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!
The Things 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.
Barbara Eden’s Pregnancy
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. In this day and age, her costume would definitely be considered tame.
During those first ten episodes, Barbara Eden was actually pregnant! Producers agreed to hide her pregnant stomach and the show became an instant classic.
Eden’s pregnancy could have been the end of the TV series but it was one horrendously bad episode that actually caused it to be canceled.
Larry Hagman Then
On the show, Hagman played the character of United States Air Force Captain Tony Nelson, who is a NASA astronaut. He spent his days working for the U.S. 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. Remember that? We’ll get to that wedding in just a bit.
Larry Hagman In Later Years
Following I Dream of Jeannie, Hagman would go on to appear in various TV and film products throughout the 1970s. He eventually accepted perhaps his best-known role as J.R. Ewing in the 1980s 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.
Larry Hagman’s Drinking
While many famous people have been known to suffer from various drinking and substance abuse problems, some are known for their infamous behavior as well. When Hagman drank, which occurred with more frequency as he became increasingly dissatisfied with the show, his champagne-fueled personality reared its ugly head.
He also exhibited some pretty strange behavior including coming to set for filming while wearing a gorilla suit. During a scary moment, he appeared up on set with an ax and started a profane tirade that scared a group of nuns.
And still, despite his drinking problem, this wasn’t what had the series canceled! Can you guess what episode caused problems before we reveal it?
Awkward Cancellation News
Apparently, Larry Hagman wasn’t notified that the show he starred on was canceled. He didn’t find out until he showed up on the studio lot where the TV series was filmed and a guard working outside let him know. Yikes!
The story goes that Hagman had previously been on vacation in South America following the 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.
Bill Daily Then
Bill Daily In Later Years
Bill Daily would later go on to take a role on The Bob Newhart Show, as the Hartleys’ neighbor Howard Borden. He also played Larry the psychiatrist on the oddball sitcom “Alf,” which is a role many remain particularly fond of today.
He also returned to his Roger Healey role in both of the I Dream of Jeannie television movies. Unfortunately, Daily passed away in September of 2018. His family announced the news several days later.
Phil Spector, Before He Went To Prison
Phil Spector was an acclaimed music producer long before being convicted of murder. He appeared on an episode of the TV series in which Jeannie attempts to become a singer.
Adding to this unusual 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.” Spector has been incarcerated since his 2009 conviction.
William (Hayden) Rorke Then
I Dream of Jeannie didn’t have a large cast. In fact, the only other semi-regular character (other than Tony, Roger, and Jeannie) was the NASA psychiatrist Dr. Bellows, who was brilliantly played by William Rorke.
William Rorke actually went by the name Hayden Rorke. Hayden was his mother’s surname which he adopted as a stage name. Prior to I Dream of Jeannie, he made his (uncredited) film debut in the This Is the Army, starring future president Ronald Reagan.
Hayden Rorke In Later Years
His final role was as Dr. Bellows in the TV series’ 1985 reunion movie. He also had various bit roles in dozens of other films throughout the years including a role in the hit Pillow Talk which starred Doris Day and Rock Hudson.
Unfortunately, William Rorke passed away in 1987 at the age of 76. He had been suffering from multiple myeloma, a form of cancer. Barbara Eden called him a “prince” in her autobiography.
Barbara Eden, The Lion Whisperer
The show had a real-life lion on set, Barbara was apparently extremely good with the massive animal. She reportedly told 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 [bleeping] 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.
No Theme Song?
When the second season of the show debuted, it was also the first time for the audience to hear the show’s (now) iconic theme song.
That wasn’t the only change: the new season was the first one shot in color. It was filmed in black and white, and the show’s producers played around with a few various options for a song but could never decide on one until the following season.
The Publicity Stunt Nobody Wanted
NBC’s publicity department staged a fake wedding for Eden and Hagman exactly one week before the wedding episode was set to air. 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.
The Marriage Mistake
Barbara Eden was dead set against the wedding between Jeannie and Tony. 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. Regardless of how she felt, the couple looked lovely together.
Of course, Jeannie’s “genie” nature was addressed in the show and was a major conundrum of the episode because genies cannot be photographed.
Last Network Show In Black And White
After the first season on air, all the other TV networks had transitioned into the new era of color television. The fact that a theme song was finally selected means it really was the song that ushered in color TV.
The intro also consisted of a now-iconic animation sequence which was created by Friz Freleng who was most known for his work on Looney Tunes, including creating characters like Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig, Tweety Bird, Sylvester the Cat, and Yosemite Sam.
Behind Closed Doors?
Throughout the show, every time Jeannie and Tony are seen entering the bedroom together, even if she turned into wispy pink smoke, Jeannie had to be shown leaving the room. That was all because of strict censorship rules.
At the time, it was common for two twin beds to be shown in a bedroom and for a couple to never be seen sharing a bed, even if they were married.
Jeannie’s Evil Twin
Oddly enough, many fans of the show didn’t realize Barbara Eden was playing Jeannie’s evil sister and would often write to her asking who played the dark-haired actress. Her evil sister’s name was also Jeannie. How confusing must that have been at the genies’ family reunions!
Perhaps this was just a sign of the innocence of the era, as now it is quite common for an actor to play multiple roles.
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. Although you wouldn’t know it, those scenes were filmed in the middle of the winter and it was freezing on set.
Despite the cold weather, Eden said it was her favorite episode, even though she admits, “I was freezing” the entire time.
Actors’ Opinions On Characters
Barbara Eden always viewed Jeannie was “a tomboy” although her fans seemed to think otherwise. During an interview with former co-star Larry Hagman, he spoke about his character Tony saying, “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…’”
This outlook would certainly explain why it took so long for the two characters to tie the knot. In real life, the actors thought the characters’ marriage shouldn’t have happened.
Jeannie’s Destroyed Costumes
Barbara Eden was so physical in her costumes that she was constantly catching them on her heels. This was probably not too difficult considering how billowy those pants were.
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. Eden wore one of them to a charity gala in 2013.
The Very Protected Original Jeannie Bottle
For a long time after the show came to an end, Barbara Eden held onto the original bottle. Years later she ended up donating it to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., where it is still one of the most popular TV props of all time.
Prior to donating it, she discussed the bottle in a 2011 interview. “I have the original bottle. It was in the office for a long time and then people said you know, ‘That shouldn’t be around, there’s only one,’” Eden said. “So I put it in the bank (in a vault) but it’s on its way to the Smithsonian.”
Jeannie’s Bottle Wasn’t Exactly A High-Tech Prop
Jeannie’s 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.
Supposedly, Jim Beam stopped making that style of bottle in the late 1990s.
Jeannie’s Scandalous Belly Button
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 TV network’s censors had very specific rules about that specific body part. Apparently, her various outfits were just fine but a belly button was — gasp!!! — taboo.
Actress Yvette Mimieux was the first woman to show her navel on American television, on the show Dr. Kildare. That was in 1964.
The Entire Set Was Burned Down
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.
Not all the props were destroyed in the fire, of course, since Barbara Eden held onto her genie lamp for years after the show ended.