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I Dream of Jeannie I Dream of Jeannie

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Classic TV Revisited: I Dream Of Jeannie

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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.

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Kick-Ass TV Heroines: Xena – Warrior Princess

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Xena Warrior Princess

What was not to love about Xena? As Lucy Lawless says: “Xena is a bad-ass, kick-ass, pre-Mycenaean girl.” Evildoers, clearly, must stand down, but not only bad guys (and girls) have Xena-phobia. Even heroes quake when she swings her broadsword.

Originally created as a syndicated complement to Kevin Sorbo’s Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Xena pretty much kicked Herc to the curb. It was like when the Bionic Woman made us lose interest in the Six Million Dollar Man–only more so.

Unlike Lindsay Wagner’s early half-woman, half-machine, Xena wasn’t prone to frailty. Nor did she need robot parts. In fact, the Warrior Princess never lost. If she’s down, it’s not for long.

Plus, she was in touch with the dark side: This big-boned bruiser had definite moments of blood lust, as well as lust of some other varieties. Garbed in a leather miniskirt and armed with her trademark razor-edged, boomerang-action chakram, we watched Xena single-leggedly kick down entire platoons of Roman soldiers.

Sure, there were murmurings about Xena and her softer female sidekick, Gabrielle (actress Renée O’Connor). So what if they liked to conserve bathwater by doubling up? And what’s wrong with close friends frenching once in a while?

Then again, maybe it was true–and there’s anything wrong with that.

Actress: Lucy Lawless
Show: Xena: Warrior Princess
Character: Xena

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Classic TV Revisited: McMillan And Wife

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McMillan And Wife

Starring Rock Hudson and Susan Saint James, McMillan and Wife was a super cute crime-solving saga from the 1970s made for the NBC’s Mystery Movie series.

Who were they?
Hubby was the debonair San Francisco police commissioner Stewart McMillan.

And wifey?
Sally was a foxy, rather scatterbrained dame with a knack for finding corpses.

Worked down the morgue did she?
Hardly. Sally’s finds were usually in some glitzy mansion which the couple were frequenting for a weekend cocktail party. She also had a habit of getting her life threatened or being kidnapped.

Who was in it?
Tragic Hollywood star Rock Hudson no less. He took on Stewart McMillan in his first TV role, after years as a matinee idol with movies such as Giant.

Tragedy?
Fans of the lantern-jawed star were dismayed when he went public about having Aids. He had long kept his homosexuality secret. He carried on working in ’80s glam drama Dynasty, but make-up could not disguise the deterioration of this once-statuesque man. He died in 1985, aged 59.

What about Sally?
That role fell to raven-locked Susan Saint James. The Ali MacGraw lookalike was previously in shows such as Alias Smith And Jones and The Name of the Game.

Other characters
A vital ingredient to McMillan And Wife was sharp-tongued housekeeper Mildred, played by Nancy Walker. Somebody needed to keep the place tidy while they gallivanted about solving crime.

Famous guest stars?
Kim Basinger

The couple’s conception?
Like Hart To Hart, the idea was borrowed from Dashiell Hammett’s Thin Man books of the ’30s.

Gritty crime drama?
Hardly. These were cosy whodunnit cases, where the brutality of murder was never portrayed. The show was more about the interplay between McMillan and Sally.

Had viewers arrested?
Certainly in the US. It was the fifth highest-rated show in 1972 and 1973.

Fate of the golden couple?
Susan Saint James quit in 1976 over a contractual dispute. Nancy Walker also packed away her duster as housekeeper Mildred.

The dame’s exit was a fatal blow?
Certainly for the character of Sally – she was killed off in a plane crash. But Rock soldiered on with new assistant Sgt Steve DiMaggio (Richard Gilliland). The show became McMillan.

A winner?
Audiences dwindled and the plug was pulled.

Distinguishing features?
Cosy pillow talk, cocktail parties, Rock Hudson, pyjamas and numerous corpses.

Do say
Let’s go to bed. Turn the light out, darling.

Don’t say
Must you eat toast in bed, darling. Apologies, but I’ve got terrible flatulence. Separate bedrooms.

Not to be confused with
My Wife Next Door, Harold Macmillan, The Merry Wives Of Windsor and Mr And Mrs.

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Classic TV Revisited: The Royal

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The Royal

The Royal was an ITV drama commission and was inspired by its sister programme Heartbeat.

The lowdown: This nostalgic family drama is set in the swinging 1960s and centres on the staff of a cottage hospital in Yorkshire. Newly qualified doctor David Cheriton (Julian Ovenden) is determined to make a difference to the world and arrives at St Aidan’s Royal Free Hospital in Elinsby full of big ideas. But he clashes with the hospital’s secretary TJ Middleditch (Ian Carmichael) who is determined to run things his way. Then there is the Matron (Wendy Craig) who rules her nurses with a rod of iron and tries in vain to stop them being distracted by the handsome arrival.

Memorable moments: Watch out for former Heartbeat favourite Bill Maynard who crosses dramas and continents as Claude Jeremiah Greengrass. Greengrass has returned from a Caribbean holiday with a mystery illness but that doesn’t stop him trying to earn a fast buck. It doesn’t take long before Claude attracts Matron’s ire.

Trivia: The Royal is a family affair for real life husband and wife Robert Daws (Ormerod) and Amy Robbins (Weatherill). No fewer than seven members of their clan have appeared in the series including their daughters and stepson.

Michelle Hardwick, who played receptionist Lizzie, says her favourite moment in the whole series didn’t come on screen but in the actors’ green room. She says: “I was sitting in there with Wendy Craig and Honor Blackman and we were having a lovely conversation. I sat back and thought ‘Wow, this is great, I can’t wait to tell my gran’.”

A modern day set version called The Royal Today aired 7 January – 14 March 2008.

First broadcast: 2003

Starred: Wendy Craig, Ian Carmichael, Michael Starke, Robert Daws and Julian Ovenden

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