The Ten Best I DREAM OF JEANNIE Episodes of Season Two

Welcome to a new Sitcom Tuesday! This week, we’re continuing our coverage on the best of I Dream Of Jeannie (1965-1970, NBC), which is currently available in full on DVD and Amazon.

I Dream Of Jeannie stars BARBARA EDEN as Jeannie and LARRY HAGMAN as Major Tony Nelson, with BILL DAILY as Major Roger Healey and HAYDEN RORKE as Dr. Bellows.

With 30 of Season Two’s 31 scripts written by creator Sidney Sheldon — the most of any year — we might look to this collection for the most accurate reflection of his vision. In doing so, we’d find a show sillier and less emotionally predicated than in One, where Jeannie’s romantic pursuit of Tony was more of an engine for plot, but not as narratively wild and untethered to character as the flamboyant years ahead, where Sheldon will reduce his involvement. In fact, there’s a balance here; the show was still running at 8:00 and thus not as juvenile as it would become at 7:30, but the switch to color already accompanies loosened sensibilities (see the new theme song) and more narrative freedom. This seeming reconciliation of two eras makes me want to call Two the series’ peak — the most ideal. But it’s not, for in failing to commit to either of these bolder styles, the year elicits neither era’s highs — the handful of entries blunt about Jeannie’s feelings for Tony can’t thrive like their predecessors without a continuity of sentiment, while the goofier, idea-driven outings predictive of later seasons, are, with one exception, not outrageous enough to be hilarious. And yet, there are also fewer lows because of this too — the only stinkers occur when Jeannie blinks Tony far away from the other regulars and the show’s one sustaining, believable drama: his attempts to keep her a secret from NASA, made difficult by her constant intrusion. To wit, she’s the unwitting “antagonist” (conflict-causer) more often this year than any other — it’s one of Jeannie’s structural weaknesses, but Two has a few interpersonal dramas that actually acknowledge this issue. Sadly, that tension remains trivial because it’s so rarely applied, but, when used, it’s an appreciated display of self-awareness. Speaking of which, picking Two’s strongest segments is about finding the ones that best recognize and honor elements of its identity: its regulars (including the now-recurring Mrs. Bellows), its conflict, and its sense of humor. Also, because the series is so situational, I have to credit amusing stories simply for their conception — especially if they’re somehow original or unique to the premise. And ultimately, though Season Two is not as exciting as later years, Sheldon makes it the most consistent — even more than the otherwise superior, and more character-wise, One. So, as usual, I have picked ten entries that I think exemplify Two’s finest.

 

01) Episode 32: “Always On Sunday” (Aired: 09/19/66)

Jeannie makes every day Sunday.

Written by Sidney Sheldon | Directed by Hal Cooper

With a fun comic premise that also takes delight in confounding Dr. Bellows, who thinks he’s finally gotten a confession from Tony that will vindicate him to the general, this episode does right by the series’ main conflict, its cast, and its comedy. It’s also, unintentionally, a crystal-clear look at the series’ chronic shortcomings, for the common structure of Jeannie as a plot-pushing antagonist reiterates both her ignorance to Tony’s perspective and the ridiculousness of her not right away fixing a problem he asks her to fix — no matter the excuse. And while I’m not sure the script motivates Tony’s gut-spilling to Dr. Bellows, considering that his objective has always been to keep Jeannie a secret, Two is moving away from a strict fidelity to character logic, and this installment proves how amiable stories are becoming the guiding interest.

02) Episode 33: “My Master, The Rich Tycoon” (Aired: 09/26/66)

Jeannie gets Tony in trouble with the IRS.

Written by Sidney Sheldon | Directed by Claudio Guzman

Paul Lynde, who simultaneously had a recurring role on Bewitched as Uncle Arthur, makes his first of three unrelated appearances in this offering as an IRS agent who thinks Tony is the head of an international smuggling ring after Jeannie blinks up a bunch of priceless art (and money) to impress him, unaware of his identity. As usual, Jeannie is the source of the trouble, but with an IRS agent — played hilariously by Lynde — as the menace who then links up with Dr. Bellows to bring home the series’ usual conflict, it’s an appropriate wrinkle in the template that nevertheless maintains its basic foundation and satisfies the show’s humor expectation.

03) Episode 42: “How Do You Beat Superman?” (Aired: 11/28/66)

Jeannie blinks up a fake suitor named Tony Millionaire.

Written by Sidney Sheldon | Directed by Claudio Guzman

One of the few episodes this year that utilizes Jeannie’s romantic pursuit of Tony as her motivation for blinking, this plot isn’t as successful as its first season ancestors because it shockingly sidelines the series’ sustaining conflict of keeping her a secret from NASA in favor of an emotional drama with Tony being jealous; “The Lady In The Bottle,” “What House Across The Street?” and “Too Many Tonys,” for instance, all weaved in both. This is a problem, for as we saw with Roger in Season One, a love triangle is not effective when the third party has no legitimate emotional pull on his/her paramour. Plus, the year’s decision to be less overt about Jeannie’s feelings further dilutes the strength of them — like here when the entry makes Jeannie’s reason for conjuring up a fake beau (Mike Road) more about getting Tony’s attention than his affection/love. Yet even with all this, Jeannie’s got an objective that’s pursued in story and rooted in the leads’ relationship, so it’s still a more ideal use of her character.

04) Episode 43: “My Master, The Great Caruso” (Aired: 12/05/66)

Tony is entered into a NASA talent contest after Jeannie gives him a great voice.

Written by Sidney Sheldon | Directed by Hal Cooper

In the narrative template of Tony trying to keep Jeannie and her powers a secret from NASA, there’s a recurring sub-template in which he attempts to explain away something that Dr. Bellows sees as merely being a talent or special skill, which Tony is then forced to prove. We saw it last year with his “magic act,” and we’ll see it later on with, oh, piano-playing, for example. Here, it’s singing, which is one of the funnier applications of this idea, resulting in a memorable climax in which Jeannie blinks a slew of different voices to come out of his mouth. So, as a representation of this sub-template, it’s the best. Arthur Peterson and Frank De Vol appear. (Also, this is the end of the “when is Jeannie’s birthday?” arc — conceived as a write-in contest.)

05) Episode 44: “The World’s Greatest Lover” (Aired: 12/12/66)

Jeannie makes Roger irresistible to women — including Mrs. Bellows.

Written by Sidney Sheldon | Directed by Hal Cooper

Truthfully, this installment isn’t a terrific showcase for the primary characters — Jeannie and Tony — or their central relationship (which should narratively be our principal interest), but it’s a notably amusing excursion for Roger and Dr. Bellows, when Jeannie makes the former irresistible to all women… even the doctor’s wife, who enjoys her debut here and is played, as always, by the charming Emmaline Henry. She brings energy to the screen and seems to fit the series’ comic rhythms, and because I want to highlight a show that’s good for the ensemble beyond the two leads, picking this half hour is the best way to do that. Julie Gregg guests.

06) Episode 47: “The Greatest Invention In The World” (Aired: 01/09/67)

Jeannie makes Tony’s uniform indestructible, which catches Dr. Bellows’ eye.

Written by Sidney Sheldon | Directed by Hal Cooper

My choice for the year’s Most Valuable Episode (MVE), “The Greatest Invention In The World” satisfies all the series’ defining elements, and criteria for success, outlined above in my seasonal commentary. For starters, Jeannie is the antagonist in story because it’s her magic that creates an indestructible uniform, which then threatens to put Tony (and Roger) in an uncomfortable spot at NASA when trying to explain its source — this is an obvious use of the series’ central conflict. At the same time, there’s acknowledgement of how Jeannie’s powers are responsible for repeated trouble when Tony tries to discourage Roger from seeking a wish from her — this shows self-awareness. Additionally, the plot’s NASA setting guarantees good work by the ensemble — particularly Dr. Bellows and Barton MacLane’s General Peterson — and it’s an original idea that we couldn’t find on Bewitched. Lastly, there’s a sense of comic lunacy that helps make a strong outing outstanding, capped off by an iconic cameo from Groucho Marx, whose inclusion encapsulates the looseness that Jeannie will continue to employ as its run progresses.

07) Episode 48: “My Master, The Spy” (Aired: 01/16/67)

When Jeannie blinks up a duplicate Tony, Dr. Bellows thinks NASA has a spy.

Written by Sidney Sheldon | Directed by Hal Cooper

The decade’s fixation on spy yarns can be tiring in a series like Here’s Lucy, which has no honest reason to fall back on the trope as often as it does — it makes no sense given those characters. But Tony, Roger, and Dr. Bellows are in the military during the Cold War, and a spy story therefore addresses the series’ narrative trappings. As for this installment, there’s a Bewitched-esque conflict of Tony being caught in two places at once, which eventually sparks a scenario where Dr. Bellows thinks Tony is a spy and Tony thinks he’s being spied on, and this all culminates in a comic crescendo with some silent-film-type slapstick that acquits the show’s sense of humor superbly. Benny Rubin and Davis Roberts appear.

08) Episode 56: “A Secretary Is Not A Toy” (Aired: 03/20/67)

Jeannie becomes the general’s assistant in the hopes of getting Tony a promotion.

Written by Sidney Sheldon | Directed by Claudio Guzman

Jeannie doesn’t often get the opportunity in this era to directly interact with Tony’s mortal world — especially with the people at NASA, who are vital to the series’ central drama regarding her potential discovery. As a result, this episode not only offers a plot rare for the show (pre-wedding), it also boasts a design that naturally emphasizes the main weekly drama and favors the ensemble cast, for now they all get to engage in a way that’s basically new for them. Also, seeing Jeannie attempt to help/please Tony by doing something other than resorting to her powers is a great use of her character and a tactic I wish Jeannie deployed more often — in any season — for it reinforces her goal and makes her look smarter. Bing Russell guests.

09) Episode 57: “There Goes The Bride” (Aired: 03/27/67)

Jeannie puts a love spell on Tony that gets them both cursed.

Written by Sidney Sheldon | Directed by Larry Hagman

Jeannie’s objective returns to the forefront in this odd installment — directed by Hagman — that is surprisingly explicit about her feelings for Tony when she decides to literally put a love spell on him. Now, as she’s said, Jeannie doesn’t want to get Tony through means that aren’t kosher (see: “Too Many Tonys”), so it’s a bit of a stretch to watch her do this here. But by this point, she firmly believes he is in love with her too — and, frankly, so do we. The obstacle then has to be external — Haji, King of all the Genies (Abraham Sofaer), who forbids Jeannie from doing this and threatens her by cursing Tony and stripping her of her powers until she removes the spell. This entry answers why Jeannie can’t use her magic to land Tony if they both have feelings for each other, but it doesn’t satisfyingly answer why they couldn’t be together without her magic — for, as always, Tony’s resistance is flimsy and self-imposed. What’s more, because Two seldom makes Jeannie so direct about wanting him, this idea already feels forced and unearned, and it’s only because of a clear character objective, and some fine comic moments, that this outing is actually worth highlighting at all. Bill Quinn appears.

10) Episode 59: “The Birds And The Bees Bit” (Aired: 04/10/67)

Tony proposes to Jeannie after he learns she’ll lose her powers when married to a mortal.

Written by Allan Devon [alias Sidney Sheldon] | Directed by Larry Hagman

This is a fascinating episode, for it tries to legitimize Tony’s stated objection to being with a genie by adding an extra piece of information that allows him to change his mind: if Jeannie marries a mortal, she will lose her magic. Never before or after is this suggested though — you’d think Jeannie would have told Tony right away in Season One as an enticement to get him to marry her, and then when they are wed in Five, you’d expect at least a mention. There’s none. So, because of its confinement, I don’t consider this an official rule. As for Tony, while this script vainly tries to argue that he wants her to be human and would marry her if she didn’t have powers, the series’ failure to give him a strict stance on magic that’s believably rooted — like Darrin’s — keeps his position looking unmotivated and self-imposed whenever it’s conveniently applied. In fact, based on his regular depiction, I think he likes her being a genie. (More here.) Okay, perhaps the flashforward warning that their kids won’t be mortal, à la Bewitched, is more genuinely off-putting, but none of these rules or revelations are ever cited again, and with Tony still not displaying a genuine anti-genie attitude elsewhere, we’re back to where we started: there’s no buyable reason he isn’t romantically involved with Jeannie if they’re in love. Sheldon’s attempt to convince us otherwise now is interesting, but too little, too late (and never again).

 

Other notable episodes that merit mention include: two entries with funny comic ideas, “My Master, The Rainmaker,” where Jeannie manipulates the weather and confuses NASA, and “My Master, The Swinging Bachelor,” in which Jeannie concocts a cake that makes whoever eats it act like children, along with two entries that display self-awareness about Jeannie being the antagonist to Tony and then try to suggest an inner dilemma in which he’s caught between his head and his heart, “How To Be A Genie In Ten Easy Lessons,” which would be great if it didn’t inherently require Jeannie’s forced idiocy (at the expense of both her and Tony’s objectives), and “There Goes The Best Genie I Ever Had,” a clip show where Tony is vocal about how difficult Jeannie is… something he’s never able to express as plainly because this never does become a viable, recurring conflict. (And in case you’re wondering, no, I don’t like the Sammy Davis Jr. episode — it doesn’t really have any story.)

 

*** The MVE Award for the Best Episode from Season Two of I Dream Of Jeannie goes to…

“The Greatest Invention In The World”

 

 

Come back next week for Season Three! And stay tuned for a new Wildcard tomorrow!

12 thoughts on “The Ten Best I DREAM OF JEANNIE Episodes of Season Two

  1. Loved your article last week on Bewitched vs. IDOJ. Have always recognized Bewitched as the much better show but I do watch Jeannie.

    This is actually my least favorite season which surprises people. I think S1 is the best because there’s actually some focus with Jeannie and Tony and them maybe falling for each other. That is obviously the best season. & there are a lot of episodes that I like in S3-S5 because they’re funny.

    Here in S2 I like the Groucho episode and I’ll watch Paul Lynde in anything. Other than that, I just think it’s the most boring. Not well written and not funny. (And on Jeannie I’m afraid the two -are- mutually exclusive!)

    I was wondering though, how you would put these episodes in the context of Bewitched’s. Are the epsiodes here on par with what you would pick for the best episodes of 1966-67 of Bewitched?

    • Hi, Elaine! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      I get it — your reasons for not liking Two are the same ones I suggested above for why I resist the urge to call it the series’ peak. But while, I agree, One is obviously the best, the consistency of Sheldon’s hand, and the at least occasional and episodic acknowledgment of Jeannie’s emotional objective, are elements here in Two that later years suffer for lacking, so I don’t think I could call this season my least favorite. Stay tuned for more…

      As for your question, I think you’re asking me which episodes that I’ve selected as the best from Season Two of JEANNIE are as good as (or better than) the ones I’ve selected from the concurrently airing third season of BEWITCHED. Is that right? If so, I’ll refer to the “New BEWITCHED Lists” that I published here two weeks ago. I would say that “The Greatest Invention In The World” is not better than any of the bolded top ten, but is more enjoyable than all the honorable mentions.

      Incidentally, I think JEANNIE’s first season is more competitive against BEWITCHED’s second. I would say that “The Lady In The Bottle” is almost on par with the better half of a hypothetical top ten BEWITCHED list (see the bolded entries), while “What House Across The Street?” is at least as good as the bottom half. (“Is There An Extra Genie In The House?” might be as well.) That has less to do with BEWITCHED’s quality than it does JEANNIE’s — the first year *is* its best!

  2. “My Master, The Rich Tycoon” might be my favorite episode of the entire series. Paul Lynde guest starred in practically every sitcom in the ’60s, and each time he did, the show he was appearing in was the better for it. And he was never funnier than he was in this episode.

    The scene between him and Hayden Rorke in Dr. Bellows’ office is worth the price of admission. I loved Rorke’s work on this series.

    I would agree that Season 2 was peak I DREAM OF JEANNIE, certainly in terms of the greatest consistency of entertaining episodes. Having one “voice” handling the narrative (Sheldon writing all the scripts) I am sure had a lot to do with this.

    • Hi, Guy! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      While I concur that Season Two is the most consistent, I think calling this year the series’ peak ignores elements that typically suggest greatness. As discussed above, later seasons are more episodically comedic, while One is much more character-driven. Also, the tension of having Jeannie as the weekly antagonist is never more in the forefront than in Two, and that’s a foundational shortcoming that inherently calls attention to the problems within the series’ design. Ultimately, then, although later years are perhaps more collectively flawed (stay tuned…), I’d rather take the stronger character work of the first season over the second, for Jeannie’s objective supplies a substance to the premise that’s missing every other year — and this premise needs all the help it can get! (See last week’s post for more.)

      As for Lynde, I think his best television work is playing himself on HOLLYWOOD SQUARES, but in the sitcom format, his first appearance as Uncle Arthur, on BEWITCHED’s “The Joker Is A Card,” is hard to beat. I don’t consider “My Master, The Rich Tycoon” a better showcase.

      • I’d have to go back and watch “The Joker is a Card” and assess it myself, but I have no doubt, like you say, that Lynde is tremendous in it. And I wholeheartedly agree, Lynde on HOLLYWOOD SQUARES was a master’s class in impeccable comic timing and delivery. Many’s the night I’ll end up binge-watching his old SQUARES clips on YouTube.

  3. You mentioned the opening theme song above. I loved the instrumental music from season One. However, seasons Two thru Five is the opening most people are familiar with. I do think with going to color it was a more appropriate opening theme. It just seemed to fit the shows sillier/fun plots.

    I love the role of Amanda Bellows. Emmaline Henry was such a good addition to the show. So glad they used her more in the later seasons as her friendship with Jeannie was really good. Thanks for reviewing.

    • Hi, Smitty! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      I agree with you about Emmaline Henry!

      And thanks to the wonders of YouTube, we can all now enjoy Season Two’s original arrangement of its theme song — it’s the same melody that we know and love, but it’s not as brassy as the arrangement broadcast with the last three seasons and then tacked on to all the color episodes later. I think its slightly different sound is an apt metaphor for the year’s looser storytelling, but still relatively muted comic stylings.

      Here’s how Two originally sounded: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u78MWaCSsMM

      And here’s the last three seasons’ arrangement, now what all color years have in DVD/syndication: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-dADf6q1QDs

  4. Hi Jackson! Thank you for your very interesting blog. I have always enjoyed Emmaline Henry’s performance as Amanda Bellows and have felt she added much to the show. Was her appearance in “The World’s Greatest Lover” meant to be a one shot guest appearance or did the producers always intend to bring Mrs. Bellows as a recurring character? Thanks.

    • Hi, Raul! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Emmaline Henry was contracted individually for each of her first two episodes as Mrs. Bellows — “The World’s Greatest Lover” and “One Of Our Bottles Is Missing” — before being officially signed as a recurring cast member and appearing in this season’s last three offerings.

  5. Thanks Jackson for posting those opening themes. After listening, I did like season 2 the best. I have also never seen the bumper for IDOJ. That was cool.

    I have seen the Bewitched cast do commercials for their sponsors (Quaker Oats and Oscar Meyer) on Youtube. Do you know if the IDOJ cast did commercials for their sponsors? I have never seen any. Thanks.

    • It’s possible, but I have not seen one either. Keep in mind that JEANNIE only had a primary sponsor during its first two seasons — Liggett & Myers in One, Colgate-Palmolive in Two — and never even had an alternate week sponsor, so it didn’t have the kind of sustaining backing that BEWITCHED had.

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