In the pilot episode, "The Lady in the Bottle", astronaut Captain Tony Nelson, United States Air Force, 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 non English-speaking female genie materializes and kisses Tony on the lips, shocking him.
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, he tells her she is free, but 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 would not 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 does not 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, U.S. Air Force Colonel Dr. Alfred Bellows. In 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 multiple-episode story arc involves Jeannie (in miniature) becoming trapped in a safe when it is accidentally locked.
Tony's best friend and fellow astronaut, United States Army Corps of Engineers Captain Roger Healey, does not know about Jeannie for several episodes; when he finds out (in the episode "The Richest Astronaut in the Whole Wide World" [January 15, 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 trying to 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 to portray him knowing about Jeannie from the beginning (i.e., to him having been with Tony on the space flight that touched down, and thus having seen Jeannie introduce herself to Tony).
Jeannie's evil fraternal twin 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 19, 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). The evil sister, whose name is never revealed, wears a green costume, with a skirt rather than pantaloons.
Early in the fifth season (September 30, 1969), Jeannie is called upon by her Uncle Sully (Jackie Coogan) to become queen of their family's native country, Basenji. Tony inadvertently gives grave offense to Basenji national pride in their feud with neighboring Kasja. To regain favor, Tony is required by Sully to marry Jeannie and avenge Basenji's honor, by killing the ambassador from Kasja when he visits NASA. After Sully puts Tony through an ordeal of nearly killing the ambassador, Tony responds in a fit of anger that he is fed up with Sully and his cohorts and he would not marry Jeannie if she were "the last genie on earth". Hearing this, Jeannie bitterly leaves Tony and returns to Basenji. With Jeannie gone, Tony realizes how deeply he loves her. That outweighs all concerns he has had about Jeannie's threat to his career. 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 Tony found a girlfriend. This changed the show's premise in that instead of the avoidance 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.Barbara Eden as JeannieLarry Hagman as Captain/Major Anthony "Tony" NelsonBill Daily as Captain/Major Roger HealeyHayden Rorke as Dr. Alfred BellowsPhilip Ober as Brig. Gen. Wingard Stone (season 1, episodes 1 and 4)Karen Sharpe as Melissa (season 1, episodes 1 and 4)Florence Sundstrom as Jeannie's mother (season 1, episode 2)Lurene Tuttle as Jeannie's mother (season 1, episode 14)Barton MacLane as Maj. Gen. Martin Peterson (seasons 1–4)Emmaline Henry as Amanda Bellows (seasons 2–5)Abraham Sofaer as Haji, the "master of all the genies" (seasons 2–3)Barbara Eden as Jeannie's evil fraternal twin sister, Jeannie II (seasons 3–5)Vinton Hayworth as Maj. Gen. Winfield Schaeffer (seasons 4–5)Barbara Eden as Jeannie's mother (season 4, episode 18)
The 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 jinn Fakrash, conceived of the idea for a beautiful female genie. Both I Dream of Jeannie and Bewitched were Screen Gems productions. The show debuted at 8 pm, Saturday, September 18, 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 the similarity with the blonde witch on Bewitched would be too much. However, after many unsuccessful auditions, he called Barbara Eden's agent. When 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 prime-time series in the United States 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."
The first few episodes after the pilot (episodes two through eight) used a nonanimated, 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.
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 Healey and he had offices was actually the main building at the Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base, north of Los Angeles. "If you look at some of those old [episodes], it's supposed to be shot in Cocoa Beach, but in the background you have mountains — the Hollywood Hills," Bill Daily said. In actuality, the home of Major 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.
The cast and crew only made two visits to Florida's Space Coast, both in 1969. On June 27, 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 25, 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 2) at the Patrick Air Force Base Officers Club. Then-Florida Governor Claude R. Kirk, Jr., 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 Florida State Road A1A near Lori Wilson Park.
On September 15, 2005, the area held a "We Dream of Jeannie" festival, including a Jeannie lookalike contest. Plans for one in 2004 were interrupted by Hurricane Frances and Hurricane Jeanne. However, a Jeannie lookalike contest was held in 2004, with Bill Daily attending.
On August 24, 2012, Cocoa Beach City leaders honored the show with a roadside plaque outside Lori Wilson Park.
In the first season, Jeannie clearly 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 is a genie. 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. In later seasons, he also played King Kamehameha and Biff Jellico.
The 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 Jeannie was assumed to have 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 series.
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. (No specific statement is given, 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, Jeannie (in the book, her real name is revealed as "Fawzia") and her immediate family were established in the story as 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 on TV).
The first-season theme music was an instrumental jazz waltz written by Richard Wess. Eventually, Sidney Sheldon became dissatisfied with Wess's 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. Episodes 20 and 25 used a rerecorded 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 seasons 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 was 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".
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. For years, Sidney Sheldon was said to have 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. Strong evidence, however, indicates first season director Gene Nelson saw one in a liquor store and bought it, bringing it to Sheldon.
Jeannie's bottle was left in 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 tried 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 fifth seasons.
The 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, one 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.
No one knows exactly how many bottles were used during the show, but members of the production have estimated that 12 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. According to the DVD release of the first season, Bill Daily owns an original bottle, and according to the Donny & Marie talk show, Larry Hagman also owned an original bottle.
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.
On several occasions, multipart 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 14, 1966, concluding with the name of the winner revealed after the end of the fourth episode, "My Master, the Great Caruso", on December 5), 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 1. This date conflicts with the birthday given to her in the season 1 episode "G.I. Jeannie": July 1.
In a third-season four-part episode ("Genie, Genie, Who's Got the Genie?" January 16 – February 6, 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 4–9–7 as the winning combination.
In the fourth season, a two-part episode, "The Case Of My Vanishing Master" (January 6–13, 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 where Tony had been taken. Unlike earlier contests, the answer was not revealed within the story. At the end of "Invisible House For Sale" (February 3, 1969), a special "contest epilogue" had Jeannie and Tony reveal to the audience the "secret location", Puerto Rico, followed by the name of the "Grand Prize Winner".
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, DC 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 pm."
Two made-for-television reunion movies were made that followed the further exploits of Jeannie and Tony in the successive years. For various reasons, Larry Hagman did not reprise his role as Anthony Nelson in either of these reunion movies. In 1985, Wayne Rogers played the role of retiring Colonel Nelson in I Dream of Jeannie... Fifteen Years Later. In 1991, I Still Dream of Jeannie was released with Hagman's Dallas co-star Ken Kercheval essentially playing the role of Jeannie's "master". A third film was planned, but never finalized.
Hanna-Barbera Productions produced an animated series Jeannie. This animated series is completely separate from the Eden live-action series. Jeannie the animated series was originally broadcast 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 and surfer (voiced by Mark Hamill).
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 Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center) in Houston.
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 Canaveral and Cocoa Beach where the Nelsons were shown to have lived in the sitcom).Philadelphia punk rock band The Dead Milkmen has a song called "I Dream of Jesus", in which the singer's mother finds Jesus who is trapped inside a bottle. The song appears on the 1993 album Not Richard, but Dick. "I Dream of Jesus" is also the title of a Family Guy episode.In The Monkees episode The Spy Who Came in from the Cool, Davy Jones rubs a small table lamp when a beautiful harem-costumed genie (not Barbara Eden) emerges from a puff of smoke and assures her “master” that she will help him. A bemused Jones remarks, “Imagine that—wrong show!” On Tom's Album, a compilation of versions of the song "Tom's Diner", a parody by Mark Jonathan Davis is called "Jeannie's Diner", which references and samples I Dream of Jeannie.In Ferris Bueller's Day Off, star Matthew Broderick dances to the I Dream Of Jeannie theme song.The Big Time Rush episode "Big Time Songwriters" contains a scene where Erin Sanders is dressed like Barbara Eden while reading a script for a movie or television show called "Teen Genie".Episode 15 of season 6 of the supernatural TV series Charmed was called "I Dream of Phoebe". In it, Phoebe Halliwell (Alyssa Milano) is turned into a genie, and wears a pale blue version of "Jeanie's" costume.Indian serial Jeannie Aur Juju is based on this series.In The Bob Newhart Show 19th Anniversary special, Bob Hartley talks with his friends about the strange dream he had of being an innkeeper in Vermont. At one point, his neighbor Howard Borden recalls his own strange dream about being an astronaut in Florida, which leads to several I Dream of Jeannie clips with Roger Healey. (Actor Bill Daily had played both roles.)During the song in "Stan of Arabia: Part 1", Stan Smith (the "American Dad!") sings that he wants his wife to serve him in the same manner that Master Tony was served by Jeannie.The show's title came from a 1854 parlor ballad, "Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair" by Stephen Foster, whose opening line says, "I Dream of Jeanie with the light brown hair".I Dream of Jenna and This Ain’t I Dream of Jeannie XXX (from the This Ain't... film series) are porn parody film titles referring to I Dream of Jeannie, the former also being a play on porn actress Jenna Jameson's name.In the X-Men episode "Mojovision", the alien Mojo kidnaps most of the X-Men and casts them as his latest all-galaxy television hit. One of his TV shows featuring the X-Men is named I Dream of Jean (starring Wolverine and Jean Grey), a play on both I Dream of Jeannie and Jean Grey.During the closing scene of A Very Brady Sequel, Barbara Eden cameos as Jeannie, crashing Mike and Carol Brady's second wedding and introducing herself as Mike Brady's wife.The theme music has been a source of inspiration for two animated series on the [Qubo], a children's broadcasting network. The shows Pecola and Ned's Newt have theme songs that bear a loose similarity to I Dream of Genie's theme music.In Tom and Jerry media to parody "I Dream of Jeannie". The first one is the Tom & Jerry Kids episode "I Dream of Cheezy" and the second in Tom and Jerry Tales episode "I Dream of Meanie"