In many ways, I Dream Of Jeannie was the ultimate guy fantasy. The hero had a female genie with the looks of Barbara Eden, who could do anything via her magical powers and was completely devoted to him, to boot. Obviously, plenty of guys (and girls, as well) were keyed into that same fantasy, because I Dream Of Jeannie quickly became one of the most popular sitcoms of all time.
Larry Hagman, who later became J.R. on Dallas, starred as astronaut Tony Nelson. During an aborted space mission, he had to parachute to safety and ended up on a desert island. He stumbled across a bottle and opened it, unleashing Jeannie, a 2000 year-old genie who swore her devotion to him for freeing her from the bottle.
When the rescue crew arrived, no one believed Nelson when he told them he had found a genie. Back at the base, staff psychiatrist Dr. Bellows was convinced that Nelson was suffering from a delusion (something he would be convinced of for the rest of the show’s run). Unfortunately for Nelson, Jeannie would only appear for him and would not do her magic for others.
Nelson quickly learned to keep quiet about Jeannie and tried to keep her a secret. The only other person he allowed to learn this secret was Roger Healey, his astronaut buddy. However, further complications arose when Jeannie began doing magic for Nelson on her own initiative, thus creating things that were difficult to explain away. For instance, Jeannie caused Nelson to fail a physical prior to a space mission in ‘Anybody Here Seen Jeannie?’ because she was concerned for his safety. Another problem was that Jeannie got very jealous if another woman got interested in Nelson, even turning one of Tony’s dates into a chimpanzee.
I Dream of Jeannie neatly balanced slapstick and misunderstanding-based screwball humor in its storylines. Much like Bewitched, the show frequently incorporated similarly-magical relatives of Jeannie’s into the storylines with predictably wacky results. For instance, Eden occasionally played a dual role as Jeannie’s sister. Also, Bob Denver, who would later become well known as the title character on Gilligan’s Island, once played a genie-in-training on the show. Hagman quickly revealed himself to be an excellent comedic actor in this demanding setting, especially with physical-comedy elements. His frequent pratfalls were a highlight of the show.
Romantic tension between Jeannie and Nelson was a consistent element of the show, and this tension finally paid off when the two got married during a fourth-season episode. I Dream Of Jeannie ultimately lasted five seasons and 139 episodes before being canceled in September of 1970. It almost immediately went into syndication and continues to be telecast all over the world in reruns. From men who fantasize about Barbara Eden to fans of over-the-top slapstick to women who feel empowered by Jeannie’s use of magic to get her way, there are all kinds of fans for I Dream Of Jeannie, and it’s highly likely they will always keep it on the air.
There was a 2 hour TV Movie, I Dream of Jeannie: Fifteen Years Later that appeared in 1985 and a brief revival occurred in 1991 called I Still Dream of Jeannie.
USA / NBC – Columbia – Sidney Sheldon / 139×25 minute episodes / Broadcast 18 September 1965 – 1 September 1970
Creator/Executive Producer: Sidney Sheldon
Barbara Eden as Jeannie
Larry Hagman as Capt./Major Anthony Nelson
Hayden Rorke as Col. Dr. Alfred E. Bellows
Bill Daily as Capt./Major Roger Healey
Vinton Haworth as General Winfield Schaeffer (1969-70)
Emmaline Henry as Amanda Bellows (1966-70)
Barton MacLane as General Martin Peterson (1965-69)
Philip Ober as Gen. Wingard Stone (1965-66)