I Dream of Jeannie, the TV-series - I'm almost sure everybody
is familiar with it, but could you still sum it up in a few words?
me quote from NBC’s press release prior to the program’s debut:
“Television’s most alluring new comedy heroine arrives on the scene in
a beautiful puff of smoke. For
the girl in question is a delectable, wish-granting genie - named Jeannie.
She’s played by lithe and lovely Barbara Eden - which should insure
Paradise for the Aladdin of her choice.
Jeannie’s Aladdin (handsome Larry Hagman) is an astronaut.
The complications? Hilarious, (super-)naturally.” The series was
created by author Sidney Sheldon and co-starred Bill Daily as Roger
Healey, Hayden Rorke as Doctor Alfred Bellows, Emmaline Henry as Amanda
Bellows and Barton MacLane as General Martin Peterson.
its initial run, I Dream of Jeannie
was a bit, shall we say, shaky
in the ratings department. Why do you think was that?
Television audiences, for
the most part, develop viewing habits and enjoy watching a particular
program on the same night. This
was not the case with I Dream of Jeannie
as the network moved it to five
different time periods during its run. Here is the show’s original time
Sept. 1965-Sept. 1966,
Saturday 8:00-8:30, Sept. 1966-Aug. 1967, Monday 8:00-8:30, Sept.
1967-Aug. 1968, Tuesday 7:30-8:00, Sept. 1968-Aug. 1969, Monday 7:30-8:00
and Sept. 1969-Sept. 1970, Tuesday 7:30-8:00.
The show’s ratings were
not terrible but would have benefited had the program stayed put for at
least two complete seasons. Here is ratings information I was able to
First season ranking was: 27, Second season ranking: 34,
Third season ranking: Not in top 40
and according to November 1, 1967 edition of The Washington Post Times
Herald the series landed in 58th
place tied with Batman and
Garrison’s Gorillas. I Dream of Jeannie’s competition, during its third season, was the popular
series. Fourth season: 29 and
Fifth season: Not in Top
40 with Daily Variety reporting the show averaged a 15.5 share of the
audience from September 29 through November 2, 1969. During the
program’s fifth season The Mod Squad was its main competition and very
wedding of Jeannie and Major Nelson was sold as a big TV event - to what
extent did it influence both the quality and the ratings of the show?
me explain the reason for the marriage as Sidney Sheldon and the cast felt
it was a terrible idea and would hurt the show.
The television season prior to Jeannie’s wedding (1968-1969), NBC
had great public relations and ratings success marrying Agent 99 and
Maxwell Smart on Get Smart. Their television marriage earned a 37 Nielsen
share. You can just imagine
the NBC executives thinking “who can we marry off next year and get the
same success?” Well, it
could not have been the leads in The Ghost and Mrs. Muir! I Dream of Jeannie
was often landing in the top 30 and, on
occasion, the top 20, during its fourth season opposite Gunsmoke on
The March 17, 1969 edition of The Windsor Star called the series a
“quiet hit”. Still the brass at NBC
threatened to cancel the series
unless Sidney Sheldon had Jeannie wed her master.
Jan 11, 1971
Feb 15, 1971
The press went wild with the news and Jeannie, in her wedding
dress, was featured on many regional TV Guide sections in addition to the
national magazine. A press
release stated: “The wedding of Jeannie (Barbara Eden) and Maj. Tony
Nelson (Larry Hagman) of I Dream of Jeannie
will be aired on Dec. 2, and
such VIPs as Gov. Claude Kirk of Florida have been invited to a reception
at Cocoa Beach and Cape Kennedy Nov. 23 through 26, during which the
wedding will be taped.”
decision to have the pair was, in my opinion, more of a public
relation’s decision than a creative one.
The series lost much of its mystique once Jeannie’s existence was
known to everyone. Also
Barbara Eden spent less time in her harem costume which probably did not
go over well with the male viewers (myself included). Frankly, when
Jeannie got her wish and married the man she adored the story was pretty
much over. The romantic chase
was gone, the threat of Jeannie’s sister trying to steal Major Nelson
was a moot point and as Larry Hagman said, after the marriage, “no one
cared”. I know fans of the
series have mixed feelings about the wedding but because of it I Dream of Jeannie
became a different program. As
far as the show ending I think it was a combination of the wedding, the
show’s competition being The Mod Squad and executive’s wanting to make
money from the series now that it had enough episodes for syndication.
the show ended its run, it surprisingly became a big success in
syndication almost immediately - could you talk about that phenomenon for
There have been several
series including Gilligan’s Island, The Brady Bunch and The Odd Couple
which were mild successes on the network but became huge hits when playing
in syndication. I Dream of Jeannie
became available for independent television stations to purchase
in early 1971. The show
immediately became an overwhelming success. The March 31, 1971 issue of
Variety stated the series was the number one program in the Monday-Friday
time period for WPIX-New York. The
copy read, “Jeannie delivers a 12.4 rating and a 25 share - 41% higher
than her closest rival.”
Actually I Dream of Jeannie
history when a broadcast of the program earned higher ratings than its
competition on the networks. This
was the first off-network series to accomplish such a ratings feat.
Chicago Tribune’s June 20, 1971 edition noted the series was number one
in Australia, Germany and Japan. In 1985 USA Today stated the series was
being aired in 80 markets and ranked in 25th place in
syndication popularity. The show appealed strongly to women in the
18-to-34 age group while constantly finding a new audience in children.
At this time the program’s popularity ranked higher than I Love
Lucy, The Beverly Hillbillies, Mary Tyler Moore, Dick Van Dyke and
To this day, I Dream of Jeannie
pops up on
TV all over the world every now and again. How would you explain the
show's longevity - also compared to other series from its time?
not “now and again”, I Dream of Jeannie
has been airing somewhere in
the world since it debuted in syndication.
Barbara Eden has stated the show has lasted because it is not
dated, the main characters wore uniforms and it is “clean”.
Any age group can sit down and enjoy the program and appreciate it
on different levels.
did I Dream of Jeannie's, shall we say, after-life popularity
change the TV-industry and its attitude towards producing sitcoms for the
long haul at that?
recall, during the 1980’s series which were cancelled by the network
after two or three seasons had at least one more season’s worth of
episodes produced to be included in their syndication package.
This happened to at least two programs which I can recall: Punky
Brewster and Silver Spoons. The
television industry saw the need to keep series in production to ensure
the necessary amount of episodes needed for syndication.
No doubt this move was influenced by the success I Dream of Jeannie and other off-network programs from previous
years were having
on stations across the country. I
should add a program’s success in syndication plays a big part in other
industries. When I Dream of Jeannie
began playing on Nick at Nite, toy manufacturers cashed in and
produced a line of toys based on the success of the reruns.
Barbara Eden reprised her role as
Jeannie twice, in I Dream of Jeannie ... Fifteen Years Later
I Still Dream of Jeannie, in 1985 and 1991 respectively, two
TV-movies that didn't really catch on. Any explanation for this, and what
do you think about them?
first television movie, I Dream of
Jeannie ... Fifteen Years Later actually was a big success
and finished as the 11th highest rated program for the week
against the World’s Series. I enjoyed the film until the last twenty
minutes or so when Jeannie’s evil sister (played in this movie and on
the series by Barbara Eden) managed to succeed in breaking up Jeannie’s
marriage to Tony. Basically
the plot had Jeannie’s sister maneuvering Tony into taking one more
space flight which angers Jeannie. She
leaves Tony and tries life as a single woman. Tony’s space capsule is
heading in a meteor’s path. Haji,
the master of all genies, explains Jeannie cannot save his life without
consequence. Jeannie saves her
master but he later forgets his life with her.
In the last few minutes of the film the couple meet as strangers
and Jeannie ‘blinks’ which gives Tony the nudge to get to know her
once again. Maybe this ending was made to say “hey NBC
Jeannie and Tony
should not have been married in the first place” - but it was a rather sad
finish. Larry Hagman would not
reprise his role as Major Nelson and Wayne Rogers did a good job filling
in as the part was written more calmly than on the series.
Bill Daily and Hayden Rorke returned and Mackenzie Astin did an
excellent job playing the son of Jeannie and Tony.
I Still Dream of
Jeannie did not fare as well in the ratings as the first film because
its competition was the initial installment of ABC’s
Dynasty reunion as
well as the World’s Series on CBS. It
finished in 39th place but, considering what the film was up
was reportedly happy with the rating’s score.
Apparently what transpired in the first film did not influence the
second as Jeannie was happily married with her son now in high school.
Tony Senior is on an extended space mission.
In order for Jeannie to remain with her husband and son she must
find a “temporary” master. Jeannie’s
sister tries to thwart her efforts which include visiting a single’s bar
and double dating. In my opinion the second film is better than the first
as it is more like an extended episode of the series.
Jeannie acts like, well, Jeannie and not a woman seeking
What bothered loyal series fans were the
production’s staff decisions not to recreate the original harem costumes
and go with attire which had less visual appeal.
In addition the magical sound affects heard on the series were
replaced with blasé noises. Oddly
enough, the original sound effects were heard, during some of the brief
promotions for both films.
For the longest time, the
recently deceased Larry Hagman had nothing good to say about I Dream of Jeannie
- any idea why?
Before I get into this
touchy subject let me say Larry Hagman was brilliant in the role and the
show would not be the classic it has become without his involvement.
Sidney Sheldon recalled “I remember returning
from the desert where we shot one of the early episodes. We stopped at a
red light and Larry rolled down the window of the limo and yelled out,
“Someday you’re all gonna know who I am!”
Bill Daily added, “He wanted to be the star and everything went
to Barbara. He wanted to be
noticed, so he did other things like a naughty boy.” Larry did not like
the scripts and made this known in an unprofessional manner like relieving
himself on the set. Eventually
he was going to be fired but Barbara Eden stepped in and truthfully said
without Larry you have no show. Besides
on-set issues he was going through personal issues and I suppose these
memories surfaced when he thought of his days on I Dream of Jeannie.
However I have to tell you how distraught I was when he said during
an interview on Entertainment Tonight regarding his post-Dallas plans:
“I do not want to work any children, animals or genies.” Then he
paused a bit realizing how this sounded and added “That does not mean
Barbara, of course.” It was
too late and the damage was done. It
is the old saying if you cannot say something nice about someone (or in
this case something) then do not say anything at all. During the height of
his fame as J.R. Ewing, for the most part, when the subject of I Dream of Jeannie
came up in the press it was often in a negative tone.
It was certainly no surprise, when both TV-movies were in
production Hagman chose not to participate. Simply out of loyalty to
Barbara Eden for saving his job a cameo appearance in one of the films
would have been appreciated besides making millions of people very, very
happy. I asked Nicholas Sheffo from Fulvue Drive In for another opinion:
“Like Sean Connery on Bond films, Hagman watched his likeness become a
big business and he got paid very little beyond his paychecks (i.e,
endless reruns and tie-in items like books, toys, etc.) at a time when
that was too common.” Shortly
before and after his liver transplant operation in 1995 Hagman became more
appreciative of his time on I Dream of Jeannie.
In recent years he attended conventions with Barbara Eden and Bill
Daily speaking fondly of the series. When
asked why the show has endured he simply said, “it’s funny!”
I've read somewhere that in
1973, Barbara Eden and Larry Hagman were coupled again for the TV pilot Toy
Game. Have you got any more information on this, and any idea why it
didn't create much interest?
goodness! I was aware of The Toy Game but not Larry Hagman’s involvement
in it. Barbara Eden was a hot
property due to the success of I Dream of Jeannie
It was only natural for her to be cast in TV pilots in the hope
they would sell and become another successful series. There are so many
variables why a TV pilot fails but Barbara made quite a career from her
appearances in variety shows and highly rated made-for-television movies.
Just to be on the complete
side, you also have to talk about the Barbara Eden-Larry Hagman thriller A
Howling in the Woods and Barbara Eden's temporary involvement in Dallas
for a bit!
Howling in the Woods was a TV-movie which aired on NBC
The press billed it as a reunion between Barbara Eden and Larry
Hagman. It is actually an
effective thriller featuring Vera Miles.
During Dallas’ last season attempts were made to lure back
viewers and one was having Barbara Eden reunite with Larry Hagman.
Eden played LeeAnn De La Vega who was involved with
J.R. and became pregnant with his child.
She ended up having an abortion and could no longer bear children.
J.R. shunned her and she returned to seek revenge by destroying
him. The reunion received a
lot of press but it was too late to save Dallas.
Barbara Eden as
Jeannie's evil sister
How did you, personally, first get fascinated
by I Dream of Jeannie?
I do recall watching the
series during its original run. I
have vivid memories of my mother and I sitting on the couch hearing the
announcer say “I Dream of Jeannie will not be seen tonight due to this
special program”—we heard him say this often.
Naturally when the series began airing on my local Boston station (WSBK-TV
38) I became an avid fan once more. For a time both WSBK-TV and a
Providence Rhode Island station ran different episodes at 7:30pm.
I was finding myself clicking back and forth watching scenes from
two different episodes.
I Dream of Jeannie-episodes?
favorite is from the fourth season called How to Marry an Astronaut
when Jeannie’s sister, by pretending to marry Roger, attempts to wed
Major Nelson! It is a very funny episode and Eden, as usual, is very
convincing in her dual role.
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
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also have a favorite moment from How to Be a Genie in Ten Easy
Lessons from season two. When Tony’s attempts to stop Jeannie’s
misguided magic fails he turns to her and says, “When you care for
someone I mean when you really care for someone you don’t try to change
them. You take the good with the bad and be thankful for what you’ve
got”. Those words I try to
live by. It is difficult at
times but wise words coming from a situation comedy.
Any books or links you can
recommend for further reading on I Dream of Jeannie?
Cox wrote a book on the series (Dreaming of Jeannie: TV’s Prime Time in
a Bottle) which Barbara Eden told me she did not like. The book does have
a smug air to it. Cox writes fantastic books on television series but I Dream of Jeannie
was obviously not one of his favorite programs.
I actually self-published a book called Still Dreaming of Jeannie
which was in a scrap book format. It
was sold through Barbara Eden’s fan club during the late 1980’s.
Good luck finding a copy!
else you are dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
all the critics who have labeled I Dream of Jeannie
a “silly” show.
This “silly” series has become one of the most widely
syndicated television programs in the world.
Who knew Jeannie’s magic was to be this enduring in 1965?
To everyone involved with the program, thank you!
for the interview!