I Dream of Jeannie is an
American sitcom starring 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 whom she eventually marries. Produced by Screen
Gems, the show originally aired from September 1965 to May 1970, for
five seasons, and produced 139 episodes. The first season consisted
of 30 episodes filmed in black and white.
series was created and produced by Sidney Sheldon in response to the
great success of rival network ABC's Bewitched series, which had
debuted in 1964 as the second most watched program in the United
States. Sheldon, inspired by the movie The Brass Bottle, which had
starred Tony Randall, Barbara Eden, and Burl Ives as the genie
Fakrash, came up with the idea for a beautiful female genie. Both I
Dream of Jeannie and Bewitched were Screen Gems productions. The show
debuted at 8:00 p.m., on Saturday, September 18th, 1965, on NBC.
When casting was opened for
the role of Jeannie, producer Sidney Sheldon could not find an
actress who could play the role the way that he had written it. He
did have one specific rule: He did not want a blonde genie because
there would be too much similarity with the blonde witch on
Bewitched. However, after many unsuccessful auditions, he called
Barbara Eden's agent.
NBC began telecasting most of its prime time television programs in
color in fall 1965, Jeannie was one of two regular programs on NBC
that remained in black and white, in this case because of the special
photographic effects employed to achieve Jeannie's magic. By the
second season, however, further work had been done on techniques to
create the visual effects in color, necessary because by 1966 all US
prime time series were being made in color.
According to Dreaming of
Jeannie, a book by Stephen Cox and Howard Frank, Sheldon originally
wanted to film season one in color, but NBC did not want to pay for
the extra expenses, as the network (and Screen Gems) believed the
series would not make it to a second season. According to Sheldon in
his autobiography The Other Side of Me, he offered to pay the extra
US$400 an episode needed for color filming at the beginning of the
series, but Screen Gems executive Jerry Hyams advised him:
"Sidney, don't throw your money away."
When reruns debuted on New
York's WPIX, Jeannie won its time period with a 13 rating and a 23
share of the audience. The series averaged a 14 share and 32 share of
the audience when WTTG in Washington, D.C. began airing the series.
It was the first off-network series to best network competition in
the ratings: "The big switch no doubt representing the first
time in rating history that indies (local stations) have knocked over
the network stations in a primetime slot was promoted by WPIX's
premiere of the off-web Jeannie reruns back to back from 7 to 8 p.m."
How do you link Jeannie to
both the Three Stooges and Star Wars? Hanna-Barbera Productions
produced an animated series Jeannie from September 1973 to 1975,
which featured Jeannie (voiced by Julie McWhirter) and genie-in-training
Babu (voiced by former Three Stooges star Joe Besser) as the
servants of Corey Anders, a high-school student (voiced by Mark
Hamill, before he played Luke Skywalker in Star Wars.).
The intro to the
Hanna-Barbara Jeannie cartoon from the 70's, based on the live-action
sitcom, "I Dream of Jeannie" starring the voice work of
Julie McWhirter, former Three
Stooges star Joe Besser and future Star Wars star Mark Hamill. And
yes, that is Mark Hamill singing the theme song. The force is stong
in this one?
the pilot episode, "The Lady in the Bottle", astronaut
Captain Tony Nelson US Air Force, (Larry Hagman, pictured right in
his "official" NASA photo), 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 is 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
Jeannie, who has fallen in love with Tony at first sight after being
trapped for 2,000 years, re-enters her bottle and rolls it into
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, he 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 Tony, 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 (Hayden Rorke below right).
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 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,
(Bill Daily) does not know about Jeannie for several episodes; when
he finds out (in the episode "The Richest Astronaut in the Whole
Wide World", January 15th, 1966), he steals her so he can live
in luxury, but not for long before Tony reclaims his status as
Jeannie's master. Roger is often shown to trying make a quick buck or
girl-crazy, and hopes to claim Jeannie so he can use her to live a
princely life or gain beautiful girlfriends, but overall he is
respectful that Tony is Jeannie's master, and later her husband. Both
Tony and Roger are promoted to the rank of major late in the first
season. In later seasons, Roger's role is retconned in that he knew
about Jeannie from the beginning as he was with Tony on the space
flight that touched down, and thus saw Jeannie introduce herself to Tony.
(left) would continue in his "aviation career" later
playing a commercial airline navigator Howard Borden on The Bob
Newhart Show. On The Bob Newhart Show 19th Anniversary in 1991 the
characters analyzed one of Bob's dreams. The dream that was the 1990
surprise finale of Newhart where Bob Newhart and Suzanne Pleshette
reprised their roles, waking up in their Chicago apartment bedroom
and revealing that the entire Newhart series had been just Bob
Hartley's dream. At one point Howard recalled, "I had a dream
like that once. I dreamed I was an astronaut in Florida for five
years," as scenes from I Dream of Jeannie featuring Bill Daily
as Roger Healey were shown.
Jeannie's sister, mentioned
in a second-season episode (also named Jeannie and also portrayed by
Barbara Eden (in a brunette wig), proves to have a mean streak
starting in the third season (demonstrated in her initial appearance
in "Jeannie or the Tiger?" September 19th, 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). Jeannie's sister wears a green
costume, with a skirt rather than pantaloons.
Early in the fifth season
(September 30th, 1969), Jeannie is called upon by her Uncle Sully
(Jackie Coogan) to become queen of their family's native country,
Basenji. After Jeannie is gone, Tony realizes how deeply he loves her
and he flies to Basenji to win Jeannie back. Upon their return to
NASA, Tony introduces Jeannie as his fiancée, in which she
attires herself as a modern American woman in public and it is easily
accepted as Tony's new girlfriend. This changed the show's premise in
that instead of the avoidiance of Jeannie's exposure, it was to hide
her magical abilities. This is contrary to the mythology created by
Sidney Sheldon's own season two script for "The Birds and Bees
Bit", in which it was claimed that, upon marriage, a genie loses
all of her magical powers.
On several occasions,
multi-part story arcs were created to serve as backgrounds for
national contests. During the second season, in a story that is the
focus of a two-part episode and a peripheral plot of two further
episodes (the "Guess Jeannie's Birthday" contest began with
the opening two-part episode on November 14th, 1966, concluding with
the name of the winner revealed after the end of the fourth episode,
"My Master, the Great Caruso", on December 5th), it was
established that Jeannie did not know her birthday, and her family
members could not agree when it was, either. Tony and Roger use
NASA's powerful new computer and horoscopic guidance based on
Jeannie's traits to calculate it. The year is quickly established as
64 BC, but only Roger is privy to the exact date and he decides to
make a game out of revealing it. This date became the basis of the
contest. Jeannie finally forces it out of him at the end of the
fourth episode: April 1st. This date conflicts with the birthday
given to her in the Season 1 episode "G.I. Jeannie": July 1st.
In a third-season four-part
episode ("Genie, Genie, Who's Got the Genie?" - January
16th February 6th, 1968), Jeannie is locked in a safe bound
for the moon. Any attempt to force the safe or use the wrong
combination will destroy it with an explosive. Jeannie is in there so
long that whoever opens the safe will become her master. The episodes
spread out over four weeks, during which a contest was held to guess
the safe's combination. This explains why Larry Hagman is never seen
saying the combination out loud: His mouth is hidden behind the safe
or the shot is on Jeannie when he says it. The combination was not
decided until just before the episode aired, with Hagman's voice
dubbed in. Over the closing credits, Barbara Eden announced and
congratulated the contest winner, with 497 as the winning combination.
In the fourth season, a
two-part episode, "The Case Of My Vanishing Master"
(January 6th13th, 1969), concerned Tony being taken to a secret
location somewhere in the world, while a perfect double took his
place at home. A contest was held to guess the location to which Tony
had been taken. Unlike earlier contests, the answer was not revealed
within the story. At the end of "Invisible House For Sale"
(February 3rd, 1969), there was a special "contest epilogue"
where Jeannie and Tony revealed to the audience the "secret
location", Puerto Rico, followed by the name of the "Grand
Although the series was set
in and around Cape Kennedy, Florida, and Nelson lived at 1020 Palm
Drive in nearby Cocoa Beach, locales in California were used in place
of those in Florida. The exterior of the building where he and Healey
had offices was actually the main building at the Dryden Flight
Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base, north of Los Angeles. Many
of the exterior shots of Tony's home or other areas show mountains or
hills in the background. The actual respective terrains of Florida
and southeast Texas where the real-life astronauts of that
time lived and trained are flat (especially the areas around
Cape Kennedy and Cocoa Beach where the Nelsons were shown to have
lived in the sitcom).
In actuality, the home of
Maj. Nelson was filmed at the Warner Ranch, in Burbank (on Blondie
Street). Many exteriors were filmed at this facility. Interior
filming was done at the Sunset Gower Studios in Hollywood. NASA
astronauts did not live in Florida at the time of the series. Since
1962, they lived and trained at the Manned Spacecraft Center (now
Johnson Space Center) in Houston.
cast and crew only made two visits to Florida's Space Coast, both in
1969. On June 27th, a parade in Cocoa Beach escorted Eden and the
rest of the cast to Cocoa Beach City Hall, where she was greeted by
fans and city officials. They were then taken to LC-43 at Cape
Canaveral where she pressed a button to launch a Loki-Dart weather
rocket. They had dinner at Bernard's Surf, where Eden was given the
state of Florida's Commodore Award for outstanding acting. Later the
entourage went to Lee Caron's Carnival Club where Eden was showered
with gifts and kissed astronaut Buzz Aldrin on the cheek, just two
weeks before the Apollo 11 launch.
The cast and crew returned
on November 25th, 1969 for three days for a mock wedding of Eden and
Hagman staged for television writers from around the nation (timed to
the airing of the nuptials episode on December 2nd) at the Patrick
Air Force Base Officers Club. Florida Governor Claude Kirk attended
and cut the cake for the couple.
Eden returned 27 years
later, in July 1996, as a featured speaker for Space Days at the
Kennedy Space Center. Cocoa Beach Mayor Joe Morgan presented her an
"I Dream of Jeannie Lane" street sign, later installed on a
short street off A1A near Lori Wilson Park.
On September 15th, 2005,
the area held a "We Dream of Jeannie" festival, including a
Jeannie lookalike contest. There had been plans for one in 2004, but
it was interrupted by Hurricane Frances and Hurricane Jeanne.
However, a Jeannie lookalike contest was held in 2004, with Bill
On August 24th, 2012, Cocoa
Beach City leaders honored the show with a roadside plaque outside
Lori Wilson Park.
first season theme music was an instrumental jazz waltz written by
Richard Wess. Eventually, Sidney Sheldon became dissatisfied with
Wess' theme and musical score. From the second season on, it was
replaced by a new theme entitled "Jeannie", composed by
Hugo Montenegro with lyrics by Buddy Kaye. Episode 20 and 25 used a re-recorded
ending of "Jeannie" for the closing credits with new,
longer drum breaks and a different closing riff. The lyrics were
never used in the show.
Songwriters Gerry Goffin
and Carole King wrote a theme, called "Jeannie", for Sidney
Sheldon before the series started, but it was not used.
In the third and fourth
season of the show, another instrumental theme by Hugo Montenegro was
introduced that was played during the show's campy scenes. Simply
titled "Mischief", the theme would be heard mainly on
outdoor locations, showing the characters attempting to do something
such as Jeannie learning to drive, Major Nelson arriving up the
driveway, a monkey walking around, or reactions to Doctor Bellows.
This theme featured the accompaniment of a sideshow organ, a
trombone, and electric bass. It was introduced in the first episode
of season 3, "Fly Me to the Moon".
first few episodes after the pilot (episodes two through eight) used
a non-animated, expository opening narrated by Paul Frees; the
narration mentions that Nelson lived in "a mythical town"
named Cocoa Beach in "a mythical state called Florida". The
remaining episodes of that first season featured an animated sequence
that was redone and expanded in season two, when the show switched
from black and white to color. This new sequence, used from season
2-5, featured Captain Nelson's space capsule splashing down on the
beach, and Jeannie dancing out of her bottle (modified to reflect its
new decoration) and then kissing Nelson. Both original versions of
the show's animated opening sequence were done by famed animator Friz Freleng.
In the first season, it is
made clear that Jeannie was originally a human who was turned into a
genie by (as later revealed) the Blue Djinn when she refused to marry
him (the term "Djinn" is synonymous with "genie").
Several members of Jeannie's family, including her parents, are
rather eccentric, but none are genies. Her mother describes the
family as "just peasants from the old country". The Blue
Djinn was played by Barbara Eden's first husband, Michael Ansara
(below left). In later seasons, he also played King Kamehameha and
Biff Jellico. Michael Ansara also played Commander Kang on three
versions of Star Trek. He originated the role in the Day of the
Dove episode in 1968 and reprised the role on the Deep Space
Nine episode Blood Oath in 1994 and the Voyager episode
Flashback from 1996.
topic of Jeannie originally being human is restated in season two
during the episode, "How to be a Genie in 10 Easy Lessons".
Jeannie mentions that she has a sister who is a genie, but the
phrasing "she was a genie when I left Baghdad"
does bring up the question of whether she too was born a genie.
In the third season, this
continuity was changed retroactively and it was assumed that Jeannie
has always been a genie. All her relatives are then also genies,
including, by the fourth season, her mother (also played by Barbara
Eden). This may have been done to increase the similarity with
Bewitched, or simply to increase the number of possible plotlines.
Whatever the reason, this new concept was retained for the rest of
The TV movie I Dream of
Jeannie... Fifteen Years Later (1985) reiterates most of Jeannie's
first-season origin when she tells her son, Tony Jr., that she was
trapped in her bottle by an evil djinn after she refused to marry
him. (There is no specific statement, however, about whether he
turned her into a genie at that time or if she had been born one.)
In a 1966 paperback novel
published by Pocket Books, very loosely based on the series, it was
established in the story that Jeannie (in the book, her real name is
revealed as "Fawzia") and her immediate family were genies
living in Tehran hundreds of years before Tony found her bottle on an
island in the Persian Gulf (instead of the South Pacific, as depicted
Jeannie's famous bottle was not created
for the show. The actual bottle was a special Christmas 1964 Jim Beam
liquor decanter containing "Beam's Choice" bourbon whiskey.
It was designed by Roy Kramer for the Wheaton Bottle Company.
years, it was said that Sidney Sheldon received one as a gift and
thought it would be a perfect design for the series. Several people
in the Screen Gems art department also take credit for finding the
bottle. There is strong evidence, however, that it was first season
director Gene Nelson who saw one in a liquor store and bought it,
bringing it to Sidney Sheldon.
Jeannie's bottle was left its original
dark, smoke-green color, with a painted gold leaf pattern (to make it
look like an antique), during the first season. The plot description
of the pilot episode in TV Guide in September 1965 referred to it as
a "green bottle". In that first episode, it also looked
quite rough and weathered. Since the show was originally filmed in
black and white, a lot of colors and patterns were not necessary.
When the show switched to color, the show's Art Director came up with
a brightly colored purple bottle to replace the original. The
colorized version of the show's first season try to make out that the
smoked glass look of the original gold leaf design is in fact purple,
to match the consistent look of the bottle used in the second through
first season bottle had a clear glass stopper that Tony took from a
1956 Old Grand-Dad Bourbon bottle in his home, as the original
stopper was left behind on the beach where Tony found Jeannie. In the
first color episode, Jeannie returns to the beach, and her bottle is
seen to have its original stopper (painted to match the bottle),
presumably retrieved by her upon her return there. The rest of the TV
series (and the movies) used the original bottle stopper. (During
some close-ups, you can still see the plastic rings that hold the
cork part of the stopper in place.)
During the first season, in black and
white, the smoke effect was usually a screen overlay of billowing
smoke, sometimes combined with animation. Early color episodes used a
purely animated smoke effect. Sometime later a live smoke pack,
lifted out of the bottle on a wire, was used.
Jeannie's color-episodes bottle was
painted mainly in pinks and purples, while the bottle for the Blue
Djinn was a first-season design with a heavy green wash; and
Jeannie's sister's bottle was simply a plain, unpainted Jim Beam bottle.
one knows exactly how many bottles were used during the show, but
members of the production have estimated that twelve bottles were
painted and used during the run of the series. The stunt bottle used
mostly for the smoke effect was broken frequently by the heat and
chemicals used to produce Jeannie's smoke. In the pilot episode,
several bottles were used for the opening scene on the beach; one was
drilled through the bottom for smoke, and another was used to walk
across the sand and slip into Tony's pack. Two bottles were used from
promotional tours to kick off the first season, and one bottle was
used for the first-season production.
Barbara Eden got to keep the color stunt
bottle used on the last day of filming the final episode of the
television series. It was given to her by her make-up woman after the
show was canceled while the show was on hiatus. Bill Daily also owns
an original bottle, and as did Larry Hagman.
In the penultimate episode, "Hurricane
Jeannie", Nelson dreams that Dr. Bellows discovers Jeannie's
secret, and that Jeannie's bottle is broken when dropped. A broken
bottle is shown on camera. This was intended to be the series' final
episode and is often shown that way in syndication.
A number of artists recreate The Jeannie
Bottle and they are available in various online stores including
dreamyjeanniebottles.com and jeanniebottles.com.
I Dream of Jeannie... Fifteen Years Later
is a 1985 made-for-television reunion film based on the 19651970
series I Dream of Jeannie which premiered on NBC on October 20th,
1985 and produced by Columbia Pictures Television.
Barbara Eden reprised her world-famous
role as the magical Jeannie. Also reprising their roles from the
original series were Bill Daily as Tony's fellow astronaut and best
friend Roger Healy, and Hayden Rorke (in his final film role) as NASA
psychiatrist Dr. Alfred Bellows. The role of Tony Nelson was played
by Wayne Rogers, best known for his role as Trapper John McIntyre on
the 1970s series M*A*S*H. Larry Hagman refused to reprise his role as
Tony Nelson reportedly because he was busy filming his CBS series
Dallas at the time.
The film was directed by William Asher
(who was also director of the 1960s show Bewitched) and the teleplay
was written by Irma Kalish. Jeannie has been a happily married
housewife for 15 years to her astronaut husband Tony Nelson and has a
teenage son, T.J. When Tony is promoted to Colonel and is about to
retire from the NASA space program, Jeannie decides to give him a
celebration party in their backyard. However, egged on by his
colleagues to retire with a dramatic flair, Tony breaks his promise
to Jeannie for one more space flight (aboard the shuttle), this time
with a female astronaut, Captain Nelly Hunt.
Jeannie's always-scheming evil sister,
determined to have Tony for herself, traps Jeannie in a bottle with a
special stopper, that nobody but another genie could open. Meanwhile,
Tony's space flight is in trouble; the engines won't fire and the
shuttle is on a collision course with a meteor.