Series: I Dream of Jeannie
The girl in the bottle plays 'Spin the Astronaut'.
"All I do is think and blink."
One of the classic 1960s Fantastic Comedies
, I Dream Of Jeannie
ran on NBC
from September 1965 to May 1970. Starring Larry Hagman and Barbara Eden, it depicted the life of American astronaut Captain (later Major) Anthony Nelson and the beautiful genie he acquired while stranded on a desert island after a space mission. Because of the series' repeated emphasis on Jeannie's absolute devotion to Tony, I Dream Of Jeannie
is also considered the archetypal Reactionary Fantasy
, simultaneously establishing a woman with almost limitless power while literally enslaving her to a man who doesn't want her to use it. Despite the enormous potential for his own personal gain with no risk, Tony Nelson would rather embrace conformity so as to remain in the astronaut program. This being a Sitcom
, complete success in his goal of appearing normal is of course denied him
The only question is which gender's fantasy is being indulged. In the first episode, as he was about to be rescued from the desert island where he found her bottle, Tony explicitly freed Jeannie from his service. She followed him back to Florida entirely of her own volition, and when Tony took the most logical approach of saying, "I wish you to vanish!", she laughed that he set her free to do whatever she pleased, and what pleases her is to stick around and take over Tony's life, which may explain Tony's persistent failure to ensure her complete and unconditional obedience afterwards.
Tony's efforts to present a stable homelife centered on the opinion of NASA psychiatrist Dr. Alfred Bellows, who had suspected Tony of insanity or worse after the astronaut carelessly described his first encounter with Jeannie during a post-mission examination in the first episode. Complicating this were not only Jeannie and her magical antics, but fellow astronaut Roger Healey, who learned about Jeannie and wanted to exploit her powers for his own benefit (although this was toned down after his first attempt led to near disaster).
Dr. Bellows' wife Amanda complemented his suspicions with her own Secret Chaser
tendencies, often leaving Tony scrambling to cover for Jeannie's magical eccentricities.
Jeannie's sister, mother, and various other friends and relatives from the good old days of Caliph Haroun al'Raschid just added to the chaotic mix. Somehow, though, across the course of the five years the show was on the air, their relationship evolved from master-slave to love between partners.
In the last season Jeannie and Tony were married.I Dream Of Jeannie
was created by Sidney Sheldon
in explicit reaction to the success of Bewitched
. Inspired by the movie The Brass Bottle
(which coincidentally also starred Barbara Eden, though portly Burl Ives was the Genie in that film, while Barbara was his master's human fiancée), he deliberately inverted the genie trope as it then existed, turning the hideous and borderline-malicious male genie of the Arabian Nights
into a beautiful female genie who was eager to please her master. He also gave Tony a clear motivation for maintaining a facade of normality (remaining an astronaut during NASA's glory days, with its chances of making history), as opposed to the unremarkable, dull and conventional life idealized by Darrin Stevens.
Sheldon reportedly wanted a brunette Jeannie — mainly to avoid comparisons to the blonde Samantha of Bewitched
— but could not find anyone who could play the role as he had envisioned it; Barbara Eden was cast almost in an act of desperation.
After its cancellation, I Dream of Jeannie
demonstrated remarkable success in syndication, winning timeslots across the country and becoming the first non-network program ever to earn higher ratings
than network fare in the same timeslot. By Fall 1971, Jeannie Reruns
in syndication were reaching a larger audience than saw the program first-run on NBC. Its cult-like success spawned the mandatory Animated Adaptation
in 1973, and two TV movie semi-reunions — 1985's I Dream of Jeannie: 15 Years Later
(in which Wayne Rogers replaced Larry Hagman as Tony) and 1991's I Still Dream of Jeannie
(which eliminated Tony entirely).
A feature-film version
has been rumored for years, with every star(let)-of-the-hour from Paris Hilton to Halle Berry proposed for the title role. The latest incarnation
of this project is back in Development Hell
after being scheduled for a 2008 release for a while, a curiously identical fate to the film version of Larry Hagman's other TV show
I Dream Of Jeannie provides examples of:
- Accidental Dance Craze: At a party, Jeannie does her 'fold arms, nod head' spell casting gesture. One of the guests sees her, thinks it is a new dance move, and soon everyone at the party is doing it.
- Alpha Bitch: Jeannie's wicked sister not only fulfills the personality type —- one episode even gives her a Girl Posse of other female genies.
- Amnesiac Lover: The fate of Major Nelson after the movie. Jeannie, however, resolves to rekindle their love the non-magical way.
- Amusing Genie
- Anachronism Stew: Jeannie has supposedly been in her bottle for 2000 years, but knows a number of historical figures from that period personally, including Leonardo Da Vinci and Nostradamus.
- Animated Adaptation: 1973's Jeannie, produced by Hanna-Barbera, starring Julie McWhirter in her voice acting debut, former Three Stooges star Joe Besser ("Yapple-Dapple!") and a pre-Star Wars Mark Hamill.
- Animated Credits Opening: This actually began in the middle of Season One and was extended to include Tony in Season Two.
- Bare Your Midriff: Jeannie, except her navel.
- Becoming the Genie: This was Jeannie's origin in season one. It was retconned in later seasons.
- Benevolent Genie: Jeannie.
- Big Bad: The Blue Djinn
- Book Ends: a strange example: Barbara Eden was expecting children early in the first season and near the end of the final season, although the former was hidden and the latter ended in a miscarriage.
- Breaking the Fourth Wall: Jeannie does this a number of times, usually at the end of an episode where she's kissing Major Nelson and wants some privacy, she'll turn the the camera, blink, and the scene will cut to black.
- In the tag of "My Master, The Great Rembrant", Jeannie blinks up the artist himself who proceeds to paint the camera lens black.
- Butt Monkey: Dr. Bellows is constantly being made out as crazy because of Jeannie's antics. Roger whenever he tries to exploit Jeannie for his own benefit.
- Canine Companion: Djinn-Djinn, Jeannie's genie dog.
- Can't Hold Her Liquor: Jeannie, apparently. Although to her credit, she did guzzle down really powerful Moonshine.
- Jeannie is, if not Muslim herself, is from the Middle East; she probably hadn't had alcohol before and hadn't developed a tolerance.
- Casanova Wannabe: Roger. In spades... and diamonds, and clubs, and hearts...
- Cassandra Truth: No matter how many times Doctor Bellows sees the results of Jeannie's magic, he can never get the General to believe it, and it disappears by the time he can convince the general to come and take a look.
- Catch Phrase: "I've been waiting a looooooong time for this, Major Nelson..." (Dr Bellows, every time he thinks he's finally going to prove the current weirdness is Tony's fault.)
- Celebrity Star: Jeannie conjures up Sammy Davis, Jr... and later clones him.
- Clingy Jealous Girl: Jeannie
- Clip Show: "One of the Best Genies A Master Ever Had" (Given the option of being rid of Jeannie once and for all, Tony reminds Roger and Jeannie - and the audience - of all the things she did to him over the last two years.)
- In a more subtle sense, "Hurricane Jeannie", in which Dr. Bellows is shown some of the oddities he experienced in the past that were the results of Jeannie.
- Comes Great Responsibility: In one episode, Jeannie gives her powers to Tony without his knowlege. After Hilarity Ensues and he realizes what's happened, he briefly considers using the powers to change the world, like stopping war or famine. Jeannie, though, cautions him that solving such big problems may inadvertently cause even bigger ones, then urges him to stick to something small and managable. By that time, though, Tony's inadvertently given the power to Bellows and more hilarity ensues...
- Continuity Nod: In some of the early black and white episodes Dr Bellows would refer to the odd things that happened in previous episodes when talking to Tony about finally getting the goods on him.
- Cross Over: With Laugh In with George Slatter, Gary Owen, Artie Johnson, and Judy Carne as themselves.
- Dirty Communists: Referred to occasionally as Tony is in a branch of the Air Force. There are spies lead by a Chinese communist princess in "Jeannie and the Kidnap Caper". Subverted in "Russian Roulette", in which Jeannie's bottle is stolen by a female cosmonaut and it's fretted how the Soviet Union will now be able to conquer the world. Instead, the Russian cosmonaut defects and wishes herself into being a rich American capitalist. In "See You in C-U-B-A", Jeannie accidentally sends Tony to Castro-controlled Cuba instead of U.S.-controlled Puerto Rico.
- Disposable Fiancée: Tony's fiancee, Melissa Stone, solely existed just to lose to Jeannie. She was a general's daughter, and never even knew about Jeannie to the point she was Put on a Bus, she ran off with an ex-boyfriend. Word of God is that she was written off because the writers had no idea what to do with the character.
- Dumb Blonde: Played with. Part of it is due to her being a Fish out of Water and not being particularly familiar with the ways of the modern (1960s) world, but then other times, others (particularly her evil twin sister) uses her naivete to their advantage.
- "GI Jeannie" suggests Jeannie is in fact highly intelligent (she is said to have scored extremely well on an IQ test) but in a Ditzy Genius way.
- Early Installment Weirdness: Roger not knowing about Jeannie for about half of the first season.
- Tony and Roger being Captains.
- Everybody Owns A Ford: Pontiacs, in this case.
- Everythings Smellier With Skunks: In one episode Jeannie, trapped in her bottle, blinks up a skunk (along with a pink gas mask for herself) in order to keep Dr Bellows away from investigating it.
- Evil Matriarch
- Evil Twin: Jeannie's sister Jeannie. While they were sisters, they were not literal twins. The series proper implied Good Jeannie was the younger one, while the TV-movies implied the Wicked Jeannie was the younger one.
- Failure Is the Only Option: Poor Jeannie's quest to win Tony's love was this...until the network finally forced them to get married in the final season. Many episodes beforehand would end with the implication Tony began to develop feelings for her, only for him to once again go off on dates with other women and treat Jeannie like a servant next episode.
- Fantastic Comedy
- Five Temperament Ensemble:
- Sanguine: Jeannie
- Choleric: Tony
- Phlegmatic: Roger
- Melancholic: Dr. Bellows
- Leukine: Mrs. Bellows
- Forgotten Theme Tune Lyrics: "Jeannie, fresh as a daisy/Just love how she obeys me/Does things that just amaze me so..."
- "Freaky Friday" Flip: As a birthday surprise, Jeannie grants Roger one wish; he isn't aware of this, and when he casually mentions he wishes he could switch places with Tony, Hilarity Ensues.
- Fun With Palindromes: "Able was I ere I saw Elba" makes an appearance.
- Gay Paree: "My Master the Spy."
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: Somehow the lascivious implications of the show's premise — a beautiful, pushy woman living with an unmarried man — appear to have completely slipped past the network censors, who were more concerned about whether or not Barbara Eden's navel was visible.
- They did bring that up in the show a couple times.
- They allowed it because an early episode showed that Jeannie slept in her bottle.
- There was one episode where Tony has to restrain a burly woman who is going crazy. The woman says that she had a secret fantasy of being dominated.
- The Sexy Shirt Switch incident.
- Goofy Print Underwear: Tony in "Jeanie Go Round", when Jeanie II blinks off his pants in a nightclub, and Tony must go home in a tablecloth.
- Gratuitous Foreign Language: in this case, Jeannie speaks Persian in the pilot when Tony releases her.
- Heroes Love Dogs: Djinn-Djinn.
- Hide Your Pregnancy: Barbara Eden was pregnant during the first episodes.
- Identical Grandson: Barbara Eden also played Jeannie's mother.
- Identity Amnesia: Happens to Jeannie in one episode.
- I Just Want to Be Normal: Tony
- I Just Want to Be Special: Roger
- Inconvenient Summons
- Innocent Fanservice Girl: Jeannie, as far as 1960s standards would allow.
- Invisible President: In "My Son, the Genie", LBJ is an actor is seen from the back, wearing a white hat.
- Island Help Message: In the pilot, Tony uses Jeannie's bottle as part of the second 'S'.
- I Thought That Was: Jeannie's blonde hair makes it quite clear that the show is unrelated to Stephen Foster's song of the same name.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Roger may be Tony's friend, but he is not above taking advantage of Jeannie's powers for his own gain, but his heart is still in the right place.
- Laugh Track
- Literal Genie: Literally
- London England Syndrome: In one episode, Jeannie goes to Reno to file for separation from Tony. He thinks she's been to Reno, Nevada; but she actually went to "Reno, Persia," which seems rather anachronistic since Persia became Iran in 1935.
- She might not be aware of that and simply refer to it the way she has always known it — Persia
- Magical Gesture: Jeannie always crosses her arms and nods her head, then blinks.
- In the early episodes, the head nod and/or arm crossing are sometimes omitted.
- Magical Girlfriend
- Mayfly-December Romance: Jeannie's wicked sister has had hundreds of husbands and lovers. Though she could have simply outlived them all, knowing her, she likely collects husbands.
- Make a Wish
- Match Cut
- Meaningful Name: Jeannie, since she's a genie.
- Ms. Fanservice: Jeannie. Notice how her skirts keep getting shorter and shorter with each ensuing season?
- Mundane Wish: A common occurrence in the show. Lampshaded in one episode when Jeannie gets downright exasperated that most of Tony's wishes are mundane — but considering Jeannie's cluelessness and occasional mischeviousness, it's hard to argue against him.
- Negative Continuity: The show was infamous for its poor continuity. Or the examples, one of the most infamous was that early episodes flat out stated that Jeannie was originally a human girl, born of human parents. Later episodes retconned this with Jeannie flat out saying she was born a genie, and Jeannie had various genie relatives appear in the show, notably her evil sister.
- To make it worse, the show still went back and forth on this. Jeannie having genie relatives was brought up as early as the Season 1 "Is There An Extra Jeannie In The House?," but the second season's "How To Be A Genie In 10 Easy Steps" brought back Jeannie having once been human. Jeannie having been born a genie was pretty much settled on with the third season.
- One season 1 episode showed that Jeannie had a pet lion when she was younger, stating that it was her only pet. Later episodes introduce Djinn-Djinn who was her long-lost pet dog (who was also a genie-dog.)
- Whether or not Jeannie could be photographed depended on whether it can cause more conflict to the plot.
- The second TV movie flat out said the Jeannie's sister never had a master before, despite us seeing one in her first appearance and another epsiode saying she had hundreds of masters (and husbands) before. Bizarrely, it was also implied she never went to the real world, as if the character never appeared on the show.
- Added to that, Evil Jeannie originally had brown hair; it became black in later episodes.
- One season two episode features Jeannie being horrified of Tony going to the bank because people in her time would have their ears chopped off if they could not pay off the loans. A season five episode is driven by Jeannie being utterly confused by the concept of credit.
- Easily explained by Jeannie grasping the concept of physical money changing hands but not that of a line of credit. Credit cards were only just becoming commonplace during the original run of the series, making this a Period Piece: many people didn't (and still don't today) understand how credit works.
- One episode explained that if Jeannie had married Tony, she would become human and lose her powers, but their children could potentially be genies. When Jeannie and Tony actually did marry in the final season, Jeannie retained her powers without issue.
- Added to that, the same episode showed that Jeannie and Tony, if they married, would have a mortal son and a genie daughter. In the TV movies, Jeannie and Tony only have a son, who is treated as a human/genie hybrid.
- Another point of inconsistency was whether or not Jeannie had masters before Tony. Despite being imprisoned for 2,000 years until Tony found her, right after becoming a genie, Jeannie would often discuss having other masters, and at other time refer to Tony as her first master.
- In "My Master, the Ghost Breaker," Tony's great uncle's lawyer introduces himself as James Ashley, though is later referred to as Edward Ashley, then listed as James Ashley again during the end titles.note
- Nosy Neighbor: The Bellowses, collectively
- Offscreen Teleportation: Jeannie is fond of transporting Roger to faroff places like Antarctica and the African jungle. Somehow, he makes it back to Cocoa Beach in one or two scenes when enough time to have made it back by nonmagical means hasn't passed. (Happens three times in the first season episode "I'll never forget what's her name.")
- One Steve Limit: Averted with Jeannie, her sister (Jeannie), and her mother (ALSO named Jeannie).
- The German dub handwaved this by explaining that Jeannie II was our Jeannie's stepsister.
- The Other Darrin: Jeannie's mother was played by an entirely different actress in her first episode, before she became a minor, recurring character, and the role was taken over by Barbara Eden.
- Our Genies Are Different: Female, in Jeannie's case.
- Justified with Jeannie originally being human; though this was later retconned.
- What's more, genies have a corpeal nature, such as having blood. They also cannot be filmed or photographed, though they do have reflections.
- Playing Gertrude: The narrator in Season One implies that Jeannie is over two thousand years old when Barbara Eden was really three years Larry Hagman's junior. Of course, as a djinniyah Jeannie doesn't age in human fashion.
- Qurac: Kajsa
- Reactionary Fantasy: Although often held up as one of the archetypal examples of the Reactionary Fantasy, some commentators have argued that it may in fact be a subversion. Tony actually freed Jeannie upon being rescued in the first episode — only to have Jeannie choose to follow him home anyway. Thus she stays with Tony because she wants to, not because she is bound to him in any way, and her "servitude" and "obedience" are an act on her part. This explain rather neatly why and how she manages to get around his orders so frequently and thoroughly...
- Barbara Eden has explained in interviews that 'Master' was only a ceremonial title and that everything Jeannie did was entirely of her free will.
- Reality Subtext: Efforts made to hide Eden's pregnancy early in the series.
- So that's why she wears that body-enveloping veil in the earliest episodes!
- Larry Hagman's work on Dallas led to the recasting of Tony and the character's outright absence in the two reunion movies.
- Reassigned to Antarctica: Well, the Aleutians, actually. Tony and Roger get sent there at one point when Jeannie messes up a diplomatic situation.
- Replaced the Theme Tune: The black-and-white season 1 had an obscure jazz piece, whereas the color seasons 2-5 had the more upbeat theme we're all familiar with.
- Reunion Show: Two TV movies were made.
- Romantic False Lead: Tony's fiance Melissa in early episodes. She was dropped when the writers realized the Love Triangle just didn't work.
- Ruritania: Basenji
- Sexy Shirt Switch: Jeannie does this in the first episode after taking a shower.
- Secret Keeper: Tony, Roger
- She Is Not My Girlfriend: Tony early on. He does, eventually, fall in love with Jeannie.
- She's Got Legs: Hell yeah! Watch any episode from the last season (see Ms. Fanservice above).
- Shoot the Money: The episodes that take place in Hawaii feature some outstanding Scenery Porn.
- Shout-Out: Several to Bewitched, which the show was frequently accused of copying.
- In one episode of Seinfeld, Jerry's apartment is robbed. George walks in without buzzing. Jerry asks "How did you get here?" George replays with crossing his arms and blinking Jeannie style.
- Signature Sound Effect: the blinking sound.
- Stock Footage: Both for rocket launches, and (at least in the first season) every time Nelson drives up to his house (particularly noticeable because the rear view mirror flashes directly into the camera just as he rolls to a stop in the clip.)
- In the color episodes the shot of Tony speeding past the statue to drive up to NASA.
- Stop Trick
- Story Arc: Most unusual for a 1960s sitcom, I Dream of Jeannie engaged in several four-episode plot arcs.
- Super Smoke
- Suspiciously Similar Music: While Roger babysits Jeannie's nephew, Abdullah, Tabitha's Leitmotif from Bewitched is heard.
- Switch To Color: In 1966, starting with Season Two.
- They Do
- Title Sequence Replacement
- Tomboy and Girly Girl: Jeannie and her sister, respectively. This is highlighted by the good Jeannie wearing pantaloons and the wicked Jeannie wearing a skirt. Though this is offset with Jeannie being a Tomboy with a Girly Streak.
- Unbuilt Trope: Being a famous Fantastic Comedy, it actually showed the real problems with having something like a genie: Nelson doesn't profit from genie, not only because of his moral conviction against a genie, it also meant being hounded the government on property and money he can't report. He is hounded by his superiors simply because of his suspicious behavior, menaced by supernatural forces connected to Jeannie, and often faced with unscrupulous types who wouldn't hesitate to take advantage of an powerful being, including his own best friend Roger.
- Unintentional Period Piece: The TV movies were loaded with 80's fashion. It is very telling that the original 60's series aged much better them, with only the final season airing in 1970. To their credit, the second movie had the sense to put Jeannie in her iconic harem costume for most of the movie.
- Funnily enough, the actual show somewhat averts this in that most people seem to misremember the show as some 70's icon. In reality, the show was from the late 60's. This is somewhat justified, as the show did better in syndication than in its original run.
- Wham Line: Tony introduces Jeannie to Schaefer and Bellows: "General, Colonel, I'd like to introduce my fiancee."
- Who Even Needs a Brain?: In "Who Are You Calling a Genie?" Jeannie looses her memory after hitting her head. She's taken to hospital but when her head is x-rayed it turns out to be empty. It is not clear whether this a trait common to all genies or Jeannie in particular.
- You Look Familiar: Several people, like Michael Ansara (above) and Frank De Vol, appeared multiple times on the show in differing roles.
- You Look Familiar: Emmaline Henry appeared in a first season episode as a magician's assistant before taking on the role of Amanda Bellows the following season.
- Paul Lynde made numerous guest appearances, playing a wide range of different one-shot characters, including an IRS agent auditing Tony, to a flustered Hollywood movie director making a documentary about NASA and Tony and Roger's lives.
- Your Costume Needs Work
- Your Favorite: For Jeannie's Sister - Cherries Jubilee (Our Jeannie is allergic to cherries).