony in an awkward spot, we meet Dr. Alfred Bellows (Hayden Rorke) early on in the show. The resident psychiatrist constantly catches Tony in the midst of something inexplicable, and upon seeing it rushes to General Peterson (Barton MacLane) to tell him about it. Jeannie always comes back in the nick of time to save Tony from certain doom and that leaves Dr. Bellows looking like a fool to his superior. This is one of the staples of the show that lasts throughout most all of the seasons and is visited upon in just about every episode. Later in the series Bellow's wife is introduced and her character is every bit as suspicious.
Early on in the show, Tony's friend Roger (Bill Daily) is finally let in on the big Jeannie secret. While Tony is not necessarily greedy and uses Jeannie's powers in mostly practical ways, Roger wants to user her abilities for his own personal gain. A great example of the disparity between the two is shown when the pair of friends heads off to Reno in "How Lucky Can You Get?". Tony seems more or less content to win whatever comes his way and Roger keeps trying to get Jeannie, who is there without Tony's knowledge, to grant him a winning streak. The two characters are perfectly contrasted by each other and the actors have a great amount of chemistry as well. It was a necessity early on to provide Tony with a partner in crime in order for most of the show's gags to truly work and Daily fits that role perfectly.
With the cast introduced and most of the running gags in place, I Dream of Jeannie went on to experiment with its characters and relationships. Naturally, the big draw here was the relationship between Tony and Jeannie. This became a major focal point for the series and early on there was a lot of sexual tension between the two, though it's clear that network censors kind of debunked that somewhat as the show went on. Despite this, the attraction between the two made for many amusing skits and throughout the course of the show you'll see Jeannie slowly begin to win Tony over to the point that they actually get married.
The quality of the seasons progressed as the show went on with the first and fifth arguably being the weakest of the bunch. I Dream of Jeannie's second, third, and fourth seasons were perfect examples of the series in its prime. The writing gelled more, the concept had stabilized, and everything simply clicked. That's not to say that the bookend seasons were bad by any stretch of the imagination, but simply by comparison they were slightly weaker.
In the first season, episodes such as "My Master, the Great Rembrandt", "How Lucky Can You Get?", "My Master, the Magician", and "My Master, the Doctor" stand out as highlights. Aside from those outstanding episodes the rest of the first season was comprised largely of episodes that experimented on the characters and their roles. Some of Jeannie's history is explored (inaccurately as we learned in later seasons) and Roger finds out about Jeannie, but that's pretty much it for revelations in these episodes. Even so, the first season was entertaining as an introductory year, but it didn't exactly push the envelope.
For the second season I Dream of Jeannie simply felt better all around and it's clear that the creative staff figured out the mechanics of what worked and what didn't. In all honesty the season doesn't reinvent the wheel; it only makes it slightly better. The sophomore year starts out with "Happy Anniversary", which introduces the Blue Djinn who originally sealed Jeannie up inside of her bottle. From there episodes like "Always on Sunday", "My Master, the Rich Tycoon", "You Can't Arrest Me...I Don't Have a Driver's License", "How to Be a Genie in 10 Easy Lessons", and "Jeannie Breaks the Bank" were a lot of fun.
The third season builds upon the established Jeannie mythos and tweaks a couple of things. For starters Jeannie's evil sister, Jeannie (also played by Barbara Eden), is introduced. She's a fun addition to the show and makes for some good opportunities for the writers to play around with Tony and Jeannie a bit. This season also brings the characters to Hawaii for a few episodes and has a four-part story arc in which Jeannie gets trapped inside of a safe that's going to be shot to the moon. Tony has to do whatever he can to save her and ensure that he's the first person to open the safe, because she's locked up for so long that whoever does becomes her new master. Other noteworthy episodes in the third season include "Meet My Master's Mother", "My Turned-On Master", and "My Double-Crossing Master".
The I Dream of Jeannie machine keeps on going with the fourth season and once again very little changes. Actually, there are really no events worth noting from this year's crop of episodes aside from the introduction of Jeannie's dog, Djinn Djinn, and a two-part story arc, entitled "The Case of My Vanishing Master", where Tony is replaced with a double agent spy. Otherwise you can expect the same show from the previous years with Jeannie up to her old tricks again and Tony playing the unwitting victim in most instances. Some good episodes are still here such as "Jeannie and the Wild Pipchicks" which sees Jeannie's mother sending some special candy treats from home, and "Dr. Bellows Goes Sane" which has the doctor putting together a file on Tony and the oddities that surround his life.
It's kind of sad that it wasn't until the fifth season that I Dream of Jeannie really broke from convention. The last year of the show had Jeannie and Tony finally getting hitched after four years of teasing and longing. It introduced a new dynamic to the series and was a welcome change, but sadly it came a little too late I suppose. This year also saw more involvement from Jeannie's family members and all around the episodes seemed to be slightly more outlandish. This was a welcome bucking of the trend set by the previous years, but even so the core of the program remained largely unchanged.
Throughout the five seasons, I Dream of Jeannie really didn't mess with its fundamentals. Due to this fact some of the episodes feel lackluster and the show gets repetitive, but by and large the series developed a strong formula for itself that lasted through most every episode. I suppose this was par for the course with programs from this era, though thankfully it worked well in this case. Whether you're a Jeannie fan or not this collection is a solid purchase. This is classic television at its best and 40 years later it remains every bit as entertaining as the day it aired.
Like I previously mentioned I Dream of Jeannie the Complete Series comes with a uniquely designed package that will please just about every fan. Sure the cardboard isn't the sturdiest, but if it's just sitting on a shelf then there's no reason it should bend or tear. Unfortunately, as pretty as this set is, there are some flaws with it with regards to disc storage and ease of use.
The 20 DVDs are housed in an insert for the bottom of the bottle, which acts as an envelope of sorts. If you open it up the discs will splay out like an accordion and it's easy enough to make your selections and pull them from the sleeves. Even so, these DVD pouches are held together with poor quality glue and my collection arrived with the disc envelopes disconnected and falling all over the place. The second flaw with this design is the fact that there's nothing to denote what disc is which, meaning you have to pull the disc out of the sleeve in order to see what's on there. Making matters worse is the fact that there is no guide to help you aside from some trivia cards with episode information on the back. Just pray that you don't accidentally shuffle them. The bottom line is the set is nicely designed, but there could have been better steps at quality assurance to address issues.
The five seasons of I Dream of Jeannie all look fantastic on DVD, especially when you consider their vintage. It is worth noting that the first season was originally shot in black and white, but for the purposes of this complete collection we have the colorized version. This may undoubtedly sway some potential fans, but if you already have the black and white release in your collection then you're good to go.
The picture quality here is quite clean and easily stands out by comparison to the syndicated version of the program. The colors may appear brighter than we're used to, but even so the flesh tones are accurate, the black levels have some decent weight, and all around the contrast is appropriate. There is still an abundance of grain in the transfer, especially where stock footage is concerned, but you can't really fault a 40 year old show for that. This transfer is the same as the individual season releases so if you're looking for a quality upgrade you're going to be disappointed. However, if you simply want to pick up this timeless classic then you're going to be pleased by what's offered here.
I Dream of Jeannie the Complete Series is presented on DVD with a Dolby Digital Mono track. Considering the source it's not very surprising that the show receives such an audio presentation. Unfortunately the quality is very spotty throughout all five seasons with some moments that sound perfectly fine, and others that sound as though they are coming from a genie's bottle. There are also points during some episodes where the dialogue is muffled, the sound is scratchy, and the volume balance is a tad overbearing. These flaws are to be expected, but it's a shame the show didn't sound quite as nice as it looked.
Considering this is more or less a repackaging of the original I Dream of Jeannie release, it's not surprising to see the bonus content ported over as well.
The first disc in the set includes an audio commentary for the "Pilot" episode with Barbara Eden, Bill Daily, and Larry Hagman. Considering this commentary was put together 40 years after the fact it's not surprising that most of the production details get lost in the shuffle. What you have here is the trio of actors reminiscing while watching the episode and discussing various experiences and people they remembered. It was a charming inclusion and I found it entertaining enough. It's worth noting that the commentary was produced for the black and white DVD release, rather than the color one presented here.
On the final disc of the first season there's a feature called "Out of the Bottle: I Dream of Jeannie" (14:24). This featurette is largely a collection of interviews with Sidney Sheldon, Eden, Hagman, and Daily. Sidney provides his comments from his living room while the trio of actors appears on a set with each other. It's a fun feature with a lot of information pertaining to the creation of the show as all they all relive memories from it. It's worth mentioning that the chemistry between the actors is every bit as good now as it was 40 years ago when the show first came out.
Those two features are the only ones that make their way onto the DVDs themselves, but it's worth noting that a box containing a collection of cards is presented along with Jeannie's bottle. These cards contain stills from the show, trivia, character and actor bios, and information about each episode.
I Dream of Jeannie was an entertaining show back when it originally came out and I'm pleased to say that it has aged very well. This is one of those classics that never goes out of style and once you're a fan, you'll always been a fan. Sure the show hardly changed during its five seasons, but as the old saying goes "if it ain't broke, don't fix it."
This complete series collection is certainly an enticing showpiece for fans of the sitcom. Sure this release has some flaws with its design, the presentation isn't quite as good as it could have been, and the extra features a tad on the light side, but the quality of the program outweighs all of that. I Dream of Jeannie is a television staple that deserves to be in just about everyone's collection. Strongly Recommended