I DREAM OF JEANNIE
I Dream of Jeannie is a 1960s American sitcom with a fantasy premise. The show starred Barbara Eden as a 2,000-year-old genie, and Larry Hagman as an astronaut who becomes her master, with whom she falls in love and eventually marries. Produced by Screen Gems, the show originally aired from September 1965 to May 1970 with new episodes, and through September 1970 with season repeats, on NBC. The show ran for five seasons and produced 139 episodes. The first season consisted of 30 episodes filmed in black and white. The other 109 episodes were filmed in color.
In the pilot episode, "The Lady in the Bottle", astronaut Captain Tony Nelson, US Air Force, is on a space flight when his one-man capsule Stardust One comes down far from the planned recovery area, near a deserted island in the South Pacific. On the beach, Tony notices a strange bottle that rolls by itself. When he rubs it after removing the stopper, smoke starts shooting out and a Persian-speaking female genie (wearing an enticing harem costume) materializes and kisses Tony on the lips with passion, shocking him. (In the second season's animated opening, it's a kiss on the cheek and Tony is happy to receive it.)
They cannot understand each other until Tony expresses his wish that Jeannie (a homophone of genie) could speak English, which she then does. Then, per his instructions, she "blinks" and causes a recovery helicopter to show up to rescue Tony, who is so grateful that he tells her she's free. But Jeannie, who has fallen in love with Tony at first sight after being trapped for 2000 years, re-enters her bottle and places it in Tony's duffel bag so she can accompany him back home. One of the first things Jeannie does, in a subsequent episode, is break up Tony's engagement to his commanding general's daughter, who, along with that particular general, is never seen again. (This event reflects producer Sidney Sheldon's decision that the engagement depicted in the pilot episode would not be part of the series continuity; he realized the romantic triangle he created between Jeannie, "Master" and Melissa Stone wouldn't pan out in the long run.)
Tony at first keeps Jeannie in her bottle most of the time, but finally relents and allows her to enjoy a life of her own. However, "her" life is devoted mostly to his, and most of their problems stem from her love and affection towards "Master", and her desire to "please" him and fulfill her ancient heritage as a genie – especially when he doesn't want her to do so. His efforts to cover up Jeannie's antics, because of his fear that he would be dismissed from the space program if her existence were known, brings him to the attention of NASA's resident psychiatrist, US Air Force Colonel Dr. Alfred Bellows. In a running gag, Dr. Bellows tries over and over to prove to his superiors that Tony is either crazy or hiding something, but he is always foiled ("He's done it to me, again") and Tony's job remains secure. A frequently used plot device is that Jeannie loses her powers when she is confined in a closed space. She is unable to leave her bottle when it is corked, and under certain circumstances the person who removed the cork would become her new master. A multi-episode story arc (see below) involves Jeannie (in miniature) becoming trapped in a safe when it is accidentally locked.
Tony's best friend and fellow astronaut, US Army Corps of Engineers Captain Roger Healey, doesn't know about Jeannie for several episodes – when he finds out (in the episode "The Richest Astronaut In the Whole Wide World" [January 15, 1966]), he steals her so he can live in luxury. It's not long though before Tony reclaims his status as Jeannie's master. Roger continues to demonstrate his desire to use Jeannie's powers for his own "selfish" benefit, but for the most part he respects Tony's status as Jeannie's master. Both Tony and Roger are promoted to the rank of major late in the first season.
Jeannie's sister, mentioned in a second-season episode (and also named Jeannie), proves to have a mean streak starting in the third season (demonstrated in her initial appearance in "Jeannie or the Tiger?" [September 19, 1967]), repeatedly trying to steal Tony for herself, with her as the real "master". Her final attempt in the series comes right after Tony and Jeannie get married, with a ploy involving a man played by Barbara Eden's real-life husband at the time, Michael Ansara (in a kind of in-joke, while Jeannie's sister pretends to be attracted to him, she privately scoffs at him).
Early in the fifth season [September 30, 1969], Jeannie is called upon by her Uncle Sully (Jackie Coogan) to become queen of their family's native country, Basenji. Tony inadvertently gives grave offense to Basenji national pride in their feud with neighboring Kasja. To regain favor, Tony is required by Sully to marry Jeannie and avenge Basenji's honor, by killing the ambassador from Kasja when he visits NASA. After Sully puts Tony through an ordeal of nearly killing the ambassador, Tony responds in a fit of anger that he is fed up with Sully and his cohorts and he wouldn't marry Jeannie if she were "the last genie on earth." Hearing this, Jeannie bitterly leaves Tony and returns to Basenji. With Jeannie gone, Tony realizes how deeply he loves her. That outweighs all concerns he has had about Jeannie's threat to his career. He flies to Basenji to win Jeannie back. Upon their return to NASA, Tony introduces Jeannie as his fiancée. The two get married several weeks later. The public introduction of Jeannie heralds a change in the series continuity: the secret is no longer Jeannie's existence, but merely that she possesses magical powers, contrary to the mythology created by Sidney Sheldon's own Season 2 script for "The Birds and Bees Bit" in which it was claimed that upon marriage, a genie loses all of her magical powers.
Sidney Sheldon and the cast fought against the marriage, feeling it would ruin the sexual tension between the two. Even with the series finishing its fourth season in 26th place, NBC was going to cancel the program if Jeannie and Tony did not wed [Sheldon later referred to the network's ultimatum as "blackmail"]. For the fifth season (1969–70), NBC moved the series to a weak time slot (Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. Eastern/Pacific Time) where it had had mediocre ratings during its third season (1967–68).
Barbara Eden as Jeannie
Larry Hagman as Captain/Major Anthony "Tony" Nelson
Bill Daily as Captain/Major Roger Healey
Hayden Rorke as Colonel Dr. Alfred Bellows
Emmaline Henry as Amanda Bellows (second season onward)
Philip Ober as Brig. Gen. Wingard Stone (episodes 1 and 4)
Barton MacLane as Maj. Gen. Martin Peterson (first to fourth season)
Vinton Hayworth as Maj. Gen. Winfield Schaeffer (fourth and fifth season)
Barbara Eden as Jeannie's sister, Jeannie II (third to fifth season)
Barbara Eden as Jeannie's mother (fourth season)
Florence Sundstrom as Jeannie's mother (first season: "My Hero?")
Lurene Tuttle as Jeannie's mother (first season: "What House Across the Street?")
Abraham Sofaer as Haji, the "chief of all the genies" (second and third season)
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