Features

Classic TV Revisited: I Dream Of Jeannie

i-dream-of-jeannie

Starring Barbara Eden, Larry Hagman, Bill Daily, Hayden Rorke

Comedy about a knockout 2,000-year-old genie besotted with the astronaut who rescued her from a bottle.

Appearance
Wishful thinking US comedy about a gorgeous 2,000-year-old genie who falls in love with the astronaut who releases her from her bottle.

Why was it so good?
We all tuned in – especially men – as we wondered if Jeannie would really do anything for her master Tony Nelson. Barbara Eden and Larry Hagman – who went on to play JR Ewing in Dallas – were perfect for the main roles.

How did it begin?
US network NBC was looking for a comedy to rival the supernatural success of Bewitched, with Elizabeth Montgomery, on ABC. It was created by Sidney Sheldon. He knew it would be a hit after his nine-year-old daughter gave the script the thumbs up. It began with astronaut Tony Nelson ditching on a desert island where he found a bottle containing Jeannie, who says he is her master for life.

Who was in it?
Blonde actress Barbara Eden was the star of the show as Jeannie. She would blink her eyes to get rid of her “master” Tony Nelson’s girlfriends. Although she wore a pink belly dancer-style outfit, Barbara was not allowed to show her navel by TV bosses. As well as Larry Hagman as Nelson, it featured Bill Daily as his playboy pal Roger Healey and Hayden Rorke as NASA psychiatrist Colonel Alfred Bellows.

Does Larry Hagman have fond memories of the show?
He said: “It was good, wholesome, escapist fun with a healthy dose of sexual tension.” But he also remembers the bad times. He adds: “One day I flew over the Jeanie set when I was upset about something and tried to pee on Columbia Studios. But I did not account for the wind and the spray blew back at me!”

Did it have a psychedelic element?
It was made during the hippie era and there were some out of this world special effects when Jeannie worked her magic – and some surreal incidents. Larry Hagman also tried LSD when he was in the show. During his first trip he says he saw “octopus-like creatures, lions with feathers and my dead grandmother”. He adds: “The experience took the fear of death from me, the fear of man-made heaven and hell. And so I quit worrying.”

Did Jeannie’s wish ever come true?
She obeyed her master’s every command and finally made him marry her. The wedding took place in 1971, so after five years and 139 episodes it ended. It was revived in two TV movies in 1985 and 1991 but Larry Hagman did not reprise his Tony Nelson role because he was busy making Dallas. The original series has just been shown by Channel 4 and is still repeated worldwide.

Has Barbara Eden criticised the show?
Yes she blamed it for glamorising smoking and drinking and said: “It was not a good object lesson for us or our children.”

Distinguishing features?
Navel-free zone with lots of blinking. Wishes.

Do say:
Be careful what you wish for.

Do not say:
She should have stayed in the bottle.

Not to be confused with:
Aladdin; I Love Lucy; I, Claudius; The Police hit Message In A Bottle.