I Dream Of Jeannie: Then, Now, and Fun Facts About the Show

Fact #1: Barbara Eden was pregnant for the first few episodes of the shows premiere

I Dream of Jeannie was conjured up by network chiefs at NBC after they witnessed the meteoric rise of Bewitched. To their delight, the series took off and ran from 1965 to 1970 with rave reviews and a 100 percent devoted following. The series focused on NASA Astronaut Tony Nelson alongside his Jeannie in a bottle.
The cast all hated one episode in particular…did you hate it too?

Stick around to see which episode was so bad that it led to the series being canceled!
Here’s What You Didn’t Know… It was an endearing show that captured our imagination and still does so to this very day, even though it’s been more than 50 years since it first went on the air. In this article, we catch you up on the show’s characters, tell you where they are today, and share some interesting and shocking facts from the hit television series. Even if you consider yourself a major fan of the classic show, you’re bound to learn a lot.

Jeannie was known for her skimpy harem costumes (skimpy by standards of the day), but aside from the 1965 pilot, Eden was covered up for the first 10 episodes of the new TV series.

Larry Hagman (Then)

Producers agreed to hide her pregnant stomach and the show became an instant classic.

On the show, Hagman played the character of Tony Nelson, a NASA astronaut who spent his days working for the US government and his nights with Jeannie. His character started as a more uptight type of guy focused on his job, but as the show went on he warmed up to Jeannie before eventually wedding her.

Fact #2: Hagman had a drinking problem that caused weird situations

No surprise here — A lot of famous people have drinking and drug problems.

Larry Hagman (Now)

When Hagman drank, which occurred with more frequency as he became increasingly dissatisfied with the show, his champagne-fueled personality reared its ugly head. At one point he turned up on set for filming while wearing a gorilla suit. During a scary moment he appeared up on set with an axe and started a profane tirade that scared a group of nuns.

Following “I Dream of Jeannie,” Hagman would go on to appear in various TV and film products throughout the 1970’s. He eventually accepted perhaps his best-known role of all time as J.R. Ewing in the 80’s primetime soap “Dallas.” He received two Emmy nominations and was the recipient of four Golden Globe nominations for his role as Ewing. In more recent years he made appearances in both “Nip/Tuck” and “The Simpsons.” He was known for being a heavy drinker during his filming day on “I Dream of Jeannie” and was forced to undergo a liver transplant in 1995. He passed away in 2012.

Bill Daily (Then)

Fact #3: Hagman learned the show was cancelled from a studio guard

Hagman learned that the show was being cancelled by a guard on the studio lot where the TV series was filmed. He was on vacation in South America following filming of the series’ fifth season. When he returned from his trip he wanted to grab something from his dressing room. The guard informed him that the show was no longer in production.

Daily was known for his role as Roger Healey. He was a fellow astronaut and a good friend to Tony Nelson. He made regular appearances throughout the series. Appearances that would often lead to comical effect as Nelson attempted to keep Jeannie’s abilities a secret.

Fact #4: Phil Spector was on the show before he became a murderer

Bill Daily (Now)

He would later go on to take a role on “The Bob Newhart Show” as the Hartley’s neighbor Roger Howard. He also played Larry the psychiatrist on the oddball sitcom “Alf,” which is a role I personally still fondly remember today. He also returned to his Roger Healey role in both of the TV movies for “I Dream of Jeannie.” He currently lives in New Mexico with his third wife, Becky. On occasion he will appear as a guest host on an Albuquerque radio station.

Phil Spector was an acclaimed music producer before becoming a convicted murderer. He appeared on an episode of the TV series in which Jeannie attempts to become a singer. Adding to this fact is a strange moment in the show’s credits in which he is listed as playing the character of “Steve Davis,” despite being referred to throughout the entire episode as “Phil Spector.”

William Rorke (Then)

“I Dream of Jeannie” didn’t have a large cast.

William Rorke (Today)

In fact, the only other semi-regular character was the NASA psychiatrist Dr. Bellows, who was brilliantly played by William Rorke.

Unfortunately, William Rorke passed away in 1987 at the age of 76. He had been suffering from cancer. His final role was the TV series’ 1985 reunion movie.

Fact #6: The first season didn’t even have a theme song

He did have a handful of theatrical roles before his “I Dream Of Jeannie” role.

Fact #5: Barbara Eden acted as a lion whisperer

She explained to Hagman that he needed to “stand very still” and allow the lion to smell him. After that she told him to “lean forward very, very gingerly and stroke him as gently as you can.” Hagman apparently proclaimed, “I’m not making friends with any lion!” The lion got along great with Eden but roared with the full muster of a mighty king of the jungle the moment Hagman stepped on the set to film.

When the second season debuted the show’s iconic theme song also showed up with the first season shot in color. It was filmed in black and white, and the show’s producers played around with some options but couldn’t settle on anything.

Fun Fact #8: “The Monkees”

Fun Fact #7: Barbara Eden thought Tony and Jeannie getting married was a huge mistake

She pointed out that Jeannie was first and foremost not a human. She also realized that it would break the show’s sexual tension and destroy its credibility.

“The Monkees” were on the same network at “I Dream of Jeannie” and they used that opportunity to make references about that show. In one episode of the show the guys discovered a genie lamp and when Davy Jones sees it he responds: “Imagine that — wrong show.”

Fun Fact #9: Originally the story was that Jeannie was turned into a genie

Producers said she was turned and forced to live in a bottle after refusing to marry Blue Djinn.

Fun Fact #10: The first season of the show marked the last network TV show to be filmed in black and white

The storyline was later changed to claim that Jeannie and her family had always been genies.

After that season TV networks had all moved to color. The fact that a theme song was finally selected means it really was the song that ushered in color TV.

Fun Fact #12: Jeannie’s evil dark haired twin sister was also played by Barbara Eden

Fun Fact #11: Did you ever notice how Jeannie and Tony never closed a bedroom door?

When they went into a bedroom together, even if she turned into pink smoke, Jeannie had to be shown leaving the room. That was all because of strict censorship rules.

Many fans didn’t realize it was her and would write to her asking who played the dark-haired actress. Her evil sister’s name was also Jeannie. How confusing was that at family reunions.

Eden Wasn’t Just A Lion Whisperer. She Also Wasn’t Afraid Of The Deadly Animal.

There’s a funny story about the episode in which a real lion was used on set.

The Pilot Episode Was Filmed In Freezing Conditions

At one point the lion let out a huge roar and every single guy on the set fled the scene. They were terrified that they were about to be killed by the mighty beast. Barbara Eden didn’t flinch a muscle. She calmly walked up to the lion and started to pet him. The lion soon regained its composure and filming resumed.

The very first episode of I Dream Of Jeannie was filmed on Zuma Beach in Malibu. The location was supposed to represent a deserted island in the South Pacific. Those scenes were filmed in the middle of the winter and it was freezing on set.

Jeannie’s Harem Costumes Were Constantly Getting Destroyed

Despite the cold weather, Eden said it was her favorite episode, even though she admits, “I was freezing” the entire time.

The Proclivities Of The Main Characters Were Often Questioned

Barbara Eden always thought that Jeannie was “a tomboy” but her fans seemed to think otherwise. During an interview with former co-star Larry Hagman, he revealed, “Here’s a guy who’s square and there’s this beautiful, gorgeous woman putting the make on him all the time and he says, ‘no, no, no I have my career…’” That explains why it took them so long for them to finally tie the knot — of course the actors didn’t want the marriage to happen at all.

Eden was so physical in her costumes that she was constantly catching them on her heels. Every single time her costumes were ripped they would be replaced. That led to a lot of work for the show’s costume designers and it meant that very few outfits remained after the show stopped filming.

Jeannie’s Bottle Wasn’t Exactly A High-Tech Prop

Barbara Eden Kept The Original Jeannie Bottle In A Bank Vault

For a long time after the show came to an end, the original bottle that Jeannie lived in was stored in Eden’s personal bank vault. Years later she would donate the bottle to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., where it is still one of the most popular TV props of all time.

That famous bottle was made out of an old Jim Beam decanter from 1964. It was a simple solution but the proper department still spent several hundred dollars to have it hand painted and decorated. Because of the cost, everyone was careful with the original Jeannie bottle, ensuring that it never broke and had to be replaced.

Jeannie’s Belly Button Wasn’t Allowed To Show

We already told you about the show’s bedroom rules, but were you aware that Jeannie’s belly button wasn’t allowed to be shown?

The Entire Set Was Burned Down When Production Ended

The TV network’s censors had very specific rules about that specific body part. Apparently, her various sexy outfits were okay but a belly button was — gasp!!! — taboo.

After “I Dream Of Jeannie” was canceled the entire set was burned to the ground. The show’s producers realized that it was going to be very expensive to store the set’s props so they just destroyed whatever wasn’t taken from the set. This was a very common practice among many Hollywood studios back in the day.

The Publicity Stunt Nobody Actually Wanted

NBC’s publicity department staged a fake wedding for Eden and Hagman exactly one week before the wedding episode was set to air.

Hanna-Barbera Turned The Show Into A Loosely-Based Cartoon

They invited TV writers from around the country to attend the wedding at the Officers’ Club at Patrick Air Force Base. The wedding episode was hated by both of the actors and their fans. Ultimately nobody felt the nuptials were sincere or practical and they turned away from the show which was canceled shortly after the wedding episode aired.

A Hanna-Barbera cartoon would replace the show under the name “Jeannie.” The should would air from 1973 to 1975. The cartoon was a loose adaptation of the TV series. In the cartoon a teenage surfer found Jeannie’s bottle. She is soon protecting him from suitors at his high school. Mark Hamill did voices for the show as did Joe Besser, Julie McWhirter, and Bob Hastings, among others.

Magic Kept The Show In Black And White For the First Season

The TV Show Was Inspired By A Movie

Sheldon loved the movie “The Brass Bottle” and decided to base the TV show off that movie. It features Tony Randall, Barbara Eden, and Burl Ives. He liked the idea of a beautiful female genie and started to create his show around that premise. So despite other claims, the show was not a direct ripoff of “Bewitched” as some people have thought for many years.

“I Dream Of Jeannie” was kept in black and white for its first season because the “magic” used for smoke was hard to pull off in color. The special photographic effects were eventually tweaked and the show moved to color in 1966. It was the last TV show to broadcast a black and white episode. It was rumored that the network also didn’t want to originally pay the extra $400 per episode it would cost to film in color.

Eden Spoke For Space Days in 1996

The Hollywood Hills And Other California Landmarks

The TV series was supposed to take place in and around the Cape Kennedy, Florida area. Nelson lived at 1020 Palm Drive in Cocoa Beach. However, the exterior of the building where Healey’s office was located was actually the main building at the Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base, north of Los Angeles. Early Cocoa Beach episodes were shot with mountains in the background or more specifically the Hollywood Hills.

27 years after the episode ended the show’s biggest star returned to speak at Space Days at the Kennedy Space Center. During the event Cocoa Beach Mayor Joe Morgan gave her a “I Dream of Jeannie Lane” street sign. That sign was eventually installed on a short road just off Florida State Road A1A near Lori Wilson Park.

Jeannie’s Bottle Changed Color

Jeannie’s bottle was changed to a different color when the show moved from black and white to color. The bottle was originally a smoke-green color with a painted gold-leaf pattern for an antique look.

The Show Was It’s Most Popular In Re-Runs

It was even described as a “green bottle” in the first season. When the show turned to color it was colored purple. It remained the new color from the second to fifth seasons. It was a change most viewers didn’t recognize because of the transition.

“I Dream Of Jeannie” wasn’t the top rated show on TV when it debuted and it never claimed the top spot. However, after appearing as reruns on New York’s WPIX, the TV series won its time period with a 13 rating and a 23 share of the audience. It continued to perform very well in other areas and became the first off-network series to best network competition in the ratings. It remained popular in re-runs for many years.

NASA Astronauts Were Not In The Area

Astronauts in Florida?

Charmed Had A Shout Out For I Dream of Jeannie

The show made that claim but based on when it aired the statement was incorrect. NASA’s astronauts had moved on from Florida and were training at the Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston, Texas. It is now called the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center. It was a fictional series so they could play loose with those type of facts so we forgive them for this inaccuracy.

“I Dream of Jeannie” remains a popular TV show even years after it ended. The supernatural TV series “Charmed” filmed an episode called “I Dream of Phoebe” in which she was turned into a genie. She even wore a pale blue version of “Jeanie’s” costume. You can catch that segment in episode 15 of season 6. The show continues to resonate with viewers years later.

The Show’s Title Came From An 1854 Parlor Ballad

“I Dream of Jeannie” isn’t just a clever play on words for “genie” it is also the name of an 1854 parlor ballad.

Fact Checking Wasn’t A Priority

The original song is called, “Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair,” by singer Stephen Foster. The opening line for the song is, “I Dream of Jeanie with the light brown hair.” Apparently the entire TV show was based of already existing movies and music. That’s actually a pretty broad span of time to combine influences for a single show.

Jeannie Was On Brady Bunch

If you watched the TV movie special A Very Brady Sequel you probably noticed that Barbara Eden revived her role as Jeannie for a short period of time. She showed up at Mike and Carol Brady’s second wedding and introducing herself as Mike Brady’s wife. It was a shocking twist for fans and proved to any doubters that Barbara Eden was a star to not be forgotten.

These days we find some continuity errors but there are plenty of people on a TV set to watch out for those mistakes. It wasn’t such a big deal back in the 1960s and 1970s. In one episode Tony goes to Italy and tells Jeannie that she probably knew it as “Gaul.” There’s only one problem — Gaul was France and not Italy as he claimed.

Barbara Eden Joined Larry Hagman On ‘Dallas’

In 1990, the stars of “I Dream of Jeannie” reunited on the set of “Dallas” where Larry Hagman played the iconic role of J.R.

It Was Only A Top 30 Show On Two Occasions

Ewing. She appeared in a five episode arc as the character Lee Ann De La Vega. In her final episode, the character admits that her maiden name was “Lee Ann Nelson. It was a funny moment and a jab at their much-hated marriage on “I Dream Of Jeannie.”

Despite a great run in syndication the show only managed to crack the top 30 TV shows on two occasions during its first runs. The highest rating for the series was No. 26. During the rest of its run the TV show couldn’t manage to get past the 30 most watch TV shows. Despite that fact it has remained a popular series in syndication.

Barbara Eden (Then)

It’s almost like it had magic on its side.

The Show’s Producers Didn’t Want A Blonde

Barbara Eden did a great job as a blonde genie but her hair color nearly cost her the job. The show’s producers wanted to distance the series from “Bewitched.” After many rounds of casting they couldn’t find anyone better than Eden to play the role and they decided to cast her in the role. It worked out and the show had five seasons before it was canceled. Producers ultimately said Eden’s sexiness, humor, and warmth helped her land the role.

Barbara Eden was amazing as the funny and sensual Jeannie. She was loved by fans and critics alike and her leading role on the show earned her two Golden Globe nominations. Before she married Major Nelson in the final season, it was the sexual tension between the pair that really propelled this show forward.

Barbara Eden (Now)

The end of this amazing show didn’t mark the end of Eden’s time playing Jeannie.

Hagman Became Known As ‘The Mad Monk Of Malibu’

She would return for two TV movies: “I Dream of Jeannie: 15 Years Later” which aired in 1985, and “I Still Dream of Jeannie,” which appeared in 1991. Other roles for Eden included the short-lived TV series “Harper Valley,” PTA. She appeared with Hagman once again in 1990 while filming five episodes of “Dallas.” In 2006 she and Larry Hagman were back at it again, touring for the DVD release of the first season of “I Dream of Jeannie.”

Hagman was given the nickname “The Mad Monk of Malibu” for his eccentric behavior like driving his Harley-Davidson to shop for groceries while wearing a chicken suit. He disappeared from the spotlight for a while but returned in 1978 with “Dallas.” He was a little less mad by that time in his life.

Jeannie’s Origin Story Is A Muddled Mess

Jeannie wasn’t always a genie.

Barbara Eden’s Husband Appeared On The Show

Originally the story was told that she was a young mortal woman who refused to marry the powerful Blue Djinn. For her disobedience he turned her into a genie and then forced her to live in a bottle. Later, producers altered her story, claiming that Jeannie and her family were always genies, but her rejection of the Blue Djinn led to her banishment into her bottle.

The Blue Djinn was played by Barbara’s real life husband, Michael Ansara. Playing the bad guy to his wife’s genie must have made for some awkward moments. There were a lot of bit players and guest cameos on the show that would continue throughout its five season run. Watch the show again and you might notice how the interactions between Jeannie and the Blue Djinn seem different now that you know they were married.

Barbara Eden Didn’t Have Much Female Competition

Larry Hagman First Found Success On The Stage

Many fans of Larry Hagman might not realize that his first success came on the New York stage. That success was followed up by various TV roles before he hit it big on “I Dream of Jeannie.” His mother was Broadway actress Mary Martin and his dad was lawyer Benjamin Hagman. His classical theater training definitely paid off during his time on the show and eventually on the hit series, “Dallas.” His mom starred in such Broadway productions as “South Pacific,” “Peter Pan,” and “The Sound of Music.”

Barbara Eden didn’t have much female competition throughout the show’s five seasons. Emmaline Henry appeared in a recurring role as Amanda Bellows, otherwise, the list of female roles was reserved mostly for bit parts on the show. Given that Eden wasn’t even supposed to have the role because she is a blonde, shows just how much value they put in keeping the focus on her character. Barton MacLane Was A Regular On The Show Until 1969

You may have noticed that this actor suddenly disappeared from the series.

The I Dream of Jeannie and Bewitched Connection

Sadly, MacLane was battling a nasty round of pneumonia when he suddenly passed away. MacLane was best known as a character actor who made various appearances before his death. A tragic end for a great actor.

Paul Lynde appeared as the practical joking Uncle Arthur on the hit series “Bewitched.” He would later make three appearances on “I Dream of Jeannie.” Along with his role as Harry Huggins, he also showed up as a Hollywood director and a tough as nails physical fitness instructor who completely exhausts Nelson and Healy.

The Show’s Creator Had An Amazing Track Record

Sidney Sheldon knew what it took to create hit shows in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s. He created “The Patty Duke Show” which ran from 1963-1966 and “Hart to Hart” (1979-1984).

Eden Would Suffer A Tragic Loss

He also authored some best-selling novels including “The Other Side of Midnight” (1973) and “Rage of Angels” (1980). Sadly, he died in 2007, but his legacy lives on in syndication and paperback.

Michael Ansara and Barbara Eden were married from 1958-1974. During their marriage they gave birth to a son named Matthew. In 2001, they announced that their son had tragically passed away from a drug overdose. The couple didn’t go into much detail about the passing of their child, only to announce their loss.

A Fired Bewitched Writer Created ‘Jeannie II’

How Jeannie Summoned Magic Changed

One of the most iconic gestures in TV history is how Jeannie summoned her magical powers. We all know that she would nod her head and blink once. Originally, she would fold her arms and make a series of eye flutters. The show definitely wouldn’t have been the same without this famous magical movement.

Jeannie’s look-a-like but evil sister ‘Jeannie II’ was created by former “Bewitched” writer James S. Henerson. He was removed from the “Bewitched” writer team after a staffer, either a writer, director, or producer, found out that he was writing for both shows at the same time. If you notice any early similarities you now understand why.

Hagman and Daily Served In The Military

Warner Brothers Still Uses The Nelson Home

While it is no longer used for filming a TV series, the Nelson home is still standing and in use on the Warner Brothers Ranch in Burbank, California. The home is now used as the Ranch Operations office. There has been some minor cosmetic changes to the home but for the most part it remains largely unchanged after 50 years.

The TV show remained very close to real life in one specific way. Anthony Nelson was in the Air Force and Roger Healey served in the Army. In real life, actor Larry Hagman served in the United States Air Force and Bill Daily spent his service years in the US Army where he was an artilleryman in the Korean War. They definitely had the experience needed to play their roles.

A Messed Up Ranking

Larry Hagman Has Openly Admitted To His Drug And Alcohol Issues

Larry Hagman, as we previously discussed, was prone to drinking a lot throughout filming. What many fans may not realize, is that he also admitted to being high on drugs during the filming of many scenes. Barbara Eden wrote in her 2011 autobiography “Jeannie Out of the Bottle” that he never regretted his drinking and drug use during filming, but worried about how it impacted his health.

In the episode where Tony is promoted from Captain to Major, he can be seen wearing the wrong rank. His uniform showcases silver clusters which are for a Lieutenant Colonel. During season two his rank clusters changed color, from silver to gold which is the rank of Major. It’s a mistake you’ll never fail to notice again.

“I Dream Of Jeannie… Fifteen Years Later”

Two Reunion Movies Were Filmed

15 years after the beloved sitcom had ended, NBC premiered “I Dream Of Jeannie… Fifteen Years Later.” 6 years later in 1991, “I Still Dream Of Jeannie” was the second reunion film to be premiered. The made for TV movies chronicled the life of the happy, magical housewife and both her marriage to Tony Nelson, as well as their teenage son. Barbara Eden had once again put on her crop top and reunited with the character once again.

In 1985, the comedy, made-for-TV film,”I Dream Of Jeannie… Fifteen Years Later”, premiered on National Television. Returning to the cast alongside Barbara Eden was Bill Daly as Roger Healy (Tony’s best friend), and Hayden Rorke as Dr. Alfred Bellows, NASA psychiatrist. Wayne Rogers had stepped in to play the role of Tony Nelson, while Larry Hagman was filming on the set of CBS series “Dallas” at the time, not being able to compromise his work schedule.

There Was Trouble In Nelson Paradise

The plotline centered on Major Nelson’s promotion causing a rift between him and Jeannie, just as evil Jeannie hatched a diabolical plan to destroy the pair’s marriage.

Taking A Stroll Down Memory Lane

As Tony becomes fatally endangered in space Jeannie is trapped her bottle, until their son, T.J. magically releases her, and the two make a deal for Tony’s life. In order to stop an oncoming meteoroid, Jeannie must leave Tony, and it’ll be as if she never existed. However, she finds a loophole and enchants a “new beginning” with her once-husband, using her powers to lure him into her presence on a street corner.

There was a small piece of nostalgia resurrected during the production for “I Dream Of Jeannie… Fifteen Years Later”. The film’s beach scene was shot at the same location where the pilot episode was first shot in 1964. 15 years later, Tony Nelson and Jeannie were reunited at the same place where their story originally began… even if it was with a different actor.

If Jeannie Was A Single Lady

“I Still Dream Of Jeannie”

For the second reunion film, “I Still Dream Of Jeannie” only two cast members reprised their roles; Barbara Eden and Bill Daily. The 1991 movie was filmed in British Columbia, Canada and is the final installment of the Jeannie franchise. Sony chose to not move forward with a DVD release and it remained strictly for television audiences.

It looks like the producers had decided to explain the absence of the original Tony Nelson, initially played by Larry Hagman. In the follow-up reunion special, Jeannie’s husband was on a NASA space mission, indefinitely. One of the only few times Tony Nelson is acknowledged is in the opening sequence, before becoming predominantly unmentioned. Without a master in the plane of reality Jeannie must find a new one in order to stay, and she ventures out to singles bars to find her next adventure.

Whether that adventure is temporary or permanent, she doesn’t know.

“I Dream Of Jeannie” And “Friends” Share Some Major Connections

John Bennett Perry was the actor who played the owner of the sporting goods store on the “I Dream of Jeannie: 15 Years Later” movie. His son is none other than “Friends” actor Matthew Perry! The fountain featured in the opening sequence of “Friends” was also seen in various episodes of “I Dream of Jeannie.” In fact, that fountain is located just across the street from the Nelson house on what is now Warner Ranch.