50 Years of “I Dream of Jeannie”

p184165_b_v7_aaSeptember 18, 1965. Astronaut Tony Nelson pilots the manned space capsule Stardust One on an experimental mission into Earth’s orbit. Technical difficulties force him to crash land on a deserted island in the South Pacific, where he discovers a beautiful girl – a genie imprisoned in a bejeweled bottle for 2,000 years. Tony is rescued, but the genie stows away and infiltrates his life with one goal in mind: to become his wife.

Such is the high-concept premise of I Dream of Jeannie, the timeless TV classic that debuted on NBC fifty years ago today. To celebrate the anniversary, nostalgic broadcast network Antenna TV will present a 24-hour, 48-episode marathon this weekend hosted by Barbara Eden – Jeannie herself – still gorgeous at age 84. The binge kicks off Saturday at 8 p.m. with the 1965 pilot and concludes Sunday with a series of episodes in which Jeannie and Tony finally tie the knot. It may have taken her five seasons, but Jeannie eventually got her wish.

jeannie5In a recent (and highly dubious) Hollywood Reporter poll of 2,800 entertainment industry professionals, I Dream of Jeannie ranked 70th in the “100 Favorite TV shows” of all time. For me, it’s easily in the top 20. Although I didn’t materialize until late in the show’s original run, Jeannie was required after-school viewing in syndicated reruns on New York’s WPIX throughout my late ‘70s and early ’80s childhood. My little sister and I even played our own real-life version of the show, which mostly involved me ordering her to get me snacks from the kitchen. My sister also insists that I did a “shimmy dance” every time the iconic theme song played, though I have conveniently forgotten all about that (and wish you would, too). Much as I love nostalgia, some things are better left in the past.

Inspired by the 1964 fantasy film THE BRASS BOTTLE (which featured Barbara Eden as a mortal), Jeannie was created by Sidney Sheldon as NBC’s answer to ABC’s supernatural sitcom Bewitched (number 62 on The Hollywood Reporter list). Neither show has left the air in the half century since and, though I loved them both as a kid, Jeannie is the one I enjoy more in my middle-aged dotage. I’ve always dug the deadpan slapstick antics of Larry Hagman (as Tony) and Bill Daily (as his wacko wingman Roger Healey) but the enduring appeal of the series rests firmly on the hot pink-clad shoulders of Barbara Eden.

Screen Shot 2015-09-18 at 7.32.52 PMOn paper, I Dream of Jeannie is a prototypical, Mad Men-era male fantasy: a gorgeous chick in a skimpy outfit living in a single man’s pad without (for most of the series) benefit of a marriage license. But Eden turns the sexist concept on its ear with a knowing wink (and a powerful blink). Her Jeannie dominates every dude she encounters, while still maintaining a charming, girl-next-bottle sweetness. She may have called Tony her “Master,” but Jeannie was clearly the one in charge. And, as a woman who bridged the chasm between the black-and-white conservatism of the mid-1960s and the go-go-boot-wearing liberation of the early ’70s, Barbara Eden must be acknowledged as one of the great female icons in the history of television.

And now, thanks to Antenna TV, we get to share this anniversary with her. For classic TV fans like me, that’s a wish come true.

Antenna TV is a free, over-the-air network available on the digital signal of local affiliates in more than 75% of the US. To see if Antenna TV is available in your city, click here. For those who don’t get Antenna TV, “I Dream of Jeannie” is also available to stream at Amazon, iTunes and Vudu for $1.99 per-episode or $19.99 per season. Note that Amazon only offers colorized versions of Season 1. Original black and white episodes are also available on DVD. The following is an episode guide to the Antenna TV marathon:

Jeannie

Saturday, September 19 
8 PM The Lady in the Bottle (Season 1/Episode 1 – Airdate: 9/18/1965)
8:30 PM The Americanization of Jeannie (S1/E8 – 11/6/1965)
9 PM Whatever Happened to Baby Custer (S1/E11 – 11/27/1965)
9:30 PM What House Across the Street (S1/E14 – 12/18/1965)
10 PM The Richest Astronaut in the Whole Wide World (S1/E17 – 1/15/1966)
10:30 PM How Lucky Can You Get (S1/E22 – 2/19/1966)
11 PM Watch the Birdie (S1/E23 – 2/26/1966)
11:30 PM My Master, the Great Rembrandt (S1/E26 – 3/19/1966)

Sunday, September 20 
12 AM  I’ll Never Forget What’s Her Name (S1/E30 – 5/7/1966)
12:30 AM Jeannie Breaks the Bank (S2/E14 – 12/19/1966)
1 AM Happy Anniversary (S2/E1 – 9/12/1966)
1:30 AM My Master, the Rich Tycoon (S2/E3 – 9/26/1966)
2 AM My Master, the Great Caruso (S2/E13 – 12/5/1966)
2:30 AM The World’s Greatest Lover (S2/E14 – 12/12/1966)
3 AM You Can’t Arrest Me, I Don’t Have a Driver’s License (S2/E19 – 1/23/1967)
3:30 AM The Greatest Entertainer in the World (S2/E23 – 2/27/1967)
4 AM Jeannie or the Tiger (S3/E2 – 9/19/1967)
4:30 AM Second Greatest Con Artist in the World (S3/E3 – 9/26/1967)
5 AM My Master the Weakling (S3/E5 – 10/10/1967)
5:30 AM Everybody’s a Movie Star (S3/E7 – 10/31/1967)
6 AM Meet My Master’s Mother (S3/E9 – 11/14/1967)
6:30 AM Here Comes Bootsie Nightingale (S3/E10 – 11/21/1967)
7 AM Jeannie and the Great Bank Robbery (S3/E12 – 12/5/1967)
7:30 AM Jeannie Goes to Honolulu (S3/E14 – 12/26/1967)
8 AM Genie, Genie, Who’s Got the Genie Part 1 (S3/E16 – 1/16/1968)
8:30 AM Genie, Genie, Who’s Got the Genie Part 2 (S3/E17 – 1/23/1968)
9 AM Genie, Genie, Who’s Got the Genie Part 3 (S3/E18 – 1/30/1968)
9:30 AM Genie, Genie, Who’s Got the Genie Part 4 (S3/E19 – 2/6/1968)
10 AM Please Don’t Feed the Astronauts (S3/E20 – 2/13/1968)
10:30 AM Divorce, Genie Style (S3/E22 – 2/27/1968)
11 AM Tomorrow is Not Another Day (S4/E3 – 10/7/1968)
11:30 AM The Strongest Man in the World (S4/E7 – 11/18/1968)
12 PM The Indispensable Jeannie (S4/E8 – 11/25/1968)
12:30 PM How to Marry an Astronaut (S4/E10 – 12/9/1968)
1 PM Dr. Bellows Goes Sane (S4/E11 – 12/16/1968)
1:30 PM The Case of My Vanishing Master Part 1 (S4/E13 – 1/6/1969)
2 PM The Case of My Vanishing Master Part 2 (S4/E14 – 1/13/1969)
2:30 PM Invisible House for Sale (S4/E16 – 2/3/1969)
3 PM Jeannie, the Governor’s Wife (S4/E17 – 2/10/1969)
3:30 PM The Biggest Star in Hollywood (S4/E19 – 2/24/1969)
4 PM Jeannie-Go-Round (S4/E24 – 4/7/1969)
4:30 PM Blackmail-Order Bride (S4/E26 – 5/12/1969)
5 PM Jeannie at the Piano (S5/E1 – 9/16/1969)
5:30 PM Jeannie and the Bachelor Party (S5/E6 – 10/21/1969)
6 PM The Wedding (S5/E11 – 12/2/1969)
6:30 PM My Sister, the Homewrecker (S5/E12 – 12/9/1969)
7 PM Never Put a Genie on a Budget (S5/E14 – 12/30/1969)
7:30 PM Mrs. Djinn Djinn (S5/E18 – 2/3/1970)

October, 2010 - In Jeannie's bottle with Bill Daily (Roger), Barbara Eden, and Larry Hagman.

October, 2010 – In Jeannie’s bottle with Bill Daily (Roger), Barbara Eden, and Larry Hagman.

About willmckinley

I'm a New York City-based writer, video producer, print journalist, radio/podcast host, and social media influencer. I've been a guest on Turner Classic Movies (interviewed by Robert Osborne), NPR, Sirius Satellite Radio, and the official TCM podcast. My byline has appeared in Slate.com and more than 100 times in the pages of NYC alt weeklies like The Villager and Gay City News. I'm also a social media copywriter for Sony's getTV and a contributor to four film-and-TV-related books: "Monster Serial," "Bride of Monster Serial," "Taste the Blood of Monster Serial," and "Remembering Jonathan Frid."
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5 Responses to 50 Years of “I Dream of Jeannie”

  1. Jennifer says:

    Love the photo at the end, Will! I think all of us will now be waiting for a video post of your famous shimmy moves. 🙂

  2. Laura says:

    I’m old enough I remember JEANNIE being on Monday evenings — I must have been around Kindergarten age. A big thrill for me as an early reader was when my dad brought home the script for the “Jeannie-Go-Round” episode. I was fascinated by it. I don’t remember where he got it but I still have it!

    Best wishes,
    Laura

  3. Connor Faust says:

    @Laura Last year, Is this marathon celebrate 50 years of “I Dream of Jeannie”!

  4. Connor Faust says:

    @Laura Last year, Is this marathon celebrate 50 years of “I Dream of Jeannie” on Antenna TV!

  5. Connor Faust says:

    Adventure Time: Philadelphia Finn and the Search for Starchy’s Genie Lamp

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