The Complete Series
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Reviewed by Will Harris
t’s a sure sign that it’s the holiday season when you find yourself writing reviews which tackle such lofty topics as television subgenres like “shows about creepy families” and “series revolving around sexy spell-casters.” Only a few weeks ago, we made a comment about how, although the TV geek community often views “The Addams Family” as being inherently cooler than “The Munsters,” both shows are still classic ‘60s sitcoms in their own right. Now, it’s time to wax nostalgic about how, despite the fact that Samantha Stevens (“Bewitched”) was a full-fledged MILF, you just can’t go wrong with a female genie who wears a skimpy outfit, calls you “master,” and will grant your every wish.
Surely anyone who’s ever seen the opening credits for “I Dream of Jeannie” knows the premise of the series, but for the sake of argument, let’s say you haven’t. Captain Anthony “Tony” Nelson (Larry Hagman), one of NASA’s finest astronauts, heads off into the wild blue yonder, but his capsule goes off course, and he ends up crash-landing near a desert island. While there, he happens upon a pretty pink bottle, and when he rubs it, out pops Jeannie (Barbara Eden), who manages to blink up a rescue helicopter despite Nelson’s belief that she’s a figure of his imagination. Jeannie manages to hop back into her bottle and get herself smuggled aboard the helicopter, returning to Cocoa Beach, Florida, with her new master, and that’s when the hijinks begin. Tony can’t convince Jeannie to leave (and, no, the show doesn’t explain why on earth he’d ever want her to), so he’s left to keep everyone else from finding out about her, including his best friend, Army test pilot and fellow astronaut Roger Healey (Bill Daily), and NASA’s resident medical officer, Dr. Alfred Bellows (Hayden Rorke). It isn’t long before Roger ends up being let in on the secret, often being caught up in his dreams of all that Jeannie could do for him, but to make up for it, the series gradually brought in Dr. Bellows’ wife, Amanda, as someone else who Tony had to keep Jeannie secret from.
Over the course of the five seasons of “I Dream of Jeannie,” the formula of the series stayed approximately the same, with Jeannie blinking up trouble for Tony and Roger. In the final season, however, Jeannie finally convinces her master to marry her, a shark-jumping transition which meant that, although Tony no longer had to hide Jeannie’s existence, he still had to keep her abilities under wraps. During the run of the show, there were several multi-part episodes which proved to be highlights of the series, the most notable occurring when Jeannie got herself locked in a safe on a rocket to the moon, with the problems occurring when A) attempts to open the safe prior to its arrival on the moon will cause it to explode, and B) as a result, Jeannie will be in the safe so long that whoever finds her will become her new master.
But let’s face it: pretty much the only reason most guys watched the show was because they thought Barbara Eden was hot. And they were right. Further investigation, however, reveals that Larry Hagman was a great straight man, Hayden Rorke played “befuddled” as well as anyone in the ‘60s, and Bill Daily makes comedy look so easy that you’d think anyone could do it. Rorke added a second level to his character, however, by providing the perfect amount of smugness to Dr. Bellows and then offering that wonderful look of confused deflation, as if to say, “I was wrong, but for the life of me, I don’t know why I was wrong.” Those who think that Eden was all looks and no talent clearly haven’t watched the show, as the series never would’ve worked as well without her performance as a spoiled brat with magical powers.
“I Dream of Jeannie” is light and fluffy goodness from a more innocent era when you couldn’t bear your bellybutton on network television and a guy could have a female genie yet never even consider all the dirty, dirty things he could possibly make her do. Instead, it’s just a whole lot of fun, and with a catchy theme song to boot.
Special Features: The good news for fans – well, relatively speaking, anyway – is that those who bought the original single-season sets aren’t missing out on any bonus material, per se. The features from the Season One set – audio commentary on the first episode and a short on-camera interview with Hagman, Eden, Daily, and creator Sidney Sheldon – carry over, but there’s nothing added to the other seasons. This will be particularly disappointing to those who had heard the rumors that the two post-series TV movies, “I Dream of Jeannie: 15 Years Later” and “I Still Dream of Jeannie,” were going to be included. Still, the idea of packaging the complete series so that it looks like Jeannie’s bottle is a masterstroke, and those who have waited to purchase this will be pleased with one other bonus: a set of trading cards which feature photos from the show and trivia about various episodes. There is, however, one major pisser for the purists: Season One is presented in its colorized form, with no option to watch the episodes in their original black-and-white.