The Ten Best I DREAM OF JEANNIE Episodes of Season Three

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.

Season Two’s consistency and balance is lost in Three, as creator Sidney Sheldon cedes more of the scripting to scribes such as James Henerson, a Bewitched vet Bill Asher fired for moonlighting here. Henerson will become Jeannie’s head writer in Four, but his arrival coincides with the show’s well-meaning yet fatal creep towards a structure like Bewitched’s, with plots that seek to spare Jeannie from being the conflict-pushing antagonist. In fact, his first script meets this concern head-on, debuting Jeannie’s evil twin sister. We’ve talked a lot about Jeannie II already, but the takeaways are: A) she’s analogous to Serena, B) she’s one-dimensional, defined solely by her goal of stealing Tony, and C) she allows our Jeannie to be Tony’s rescuer (à la Sam), which means she serves her purpose, even if her episodes lack nuance. However, this isn’t the only way Three tries to take the burden off Jeannie. Many gimmicks are trotted out — guest stars, a Hawaii trip, a tetralogy where she’s locked in a safe (built for a write-in contest to boost low ratings in the show’s new 7:30 slot). But most of these fail to satisfy the premise, whose lone sustaining drama is the threat of Jeannie’s discovery by NASA. Thus, it’s a catch-22: the premise uses its lead in a way that Sheldon knows isn’t ideal — she shouldn’t antagonize Tony, especially without a firm, believable goal — but Jeannie isn’t Bewitched and it’s only got one conflict: Jeannie has powers and deploys them. Accordingly, Three, like the years ahead, hopes to fight this inevitability but can’t, making entries hit-and-miss as they’re forced to rely on situational stories where the emotional jeopardy of the core drama is mitigated. This requires the actors to oversell the material, leading to a comic heightening that yields more memorable (for better or worse) half hours — I call it “7:30 fare,” where there’s more pomp than circumstance. As expected, Four will be even more bold about using humor to distract from mounting narrative struggles, but it’s already clear here: Jeannie is diluting its premise and thereby diluting itself, and no matter how flawed said premise, series television is about elemental continuity, so even if more effort is put into loading each script with pizazz, it’s hard to care unless the show’s identity is honored. Season Three can still do this sometimes — it’s just hoping to define itself more and more via laughs — and that’s what I aim to spotlight in the ten entries I’ve selected as this year’s finest.

 

01) Episode 63: “Jeannie Or The Tiger?” (Aired: 09/19/67)

Jeannie’s wicked sister takes her place in a grand scheme to steal Tony.

Written by James Henerson | Directed by Hal Cooper

As mentioned above, Henerson’s first teleplay introduces Jeannie II, the title character’s evil twin sister, also played by Barbara Eden. Jeannie II’s primary purpose is to give Jeannie a break from causing the weekly conflicts, making Jeannie more like Bewitched, with a family member of the magical lady menacing her mortal fella instead of having to do it herself. (Asher would drop Henerson as a Bewitched contributor shortly after finding out about this script — Montgomery felt he ripped off Serena.) As for this entry, it sets up the same template that all five of Jeannie II’s appearances this year will follow, for her straightforward objective otherwise lacks depth and can only spark one type of story, but at least she gives Jeannie an intended respite. And her presence is still a novelty — she becomes less interesting the more we see of her.

02) Episode 65: “My Turned-On Master” (Aired: 10/03/67)

Jeannie transfers her powers to Tony without telling him.

Written by Dennis Whitcomb | Directed by Hal Cooper

One of the most popular episodes of the series, “My Turned-On Master” finds Jeannie transferring all her powers to Tony. The problem is she doesn’t tell him first and he gets into all kinds of sticky situations at NASA before unknowingly giving his powers over to Dr. Bellows. This is a fun idea with a lot of laughs, supported by the series’ regular “keep the genie a secret” engine. There’s also a particularly poignant moment where Tony talks about using Jeannie’s powers to right all the wrongs in the world and she, with a surprising degree of self-awareness (seldom exhibited elsewhere), acknowledges how difficult it is for her magic to achieve desired results. However, Tony doesn’t have a well-established personal objection to Jeannie’s powers (like Darrin), so there’s no dramatic revelation when he suddenly feels what having power is like; the conflict has to remain situational and shallow because that’s all it can be. This is in contrast to Bewitched, which explored the same concept in “A Is For Aardvark” and “Darrin The Warlock,” but intelligently challenged Darrin and the rules of the premise. (Also, this notion of transferred capabilities would soon be seen on Bewitched too with Endora and Aunt Clara, and frankly, it’s funnier there because of how strong those characterizations are when juxtaposed.) Ultimately then, this is a very good showing for Jeannie, but it’s still not at Bewitched-level. It’s an MVE contender, but it can’t transcend the series’ own limitations.

03) Episode 66: “My Master, The Weakling” (Aired: 10/10/67)

Jeannie intervenes when a physical fitness expert makes life tough for Tony.

Written by Ron Friedman | Directed by Claudio Guzman

Don Rickles is one of the best guest stars in this season that’s heavy with stunt casting — everyone from Milton Berle to Bob Denver appears — because he gets to play into his reputation for harshness when he’s being a drill sergeant trying to whip Tony and Roger into shape, and then gets to play against it when Jeannie blinks him into having the personality of his sweet old aunt, who coddles the astronauts. There are many hahas in this scenario — again, the primary conflict of keeping Jeannie a secret from NASA is utilized as a necessary foundation — and Rickles is the perfect person for the role. David Soul also appears.

04) Episode 69: “Who Are You Calling A Genie?” (Aired: 11/07/67)

Jeannie gets temporary amnesia and forgets she’s a genie.

Written by Marty Roth | Directed by Hal Cooper

Tony got amnesia in Season One and Jeannie took the opportunity to try romancing him down the aisle. Here, Jeannie’s the one who gets amnesia and it’s up to Tony (and Roger) to stop her identity as a genie from being revealed while she’s being examined in a hospital and has no idea who she is — let alone the fact that she has powers. It’s a great premise that enables the entry to use the series’ central secret-keeping conflict, without having to make Jeannie herself be the one choosing to complicate the situation through magic — it’s not her fault that she gets amnesia and her discovery is possible. So, this is another example of Season Three trying to find a way to take that narrative burden off its title character. Also, there are a lot of fun physical gags and Richard Deacon guests as a money-hungry lawyer ready to sue NASA for damages.

05) Episode 72: “Tony’s Wife” (Aired: 11/28/67)

Jeannie is convinced by her sister that she’s a jinx and should leave Tony.

Written by Christopher Golato [alias Sidney Sheldon] | Directed by Claudio Guzman

The sophomore entry with Jeannie II is a little more complicated than its predecessor, featuring a plot that calls upon her same basic objective — splitting up Jeannie and Tony and stealing him for herself — but asks us to go along with a difficult assumption to ignite its story: that Jeannie could ever consider herself such a liability for Tony that she’d not only leave him, but set him up with a potential wife to take her place. (That’s not consistent!) However, if you can get past that logistical hurdle, “Tony’s Wife” is actually a fascinating relationship exploration, operating under the subtextual suggestion that Jeannie and Tony are involved in some kind of romantic arrangement but are going to break up and see other people. This provides a dramatic weight to the conflict that offsets the contrived mustache-twirling of Jeannie II in the setup.

06) Episode 81: “Please, Don’t Feed The Astronauts” (Aired: 02/13/68)

Jeannie intervenes when Tony is put through his paces by a tough nutrition expert.

Written by Ron Friedman | Directed by Hal Cooper

This installment was written as a follow-up to the successful “My Master, The Weakling” with Don Rickles, but he couldn’t appear and was replaced by Paul Lynde, in his third and final pop-up on the show — each time as a different character. Lynde’s turn in Two as an IRS agent is funnier (because it’s more original), but he’s always a delight, and while the nature of this script indicates how dependent Jeannie is on milking established formulas (this is an obvious redressing of the Rickles show, even with a stand-in), its format works, and the cast — also including guest Ted Cassidy — sells it. (And it’s much better than Lynde’s stint earlier this year as a movie director annoyed by Roger’s acting. That has nothing to do with Jeannie’s premise.)

07) Episode 83: “Divorce, Genie Style” (Aired: 02/27/68)

Jeannie has her powers temporarily removed and Mrs. Bellows mistakes her for Tony’s wife.

Written by James Henerson | Directed by Hal Cooper

My choice for the season’s Most Valuable Episode (MVE), “Divorce, Genie Style” is another offering by former Bewitched contributor and future Jeannie “story consultant” (read: head writer) James Henerson, further revealing this series’ trend towards a storytelling more reminiscent of its supernatural rival. This plot has Jeannie asking Haji (Abraham Sofaer) to strip her of her powers so she can prove herself to be just as much a homemaker as Amanda Bellows, even without magic. Haji agrees — but only for a week — setting up a story that looks to be about Jeannie’s attempted assimilation into the mortal world, despite the fact that she’s not mortal. This is precisely Sam’s sustaining struggle on Bewitched, and although Jeannie hasn’t used this notion very much (again, to differentiate the shows), it’s a potent dramatic idea for both characters, particularly if Jeannie is interested in marrying Tony. That is, his objection to being with her is that she’s a genie, so proving she can act like a human is an essential tactic in achieving her objective, which Three seldom restores in plot like it does here. Meanwhile, the entry also concocts a misunderstanding where Mrs. Bellows mistakes Jeannie for Tony’s secret wife and is appalled that she’s going around in a harem suit and calling him “master,” and this evokes the series’ subtextual gender drama, which is not often addressed in story, but provides a strong sense of self-awareness when it’s implied. It also raises the possibility of Jeannie’s discovery, not because of her magic, but because of her behavior. So, this ends up being the year’s smartest show — with a more elevated use of character and a knowing depiction of the premise that I wish Henerson was able to maintain. But, alas, this isn’t the kind of story Jeannie can feature every week — her powers are vital to the threat of her exposure; calling him “master” isn’t enough — so this is always going to be an exception, not the norm.

08) Episode 84: “My Double-Crossing Master” (Aired: 03/05/68)

Tony disguises himself to prove to Roger that Jeannie wouldn’t fall for another man.

Written by Mark Rowane [alias Sidney Sheldon] | Directed by Hal Cooper

One of Sidney Sheldon’s eight scripts this year — under an alias — this is a surprising take on Molnar’s A Testor, with Tony donning a disguise and testing Jeannie’s fidelity to him. It’s strange to see Jeannie employ this idea because, well, the show won’t actually let these two characters be together, and this narrative’s assumption is that Tony and Jeannie have an understanding that might prevent her from falling for someone else. (Some fans view them as lovers who’ve been secretly boinking the whole time — this outing would fuel that interpretation!) And yet, Jeannie sees right through the charade — incidentally, Roger and Dr. Bellows don’t, which is funny but insults their intelligence — and so this becomes a classic farce, with a little bit of sex appeal and the inference of romance that always supplies Jeannie with a sturdier dramatic base.

09) Episode 85: “Have You Ever Had A Genie Hate You?” (Aired: 03/12/68)

Jeannie II uses magic lotions to make Jeannie love Roger and hate Tony.

Written by Allan Devon [alias Sidney Sheldon] | Directed by Claudio Guzman

Jeannie II makes her fourth of five appearances (this year) in this excursion, as she once again, and as usual, wickedly tries to steal Tony from her sister. Now, there’s a definite law of diminishing returns with Jeannie II — she isn’t defined beyond her surface objective and this precludes investment, making her repetition of plot especially grating. However, while other entries ask us to buy behavior that isn’t motivated — e.g. that Jeannie could ever be convinced that she should find Tony a wife who could replace her — this one justifies a turnaround in Jeannie’s attitude by putting her under a spell, when Jeannie II intervenes to make her sister love Roger and hate Tony. This lets us enjoy all the silliness without having to question any of it.

10) Episode 87: “Haven’t I Seen Me Someplace Before?” (Aired: 03/26/68)

Jeannie grants Roger’s wish of switching places with Tony.

Written by Marty Roth | Directed by Claudio Guzman

Utilizing an amiable fantasy/sci-fi trope, this installment plays to the central conflict when Jeannie uses her powers to grant Roger’s wish of switching places with Tony, leading to an old-fashioned body swap. Bewitched did variations of this, but never under these specific pretenses, with Tony and Roger literally inhabiting each other’s bodies yet retaining their original voices. It’s a bit of a cop-out — the voices are a “tell” that gives them away to others — but it pushes the threat of Tony having to explain what’s happened, which is necessary, because Jeannie’s drama is built on the fear that his bosses will learn that he secretly has his own personal genie. So, we need him to be scrambling, and as a result, this is a solid story to close out this transitional year, with a lot of forward-looking slapstick as well. (Also, this is the only third season appearance by Barton MacLane’s General Peterson, who’s always helpful in ratcheting up Bellows’ mania.)

 

Other notable episodes that merit mention include: “Meet My Master’s Mother,” which stars Spring Byington as Tony’s mom but fails to deliver boffo laughs, “Here Comes Bootsie Nightingale,” which benefits from a dependable jealousy motivation from Jeannie, but puts too much of its comic focus on guests Carol Wayne and Jesse White and traffics in a “high-pitched voice” gag that yearns for higher personal stakes (like we saw when it was used on Bewitched), and “My Son, The Genie,” which was written for Jerry Lewis but had to make due with Bob Denver, who’s fun as a genie in training — another way that the conflict can be maintained but Jeannie herself doesn’t have to be the source of it — even though he’s given a poorly structured plot that misses a climax. Also worth citing are “Fly Me To The Moon,” an uncomfortably broad story where Jeannie foolishly changes a monkey at NASA into a man (played by Larry Storch), “Operation: First Couple On The Moon,” where Jeannie II causes trouble at NASA, and “The Second Greatest Con Artist In The World,” a dreadful Hawaii show that I note only for the guest appearance of Milton Berle.

 

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

“Divorce, Genie Style”

 

 

Come back tomorrow for the best from Season Four!

8 thoughts on “The Ten Best I DREAM OF JEANNIE Episodes of Season Three

  1. This was, for me, a season of some pretty good & very bad episodes. I got some good laughs out of “Here Comes Bootsie Nightingale”, where I thought Carol Wayne put up w/ some slapstick in a funny way, and my favorite episode of the season is “Haven’t I Seen Me Someplace Before?”. I loved the body & voice-switching, and I thought Tony as Roger was funnier than Roger as Tony.

    For the bad, “Tony’s Wife” is my least favorite episode of not just this season but the entire series. I never liked Jeannie’s sister, and this one showed her at her worst, IMO. She seemed willing to kill Tony at times. I also found “Genie, Genie, Who’s Got the Genie?” (good word, “tetralogy”) to be mostly 2 hours of boredom that seemed to end where it started.

    “Jeannie, the Hip Hippie” was fun, but I thought Boyce & Hart did better a couple years later on BEWITCHED. It was weird seeing Phil Spector there and even stranger seeing his character billed as Steve Davis. I thought Don Ho got probably his best showcase of any sitcom in “Jeannie Goes to Honolulu”, though the story behind Tony’s plotting against Jeannie there was pretty silly.

    Season 4 had some good & bad episodes, and I’m looking forward to see which you liked.

    • Hi, Jon! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      I’m afraid I don’t find Carol Wayne up to the task of handling the amount of comedy asked of her in “Here Comes Bootsie Nightingale,” and the episode’s overeliance on its guests is one of my chief criticisms preventing its inclusion on my list for this season.

      Meanwhile, I share both your enthusiasm for “Haven’t I Seen Me Someplace Before?” and your distaste for all four parts of “Genie, Genie, Who’s Got The Genie?” But I am decidedly against entries like “Jeannie, The Hip Hippie” and “Jeannie Goes To Honolulu,” which are built around the gimmick of their stunt casting and have little to do with the series or its particulars. (I agree that Boyce & Hart’s appearance on BEWITCHED is better, but that’s because BEWITCHED is inherently a better series — “Serena Stops The Show” is as much about selling them as it is showcasing Serena, who has a clear personality and is always ripe for comic exploitation.)

      As for Jeannie II, she exists only to be an antagonist, because it’s always been a strain to the show’s emotional logic when Jeannie herself has had to fill this role. Now, I have my own issues with Jeannie II regarding her lack of dimension, but her decision to menace Tony is much more believable than Jeannie’s, and I think “Tony’s Wife,” in particular, is far from the worst of the series, for it’s built around the relationship between Tony and Jeannie, which is supposed to be the show’s dramatic bedrock — a vital part of its identity. As such, I’d take an entry like “Tony’s Wife” over “Jeannie, The Hip Hippie” any day, for the former is obviously a segment of I DREAM OF JEANNIE, while the latter is a Boyce & Hart concert.

  2. I would like your opinion on my idea to expand the premise of IDOJ. I would introduce a love triangle from the start but it won’t be with Jeannie, Tony and another woman. It would be another guy for Jeannie and he would be a djinn. I’d take inspiration from the Brass Bottle. Haji–a temporary name– is Jeannie’s husband or betrothed(most likely it would be betrothed for that time) and he imprisoned her in the bottle and cursed her to serve any mortal that possessed it because he thought she had been unfaithful. The pilot would be the same except that Melissa might leave him in the end. In the second episode, Jeannie would beg Tony to let her go to Baghdad to visit her family and she can’t go without him. It’s revealed that Jeannie is betrothed and that her fiance was the one who imprisoned her in the bottle and cursed her to be the servant of any mortal that possesses. Haji regrets cursing Jeannie and proclaims that he still loves her after 2,000 years. Jeannie mentions that she still cares for him but can’t stay with him because djinn law forbids a genie from leaving their master or for another genie to steal that genie from their master. The master must give up the genie willingly. Haji demands Tony give up Jeannie. He asks Jeannie if that’s what she wants. Jeannie is intrigued by what little of the mortal world she’s seen and asks to stay to explore it further. Haji vows to win her back. Jeannie and Tony go back to Coco beach.
    Haji would be the main rival and antagonist for the rest of the series. He’d be an emotional and physical obstacle in the way of Jeannie and Tony’s relationship. He’d be used to try to win Jeannie back and convince her master to give her up or be used to torture Tony so he’d be fed up and give her up. The one thing I’d make clear in Jeannie’s motivations is that she’s torn between the mortal world and the genie life. It’d be revealed that the only way she can break off her engagement according to djinn law is that she must become mortal. Jeannie is reluctant to fully be mortal because she’ll be forbidden to see her family. I’d have her family appear from time to time to really sell her emotional connection to them.
    Tony would be more like Darrin. He’d very much be anti-genie. His love for her would be clear and also the fact he doesn’t want to be without her. He would try to convince her that the mortal life would be great and that they’d be happy living a normal life together. But Jeannie unlike Samantha isn’t willing to give up her powers for a mortal life. That would be their conflict: their growing love for each, but her resistance to sacrifice who she is. I’d also have Jeannie have a burgeoning interest in the modern world and women’s growing independence in it. There would also be a sort of east versus west culture clash between Tony and Jeannie and also between Tony and Jeannie’s family.
    Jeannie’s mother would be a recurring character. She wouldn’t be the schemer like Endora. If there’s any schemes done, it’d be mainly in deference to Haji She’s a staunch traditionalist and believes that genie women must be dutiful wives. Most of the time she just wants to be around her beloved daughter whom she hasn’t seen in two millennia. She would clash with Tony over his seeming disrespect of genie culture. Of course, she’d be pushing Jeannie to go with Haji so that she won’t be forbidden to see her daughter again
    I’d have other family members appear now and again to spice things up.
    By introducing Haji, Jeannie isn’t in the antagonist role, She can function purely as the love interest and protector. Haji would make the conflict distinct from Bewitched and have the premise less limited.

    • Hi, Issa! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      I’m flattered you’re interested in my opinion — and nice to see you here again!

      Your scenario does two things that are beneficial: it creates more antagonists to propel external conflicts, taking this burden off Jeannie, and, also, by appropriating Darrin’s objective for Tony, you allow more drama (and therefore story) between Tony and Jeannie.

      But I’m afraid I don’t think it goes far enough; your pitch doesn’t solve the series’ seminal problems with emotional logic or provide the substance it lacks, mostly because it makes Jeannie seem indecisive and denies her an obvious goal. It’s hard to say more right now about your idea without knowing exactly what she wants, and therefore would be doing, in weekly plot.

      And I should warn you before you go any further, I’ve done a lot of thinking lately about how BEWITCHED and JEANNIE are constructed, and given how you’ve laid out your premise, unless Jeannie’s objective is the same as Sam’s — i.e. she wants to live a mortal life by not using her powers, and is *just* as inwardly determined as Tony is, despite the impossibility — you will create unintended but foundational weaknesses that can never be surmounted, particularly in the relationship between the two leads, which I think you still want us to support.

      Ultimately, BEWITCHED is a beautifully designed series, and I think you’ll find that any attempts to bolster JEANNIE’s premise, which was purposely created in the shadow of BEWITCHED’s, has to take and apply all of the latter’s character objectives instead of picking and choosing. If not, it needs to be a totally different show — moving away from BEWITCHED entirely.

  3. 1) I am as big a fan as anybody of Don Rickles, but I preferred the copycat episode with Paul Lynde as the nutritionist, and it’s one of my favorite episodes of the season. (I agree, the other Lynde episode from this season with him as a movie director is a complete stiff.)

    2) The more Amanda Bellows, the better. Emmaline Henry always gave the show a boost when she appeared.

    3) I never liked the Jeannie II episodes. They all suffered from a monotonous sameness.

    4) Actually, the two-part Hawaii episodes are completely disparate: I think the one with King Kamehameha is very funny. The one that is a glorified Don Ho concert is dreadful, bizarre and of a completely different tone than any other episode in the series.

    • Hi, Guy! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      1) I disagree; I think the Rickles episode is superior because its comedy stems from a unique characterization and its surprising turnaround courtesy of Jeannie, as opposed to Lynde’s situational exasperation, which merely renders him a proxy Bellows (just like in “My Master, The Rich Tycoon,” which was stronger because it was fresher). For me, it’s a basic preference of character over plot.

      2) I agree about Emmaline Henry. She helps propel the show’s comic rhythms as it gets faster paced in its final seasons, and she’s one of the unique delights of the Henerson era, in particular.

      3) I agree that Jeannie II’s use in story is repetitive and her episodes, collectively, aren’t great — this is because of her limited definition. But she gives her sister a needed break from being the antagonist, and in at least two of her three offerings highlighted above, the Jeannie/Tony relationship is better explored and/or used comedically as a result. That’s why I like them.

      4) I agree that the final two Hawaii episodes are narratively different, and that “The Battle Of Waikiki” is funnier. But it’s still a gimmicky on-location show that puts its comic burden on a guest while trafficking in situational laughs that aren’t commensurate with this year’s best. So, I don’t really find it more ideal than its predecessor.

  4. Barbara Eden was a talented actress I guess but not nearly as talented as Elizabeth Montgomery. Especially when it came to the ‘double’ aspect of each show Montgomery blew Eden out of the park. Montgomery really took Serena out there and made her truly memorable. Eden on the other hand didn’t do much to make her Jeanne II anything but a less multidimensional opposite of her good Jeannie. Barbara Eden actually won a TV LAND award for Jeannie II and over Elizabeth’s Serena. It was an upset in my opinion. Granted Eden had the edge since Montgomery had long passed away.

    • Hi, Matt! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Eden doesn’t find much nuance in her evil double or pivot the character away from its textual limitations, like Montgomery purposely did with Serena when seeking to distinguish her from Jeannie II. In that sense, I agree that the latter deserves more credit for grabbing ahold of a character and dimensionalizing her. But it’s inherently easier to do that on BEWITCHED than JEANNIE because a better premise yields better stories yields better characters.

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