Thursday, March 21, 2013

TZ Promo: "I Dream of Genie" (3/21/1963)




 Season 4, Episode 12 (#114 overall)
Cayuga Production #4860
Originally aired March 21, 1963


50 years ago tonight, another genie visited The Twilight Zone, this time only offering one wish instead of the customary three. I dunno, maybe times were tough (I imagine this would happen today too, with all the sequestering and whatnot going on).



John Furia Jr.’s “I Dream of Genie” introduces us to George P. Hanley, another of The Twilight Zone’s spineless doormat types (on the ObnoxioMeter ™, I’d probably place him somewhere between Roger Shackleforth and Henry Bemis; at least he’s nowhere near James B.W. Bevis levels of noxiousness).



Here’s “I Dream of Genie” in a nutshell (spoiler alert, if you care):  guy inadvertently buys a lamp, which houses a modernized genie who only offers him one wish.  Guy spends the next hour imagining different wishes and their resultant consequences.  Guy can’t make up his mind.  Guy finally decides to take over the genie job himself, restores all the classic Middle Eastern flair associated with genies in lamps, and starts dolling out the customary three wishes per customer.




“I Dream of Genie” tries to be light and charming, and there is a certain Walter Mittyesque quality therein as George entertains elaborate fantasies in the form of dream sequences, but unfortunately there’s just not enough actual content here to fill an hour, so it gets tedious pretty fast. It doesn't help that TZ has already done this basic story (season two’s “The Man in the Bottle,” which also featured a genie in modern attire), so there’s nothing new or original here (except the ending, which I’ll admit is a well-played surprise). 



One bright spot is the fact that George’s pet dog, Attila, changes from fantasy to fantasy (all told, four different breeds play the various versions of the pooch).  I’m a dog lover, so naturally I was tickled.  And I can’t deny that I enjoy the scene early in act two in which George mulls over possible new vocations before the actual dream sequences kick in (scientist, army general, etc).




However, these elements wouldn't be enough to sustain a half hour format, much less this season’s double length requirement.  Sad to report, “I Dream of Genie” is probably my least favorite episode of the entire fourth season.  There’s just nothing here to hold my interest, man.  Nothing, that is, except…





Arroooooogah!  Patricia Barry!  TZ babe alert! Barry Previously appeared in season one’s “The Chaser” (alongside George Grizzard as the above-mentioned Roger Shackleforth).  Funny --- the coworker she flirts with here is also named “Roger.”





Barry also appeared in 1983’s Twilight Zone: The Movie as Anthony Fremont’s unfortunate mother in the “It’s a Good Life” segment (not sure why they didn't get Cloris Leachman to reprise her role from the original episode, though). 





We last saw Jack Albertson in season three’s “The Shelter.” It’s hard not to picture him surrounded by Oompa Loompas in 1971’s Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (in which he played Charlie’s beloved grandfather); however, he’s probably best remembered for his Emmy-winning role as “The Man” himself from TV’s Chico and the Man.




Other TZ alumni on display here include Loring Smith, who previously appeared in season two’s “The Whole Truth” as politician “Honest” Luther Grimbley.  We also get another dose of James Millhollin, who delighted us in season one’s “The After Hours” and season two’s “Mr. Dingle, the Strong.” Less delightful (and more head-scratchingly bizarre) was his choice to appear as Willoughby (!) the llama in the “Great Vegetable Rebellion” episode of TV’s Lost in Space.






George P. Hanley is played by Howard Morris in his only TZ appearance. He’s probably best remembered as Ernest T. Bass on TV’s The Andy Griffith Show, but you've probably heard his voice in numerous television cartoon series, including The Flintstones, The Jetsons, Magilla Gorilla and, more recently, Cow and Chicken on Cartoon Network.  He was also the original voice of McDonald’s Hamburglar!


 I got yer Robble Robble right here, Andy!



I cannot for the life of me fathom why this episode was endowed with an original score, while worthy season four episodes like “In His Image” and “Death Ship” got the recycled library music treatment (imagine Bernard Herrmann tackling either of those!). If it’s any consolation (it’s unfortunately not), Fred Steiner’s work is serviceable enough… but instantly forgettable.



“I Dream of Genie” strives to be a light comedy with supernatural overtones, but it wears out its welcome long before the hour is up.  And even if it didn't, if it somehow managed to hold our attention till the silly end… well, The Twilight Zone has done this story before, rendering this effort completely superfluous.  File it under “U” for Unnecessary and hey, while you’re at it, take next week off.




In two weeks:
Sorry to WAX rhapsodic, but Martin Balsam just plain KILLS in his return to The Twilight Zone.
Seriously, he SLAYS ‘em.




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