The Ten Best I DREAM OF JEANNIE Episodes of Season Four

Welcome to a new Sitcom Tuesday… on a Wednesday! This week, we’re making up for one missed Tuesday post by 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 James Henerson taking the reins as head writer, Jeannie’s fourth year continues last year’s trends, as the show has seemingly realized that it’s difficult to maintain the premise’s status quo if Jeannie has to regularly antagonize Tony, whom she claims to love (or claimed to love, before scripts stopped being explicit when they couldn’t justify why two people who want to be together aren’t), so other characters are needed to push conflicts. Henerson takes his cue from Bewitched and rotates in family members: her twin sister, her mother, and even her dog. But they all have thin, surface personas — they lack the dimension seen on Bewitched — and their troublemaking is no more satisfying than Jeannie’s. What’s more, the source of the show’s one sustaining friction is simple — Jeannie has powers and uses them — and when scripts try to avoid this premised necessity, they become, I’ll quote myself: “hit-and-miss as they’re forced to rely on situational plots where the emotional jeopardy of the core drama is mitigated.” That was true in Three and it’s doubly so in Four, as the year places more stock on ideas that have NOTHING to do with Jeannie (ex: “Jeannie For The Defense”). Naturally, plots that any sitcom could do — or put too much emphasis on the guests instead of the leads — are unideal, for “it’s hard to care unless some key part of the show’s identity is honored.” However, being at 7:30 in front of the frenetic Laugh-In speeds up the series’ pace and invites more slapstick, at which this ensemble excels. In fact, Four affords many chances for the stars to clown, and despite some truly lamentable storytelling — exacerbated by behind-the-scenes tensions with Larry Hagman that precluded Tony and Jeannie from sharing many scenes, further eroding the premise — the cast is repeatedly affirmed as a collective asset. And while I still seek affirmation of the show’s individuality via its characters and conflict (i.e. a dramatic continuity on which to hang gags), the ten episodes I have selected to exemplify Four’s finest also showcase the series’ special sense of humor, which Henerson is now trying to posit as an equal part of its identity. I support this… but only with the understanding that it can’t exist in a vacuum; that is, tying big laughs to narrative fixtures is a basic expectation of situation comedies. Four has a hard time with this, and it’s a shortcoming that defines this season, specifically. So, with that said, let’s get to the list…

 

01) Episode 89: “Jeannie And The Wild Pipchicks” (Aired: 09/23/68)

Jeannie’s mother’s candy has the side effect of making humans uninhibited.

Written by James Henerson | Directed by Claudio Guzman

My choice for this season’s Most Valuable Episode (MVE), “Jeannie And The Wild Pipchicks” gets that honor because it’s the perfect representation of the year — with a lot of the good, a little of the bad, and plenty of the interesting. The “good” is that it’s hilarious, utilizing a premise in which mortals who ingest a magical candy lose their inhibitions and start going wild, acting out their inner fantasies. This showcases the pronounced comic stylings of reliable cast members like Bill Daily and Hayden Rorke, along with guest star Reta Shaw, who’s hysterical as a superior officer asking the guys to “dominate” her. The “bad” is that Eden and Hagman are clearly being separated in a lot of scenes, and without the sincere Tony/Jeannie core, we’re missing any kind of grounding emotional substance. Also, the concept of the magic candy is rather vague; we never get a really solid and direct explanation for what the side effects are on mortals — my interpretation above is generous — and it basically seems like just an excuse to have the actors do crazy shtick that will make the 7:30 crowd laugh. The “interesting” is that the conflict is technically the fault of Jeannie’s mother (played for the first of two times by Eden herself), who makes the candy and purposely wants to cause trouble… like Endora on Bewitched. Eden has fun getting to play roles other than Jeannie, and she’s a hoot here, but Mama lacks the rich motivation of Endora, so there’s only so much she can do for the show beyond the intended goal of supplanting Jeannie as the antagonist. Yet this displays all the triumphs and failings of Jeannie and Season Four especially, and given that “Pipchicks” just might be the funniest of the entire run, the era’s standards point to this as being its favorite.

02) Episode 92: “Have You Heard The One About The Used Car Salesman?” [a.k.a. “The Used Car Salesman”] (Aired: 11/04/68)

Jeannie teaches a lesson to a crooked used car dealer during a live TV commercial.

Written by James Henerson | Directed by Hal Cooper

Although I think a large chunk of this offering’s appeal to many fans resides in the fact that it gives so much time to several likable guest stars — Carl Ballantine, Bob Hastings, and Henry Beckman (all veterans of McHale’s Navy) — its narrative actually makes an effort to tease a connection to the central conflict, as Tony tries to pass of Jeannie (now in a brunette wig) as his visiting cousin to the Bellowses and their visiting cousin. This is a lie that could get exposed once she goes on live TV and deploys her powers to unnerve a crooked dealer to whom she brought Tony’s car (after wrecking it). And though there’s also a loud and fast sequence with Jeannie driving — typical of Season Four — it’s the use of the characters in a believable drama, plus the focus on the performers and the big laughs they can earn, that makes this half hour worthwhile.

03) Episode 93: “Djinn-Djinn, Go Home” (Aired: 11/11/68)

Mrs. Bellows unknowingly adopts Jeannie’s dog, who has a habit of turning invisible.

Written by James Henerson | Directed by Hal Cooper

Jeannie’s mischievous dog Djinn-Djinn makes his debut — in his first of four episodes throughout these last two years — and there seems to be disagreement in the fan base about the quality of his shows. Personally, I typically hate animals on sitcoms, for like children, they’re too often used for cheap laughs that don’t have anything to do with the characters (or the premise they’re sustaining). However, the dog being invisible alleviates some of these concerns, because then his presence is less about his presence and more about his effect on the humans around him, and there’s some terrific physical comedy he allows for the actual cast, including Barton MacLane’s General Peterson. That said, I consider him a lot like Jeannie II in that his characterization is nil and so the repetition of his usage quickly becomes grating, meaning that his appearances weaken over time — even this year, his second show plays the exact same gags but isn’t any better. At least here there’s the novelty of his premiere, where he’s yet another indication of Henerson trying to give Jeannie a break from being the “bad guy.”

04) Episode 95: “The Indispensable Jeannie” (Aired: 11/25/68)

Jeannie turns the house into a wish-granter when Tony and Roger cohabitate for NASA.

Written by James Henerson | Directed by Claudio Guzman

It’s hard to look at these early fourth season shows and not see how little Eden and Hagman are directly interacting — especially because there’s usually less of Jeannie overall — but this installment benefits from an old-fashioned Jeannie template that’s appropriate for the premise because it uses the characters as intended, is shaped by the central conflict, and enjoys some of the NASA trappings that are a seminal part of the show’s appeal. That is, Jeannie is the well-intentioned cause of the drama when she rigs the house so that it automatically grants wishes, which puts Tony in a bad spot and threatens her exposure as Dr. Bellows comes over during Tony and Roger’s cohabitation test — important considering that, hey, they’re astronauts for NASA. Now, the idea of an enchanted house was also seen on Bewitched, and in a manner that led to more dramatically potent character-forward beats (“A Is For Aardvark”), but Jeannie is not built to do the same, and in Four specifically, we don’t even expect it to try.

05) Episode 96: “Jeannie And The Top Secret Secret” (Aired: 12/02/68)

Jeannie thinks Tony has been called away to meet a woman on their anniversary.

Written by Searle Kramer | Directed by Hal Cooper

Again, this is something of an old-fashioned idea — in other words, more attuned to the series’ premise — for it also makes Jeannie the definite source of weekly conflict. But unlike the above, she’s not well-meaning here, because it’s her and Tony’s third “anniversary” and she believes that he’s lying about being called away to meet a woman. So, she’s jealous — one of the common motivators for her bad behavior in early years — and with some memorable set pieces, both on a plane and later in the short NASA film that Jeannie corrupts, this entry combines Four’s heightened comic interests with a structure that, while obviously revealing the premise’s innate problems, better reinforces it than the majority of this era’s shows. Bill Quinn appears.

06) Episode 98: “Dr. Bellows Goes Sane” (Aired: 12/16/68)

Tony and Roger conspire with Jeannie to keep Dr. Bellows from being replaced.

Written by James Henerson | Directed by Richard Kinon

Joe Flynn guest stars in this unique offering as a replacement for Dr. Bellows, who is carted off after filing a report on all the unusual things he’s witnessed about Tony over the years, convincing the general that it’s the doc who’s crocked. That’s a funny, premise-rooted, character-based idea — but the conflict comes from the new shrink’s threat of performing hypnotics on Tony, which might reveal his secret. Thus, Tony’s objective (with Jeannie and Roger) is making Dr. Bellows appear sane… which doesn’t work. Plan B is making Flynn appear insane so they can reinstate Dr. Bellows and hold on to the status quo of his constant exasperation, which, by now, nobody else at NASA takes seriously. This is a great way to affirm the premise without insulting it, and it’s a smarter script than most because of its fidelity to the elements of Jeannie’s identity, even in spite of the ridiculousness of Janos Prohaska hulking around in an obvious bear suit.

07) Episode 101: “The Case Of My Vanishing Master (II)” (Aired: 01/13/69)

Jeannie and Roger have fun gaslighting the phony Tony.

Written by James Henerson | Directed by Hal Cooper

As the second half of a two-parter, this episode revels in all the fun that its predecessor had to set up. And Part I indeed had a lot to set up, because the idea of Tony having an exact double that’s not the result of magic is a bit of a stretch. I suppose the Cold War-era “spy” ethos is enough to lend the notion some credibility — we want to suspend our disbelief — but it’s a definite leap that must be earned. And yet, it’s worthwhile because Hagman so relishes the chance to play another character, and this installment is a particular delight because it gives the actor an opportunity to essentially take on the function of Dr. Bellows, as he’s both confounded and menaced by Jeannie’s magic when she finally realizes that he’s not the real Tony and decides to mess with him. This inversion of the usual role Hagman plays in story is hilarious, and even though these entries were another shameful vessel for a write-in ratings-seeking contest (“where is Tony?”), it adheres to the year’s priority of giving the actors strong comic material and boasts a narrative that has a connection to the core conflict. Benny Rubin guests.

08) Episode 103: “Invisible House For Sale” (Aired: 02/03/69)

Jeannie causes problems when she modifies the house while attempting to sell it.

Written by James Henerson | Directed by Hal Cooper

This is sort of a mashup of two successful ideas from the earlier years — from “What House Across The Street?,” the comic gag of a house that keeps appearing and disappearing to mortal eyes (although this time, it’s because it’s made invisible, not because it’s physically going anywhere), and from “My Master, The Rich Tycoon,” the story engine where Jeannie propels the conflict because she wants to impress someone she views as a snob (only now instead of blinking up art and cash, she blinks up a fancier house). I have to say, I don’t think this outing is nearly as strong as the two aforementioned, and Jeannie’s motivation for wanting to sell Tony’s house is flimsy, another encapsulation of the mess that this series’ premise is with its characters and their primary objectives (and how they’re situated in story). But there are a lot of individual moments that make this one stand out, like Bill Daily pantomiming the house, and with some memorable guest performances (namely from Harold Gould and Joan Tompkins), it works more than it doesn’t — and when in doubt, it’s supported by the central conflict.

09) Episode 105: “Is There A Doctor In The House?” (Aired: 02/17/69)

Jeannie’s mother makes Tony fall asleep whenever someone whistles.

Written by Christopher Golato [alias Sidney Sheldon] | Directed by Oscar Rudolph

Barbara Eden is back as Jeannie’s mother for the second and final time in this amusing entry that’s probably the year’s most evocative of Bewitched, for its story has Mama purposely making life difficult for Tony by contriving it so every time he hears a whistle, he falls asleep. (Incidentally, Bewitched would use a similar idea a year later.) This is naturally strange behavior that threatens Jeannie’s potential discovery, so the conflict is well-enforced, enabling fine slapstick as Hagman gets to play a narcoleptic. However, Mama’s characterization is slight and her objective isn’t well-established, so she really does feel like “off-brand Endora.” Fortunately, Eden is having a ball and this is one of her funniest half hours of the season. Also, in the second act, when Mama comes to Cocoa Beach and falls in love with Dr. Bellows, the narrative enjoys a little more comic variety that again favors the actors, keeps the drama at the fore, and spares Jeannie from being the pest. (Note: this is the penultimate appearance of Barton MacLane, who died during production of Season Four and was replaced by Vinton Hayworth.)

10) Episode 110: “Around The Moon In 80 Blinks” (Aired: 03/24/69)

A sick Jeannie accidentally blinks down Tony and another astronaut while they’re on a mission.

Written by James Henerson | Directed by Claudio Guzman

This was the only rival for my MVE pick — another candidate for the series’ funniest, relishing in the kind of broad slapstick this year wants to prioritize, especially since it’s so expertly played by the performers, including, in this case, Hagman and guest Richard Mulligan, portraying a fellow astronaut who gets caught in the middle of Jeannie’s shenanigans when she, while sick, accidentally blinks him down from an important NASA mission. I think the one glaring limitation here is that, though it flatters the premise by employing the typical structure of Jeannie being the cause of a problem that threatens her reveal — which is more satisfying than most of the attempted workarounds found elsewhere — the script still can’t muster up the kind of motivation necessary to surmount the premise’s inherent obstacles. Oh, don’t get me wrong — it gets us halfway there, for Jeannie blinking down Tony is about protecting him, because he’s sick, and her mistake is (for once) born out of the fact that she’s sick too, which justifies her ineptitude — but she’s still a nuisance who’s doing something her beloved master does not want. That’s a flaw… Nevertheless, the laughs are so big that they’re compensatory; Tony attempting to lug around his drugged-up buddy while convincing him that he’s still in the space capsule, and Mrs. Bellows getting to supplant her husband as the gobsmacked observer whom nobody believes when she catches Tony sneaking around, are both superb. So, there’s a whole lot of shticky fun that uses the conflict well and therefore honors the premise and the year.

 

Other notable episodes that merit mention include: an outing you may be surprised not to see above, “Tomorrow Is Not Another Day,” which has an amiable fantasy plot of the characters trying to change the future, but is saddled with a middling script that doesn’t make sense and accordingly pivots halfway in to engage other comic thoughts that simply deflate the story’s tension, along with “U.F.Ohh! Jeannie,” which features J. Pat O’Malley, Kathleen Freeman, and Lisa Gaye as a family of hillbillies who mistake Tony and Roger for Martians, displaying the year’s heightened comic ethos, but with not enough of the gags tied to the characters or the premise, “The Biggest Star In Hollywood,” a gimmicky and illogical crossover with several cast members from Laugh-In, and “Jeannie-Go-Round,” a Jeannie II offering that I wish led with its comic ideas instead of attempting to distract with noise (like Eden’s singing) and speed (like the running in and out), which aren’t sufficient replacements for situation comedyMeanwhile, of equal relevance but lesser quality are “The Case Of My Vanishing Master (I),” the first half of the two-parter just highlighted, “Nobody Loves A Fat Astronaut,” which I cite only for the bit with Jeannie II making Tony fat, and “Blackmail Order Bride,” which utilizes a real conflict… but is so caught up in its story that it doesn’t land all its laughs.

 

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

“Jeannie And The Wild Pipchicks”

 

 

Come back next week for Season Five!

10 thoughts on “The Ten Best I DREAM OF JEANNIE Episodes of Season Four

  1. Hi Jackson! Thank you for your interesting blogs of seasons 3 and 4. I agree “The Biggest Star in Hollywood” feels illogical and without a proper ending. From what I read it was to be a crossover with “Laugh In” where Barbara Eden, in character as Jeannie was to have shown her navel, an appearance which was nixed by the NBC censor at the last moment, so that Barbara Eden never appeared on “Laugh In” even though she appeared on other variety shows of the era like “The Carol Burnett Show” and “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour”. In my opinion, no episode better exemplifies Barbara Eden’s navel battles than season 3’s “Jeannie Goes to Honolulu” where Jeannie wears a one-piece bathing suit while surrounded by bikini-clad extras, and even Emmaline Henry has a scene on the beach where she is wearing low-cut jeans and a shirt tied around her waist with her navel clearly showing. On a side digression, I find it amusing that the writers named the woman pretending to be Tony’s wife Sue Ellen. Looking forward to your opinions about season 5.

    • Hi, Raul! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Yes, that’s the story regarding the intended LAUGH-IN/JEANNIE crossover. In fact, it was supposed to launch the 1968-’69 season and when the censors nixed LAUGH-IN’s navel sketch, the corresponding JEANNIE episode was buried and not shown until late February.

      Stay tuned next week for my thoughts on Season Five!

  2. You highlighted some of my favorites from this season nicely. I’ve been watching a lot of these lately, as FETV’s IDoJ reruns are in S4 now. Gen. Peterson usually has to stay above the madness around him, so I loved how he was included in the fun in both “Jeannie and the Wild Pipchicks” and “Djinn-Djinn, Go Home”. They were a nice showcase for Barton MacLane’s talents just before his untimely passing. I agree that the Djinn-Djinn appearances are weak following this episode, not worth my time to re-watch them.

    “Invisible House for Sale” gives me more laughs than any other episode this season. I especially love Joan Tompkins’ tantrum ending in “WHERE IS IT?!?”. I just noticed on last watching it how dispensable Jeannie is in “Indispensable Jeannie”. She doesn’t appear until 10 minutes in, for about one minute alone, then doesn’t show up again until the final scenes. Maybe Barbara Eden had some personal conflicts that week of filming. “Jeannie for the Defense” is fun for me in some of its casting anyway, bringing together “Newt Kiley”, “Millie Helper”, and “Darrin Stephens II”. The stunt casting for “The Biggest Star In Hollywood”, as well as some of the slapstick, is worth a few laughs for me too.

    I’m looking forward to your take on S5. As you stated in your introductory article, it offers more interaction between Jeannie and the mortals around her, but the general reason for the show disappears.

    • Hi, Jon! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      I desperately want to enjoy “Jeannie For The Defense” because I like a lot of the people in it too, but I fundamentally think that it’s an episode that uses too little of JEANNIE’s particulars, operating with a clichéd plot that any sitcom from this era could utilize. And I don’t think it is comedically competitive, like “The Biggest Star In Hollywood” can be (in certain moments).

      As for Eden in “The Indispensable Jeannie,” the script was intentionally separating her from Hagman. It is not the only episode this season where she doesn’t have much screen time, and it’s certainly not the only episode this season where she doesn’t have much screen time with her costar.

      Stay tuned next week for my thoughts on Season Five!

  3. So what was the conflict between Eden and Hagman? I never knew of such a thing. I assume it had something to do with his being restless and bored with the series. But I always thought he and Eden got along swimmingly.

    • Hi, Mark! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      The tension was on Hagman’s end specifically; around the time of the show’s surprise renewal in early 1968, he decided he didn’t want to work with Eden anymore and demanded that scripts deliberately separate them as much as possible to reduce his on-set time with her. (He once said she reminded him of his mother, for whatever that’s worth.) Eventually he changed his mind, and by the end of the fourth season, things were mostly back to normal. They were never friends though and “swimmingly” would be an overstatement to describe their otherwise cordial, professional interaction.

  4. Jackson, Enjoying the review however as it seems to have played a major part in the scripting of some of the season 4 shows could you expand on Larry Hagman’s dissatisfaction with show? Not having scenes together would point to a riff with Barbara Eden or was it the way he was being used on the show? Happy Holidays, Bob

    • Hi, Robert! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Hagman never liked the show and was constantly dissatisfied with its scripts, resenting, among other things, the fact that he was secondary to Eden. When the series was renewed for a surprise fourth season after looking like it was going to be cancelled, he was particularly upset and decided that he didn’t want to work with Eden anymore, forcing scripts to pair them in as few scenes as possible. Eventually his position softened, and by 1969, they were back to working more collaboratively, in time for the network’s insistence that their characters marry.

      Thanks for the well wishes — Happy Holidays to you too!

  5. I was not aware that Barbara Eden and Larry Hagman had difficulties during the 4th season. I am glad they worked things out as they seemed to remain friends until Larry’s death. I loved Barbara’s appearance on Dallas. I am glad they did not go the same route of Bewitched and replace the leading male actor. Granted, Dick York had health problems. Bewitched was not the same after Dick York left. Thanks for reviewing and have a Merry Christmas Jackson.

    • Hi, Smitty! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      As discussed above, the drama was mostly one-sided, but Hagman and Eden were never great friends and have written about that fact. And, incidentally, the BEWITCHED set wasn’t much happier — Montgomery’s disdain for York was palpable for most of his tenure. Fortunately, they were all professionals and you wouldn’t know there was tension — except for here in JEANNIE’s fourth year, where the central relationship is decentralized in large part because scripts are obviously laboring to separate the stars. Once you see it, you can’t un-see it!

      And thanks for the well wishes — Merry Christmas to you too. I’m grateful for your readership and support this year and all the ones before it!

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