I DREAM OF JEANNIE: THE COMPLETE TV SERIES DVD SET
Rated: Not Rated (PG-Rating Canadian Home Video)
Film Length: 3,138 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Languages: English, Spanish, Portuguese
Subtitles: Spanish, Portuguese
Release Date: November 11, 2008
( out of )
I Dream of Jeannie is an exceptional 1960s sitcom presenting the hijinks of astronaut Major Anthony Nelson and his genie in a bottle (Jeannie) discovered by him on a desert island following his space capsule’s return from orbit.
Major Nelson (Larry Hagman) is constantly bedeviled by Dr. Bellows (Hayden Rorke), who suspects something strange is going on with Tony Nelson but has little idea that Jeannie (Barbara Eden) is the cause of the strange goings-on surrounding him. Major Healey (Bill Daily) is Tony's best friend at NASA and he is in on the secret regarding Tony and Jeannie.
Jeannie is a great example of capturing “lightning in a bottle” (pun intended) since the writing, acting, and production of this series represented a perfect storm of excellence in every aspect of its production. I Dream of Jeannie was created by famed novelist Sidney Sheldon, who also wrote most of the series’ episodes. To this day, Larry Hagman is not given credit fairly for his comedic acting abilities. His seemingly spontaneous reactions to Jeannie’s magical surprises and his seemingly effortless awkwardness and pratfalls lend much humor to the series. Barbara Eden is perfectly cast as the naive, wilful, and affectionate Jeannie. Bill Daily’s Major Healey and Hayden Rorke’s Dr. Bellows also add great humor to the series in their roles as assistant and foil, respectively, to the schemes wrought by Tony and Jeannie.
The series ran for 5 full seasons from 1965 through 1970. This complete series set includes all 139 episodes from the show on 20 single-sided DVDs. The face of each DVD is nicely decorated with cartoon artwork consistent with the animated opening credits of the series, and the menus are also expertly designed to match the cartoon style of the credits. The disc contents appear to be identical to the DVDs in the single season sets that were already released, with the only difference being that the faces of the discs are numbered 1 through 20, rather than 1 through 4 for each separate season release.
This complete series set has been repackaged in a rectangular clear plastic case which also has cartoon artwork that matches the series’ credit sequence. Within the case is visible a cardboard replica of Jeannie’s multi-colored bottle, complete with a cardboard stopper. The discs are held in an accordion style cardboard sleeve. The cardboard bottle is apparently designed to sit upright after being taken out of the box with the accordion sleeve holding the DVDs placed to fit in the base of the “bottle.” A limited edition set of baseball card style collector’s cards is also included with this set. The cards have photographs and trivia on one side with listings of the episode titles in order of airdate on the other side of the cards.
As much as I am thrilled by the obvious love and effort expended in making this package aesthetically pleasing, I remain very disappointed in its impractical design. It looks fantastic but remains very difficult to access. The box packaging has the bottle sitting at a 45 degree angle, and the box art is designed beautifully to display pink smoke floating out of the top of the bottle, along with cartoon figures of Major Nelson and Jeannie. The box packaging opens at the side and is basically held in place only by clear stickers. I could simply discard the clear package and have the bottle sit upright on my shelf, but the clear package is so attractive that I could not bring myself to throw it out, if that is the intent. If I am to store the cardboard bottle upright without placing it in the box package, and I do not discard the box package, I am needlessly taking up a lot of space on one shelf. Although the cardboard bottle is very attractive, it is also very flimsy. Even though my set was carefully packaged for transit through the mail, I discovered that one seam of the cardboard bottle had been completely torn even before I opened my set. Some clear tape fixed this easily but a consumer should expect the contents to remain in mint condition before the package has ever been opened. This excellent TV series deserves 5 stars out of 5 but 1 star is deducted here for the faults in the packaging.
It would also be nice if the extended, unaired version of the pilot episode were included with this set. The extended version has approximately 4 minutes of footage that was cut from the original network airing, and also has subtitles on the screen when Jeannie is initially speaking Farsi after being released from her bottle by Tony. That sequence is one of the scenes that was shortened when it was aired on the networks. The extra footage is known to still exist so one would hope that the studio might include it in future collections.
( out of )
The studio has done an exceptional job in restoring the audio and video elements of this series. The video elements are pristine. The minor dirt and debris that are normally present even after restoration of TV series from the 1960s are invisible here.
I Dream of Jeannie was produced in black and white for its first season and in color for its remaining seasons. When the first season set was released, consumers were given a choice between purchasing the first season in black and white or in a colorised version. The first season episodes in this set are the colorised versions. The colors in those first season episodes look fine for the most part, except in a few scenes in which flesh tones seem a little abnormal, but not to the point of distraction. The series was produced in black and white in its first season purely for economic reasons and not for artistic statement. Although I prefer the colorised versions of the first season episodes, I recognize that some fans prefer to see the show as it was originally aired, and their only recourse is to purchase separately the back and white first season set. It would be great if both color and black and white versions were offered on the same discs.
Thankfully, the studio has retained the original credits and theme song music from the first season, which was changed at the beginning of the second season to the theme song that most of us remember today. I enjoy the fact that the Screen Gems bumper following the closing credits has been retained in the first season episodes but disappointed that it was eliminated in the remaining seasons on this set.
Although this series ran for 5 years , every episode from the second season on has a copyright notice of MCMLXVI in the opening credits, which is how this series has been seen in syndication ever since it left the air in 1970. Extra effort from the studio would have been appreciated in restoring the opening credits for each of the succeeding seasons, rather than tacking the 1966 version of the credits on to every episode airing through 1970.
On the plus side, each episode has a running time averaging 25 to 26 minutes which suggests that the episodes here are the complete network versions, rather than the edited syndication prints that were shortened by 2 to 3 minutes in syndication to provide more time for commercials. There are rumors floating around in the blogosphere about an episode or two missing a few seconds of footage but I can find no proof to substantiate it. If anyone has any concrete evidence of this, I would welcome them to post it in this thread.
( ½ out of )
The audio is offered in Dolby Digital 2.0 sound in English, Spanish, and Portuguese. Closed captioning for the hearing impaired is also available. The sound quality is excellent, especially for a television show from the late 1960s.
A couple of episodes have allegedly had their soundtracks completely restored after certain elements of the original laugh track had deteriorated beyond repair. These episodes had received minor criticism when released in the individual season sets for not sounding true to their era. I agree that the laugh tracks on 1 or 2 episodes at most seem a little off, but not to the point of diminishing my enjoyment of those episodes, and most fans would be unable to identify which episodes were restored in this manner.
( out of )
The only special features consist of an audio commentary by Larry Hagman, Barbara Eden, and Bill Daily on the pilot episode, as well as a round table discussion by them from 2005 which includes separate interview footage by series creator Sidney Sheldon.
Contrary to rumors, the 2 I Dream of Jeannie revival TV movies are not included in this set. Although I enjoyed the TV movies when they aired, I believe that they suffered from Larry Hagman's absence, although Barbara Eden made a fantastic effort without him. It still would be nice to see these movies released on DVD.
( out of overall)
The series itself deserves 5 out of 5 stars. Although the packaging of this complete series set is beautiful, it frustrates easy access of the discs. A complete series set consisting of more than one season demands, at minimum, a booklet indexing the episode titles to the discs in the set. Otherwise, it is trial and error to locate a particular episode. Although the trading cards included with this set list the episodes in order, you are forced to keep all of the cards in the correct order, and then shuffle through them to locate the episode for which you are looking. The single season sets of I Dream of Jeannie have the episodes listed in order on the back of the clamshell disc packaging, and this packaging has unfortunately been replaced by the accordion style sleeves holding the discs in this set. In spite of a few flaws, I heartily recommend the individual season sets of this series without reservation. I cannot say the same for this complete series set, unless the flaws in this set are outweighed in your opinion by the admitted attractiveness of the packaging. Unless this box set will sit unopened on display, you are much better off purchasing the season sets separately.