I Dream of Jeannie

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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 the infamous Sidney Sheldon (creator of Hart to Hart and author of numerous potboiler novels) 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.


Tropes used in I Dream of Jeannie include:
  • 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.
  • Amnesiac Lover: The fate of Major Nelson after the movie. Jeannie however resolves to rekindle their love the non-magical way.
  • Amusing Genie
  • 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.
  • Becoming the Genie: This was Jeannie's origin in season one. It was Ret Conned in later seasons.
  • Benevolent Genie: Guess who.
  • Big Bad: The Blue Djinn
  • Can't Hold Her Liqour: Jeannie Apparently.
  • Clingy Jealous Girl: 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 inadvertantly cause even bigger ones, then urges him to stick to something small and managable. By that time, though, Tony's inadventantly given the power to Bellows and more Hilarity Ensues...
  • Drop-In Character: Roger
  • Everybody Owns a Ford: Pontiacs, in this case.
  • Evil Matriarch
  • Evil Twin: Jeannie's sister Jeannie
  • Executive Meddling: Tony and Jeannie's wedding was mandated by NBC executives, who threatened to cancel the show if it weren't made to happen. Even though the production staff gave in, NBC execs still exiled the program to weak timeslots throughout its fifth season in order to give themselves an excuse to kill the series anyway.
  • Failure Is the Only Option
  • Fantastic Comedy
  • Forgotten Theme Tune Lyrics: "Jeannie, fresh as a daisy/Just love how she obeys me/Does things that just amaze me so..."
  • Fun with Palindromes: "Able was I ere I saw Elba" makes an appearance.
  • Genie in a Bottle
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Island Help Message: In the pilot, Tony uses Jeannie's bottle as part of the second 'S'.
  • Laugh Track
  • Literal Genie: Literally
  • Magical Gesture: Jeannie always crosses her arms and nods her head, then blinks.
  • Magical Girlfriend
  • Make a Wish
  • Match Cut
  • 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.
  • Nosy Neighbor: The Bellowses, collectively
  • 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 arguably 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 explains rather neatly why and how she manages to get around his orders so frequently and thoroughly...
  • 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 & Roger get sent there at one point when Jeannie messes up a diplomatic situation.
  • Rerun
  • Reunion Show: Two TV movies were made.
  • Ruritania: Basenji
  • Secret Keeper: Captain Roger Healey
  • Shout-Out: Several to Bewitched, which the show was frequently accused of copying.
  • Sitcom
  • Stop Trick
  • Story Arc: Most unusual for a 1960s sitcom, I Dream of Jeannie engaged in several four-episode plot arcs.
  • Super Smoke
  • They Do
  • Title Sequence Replacement
  • Wham! Line: Tony introduces Jeannie to Schaefer and Bellows: "General, Colonel, I'd like to introduce my fiancee."
  • Your Costume Needs Work