Sunday, July 14, 2013

I Dream of Jeannie

Sometimes people forget that the iconic TV series I Dream of Jeannie, which ran from September 1965 to September 1970 with a couple of slight returns in TV movies, was set in Cocoa Beach on Florida's Space Coast. The show wasn't actually filmed there, unfortunately - as a cost-cutting measure they shot the series in California, which explains the incongruous mountains sometimes seen on the horizon in outdoor shots. The cast, however, did make promotional appearances in Cocoa Beach, and a street called I Dream Of Jeannie Lane still exists there to this very day. (I wonder how many pop-culture-clueless young people wonder who this "Jeannie Lane" is.)

The show, inspired by the Tony Randall-Barbara Eden film The Brass Bottle, tells the story of a NASA astronaut named Tony (played by Larry Hagman) who finds a mysterious bottle (actually a gaudily-painted limited edition Jim Beam whiskey bottle!) in the sand when his one-man capsule Stardust One makes an emergency landing at a deserted island in the South Pacific. When he opens it, out pops a blonde female Persian Jinn in a belly-dancing harem costume who proclaims him to be her master for freeing her from the bottle. Despite his misgivings about the whole thing, she follows him back home to Florida and proceeds to make his life chaotic with her well-intended magickal attempts to serve him.

Although Tony attempts to keep Jeannie's existence a secret, his best friend and fellow astronaut, Captain Roger Healey (played by Bill Daily, later of The Bob Newhart Show fame) soon finds out, and eventually in later episodes she dons ordinary 20th-century clothing in order to pass herself off as Tony's human fiancé. They are continually snooped on by the show's villain, NASA's head psychiatrist Dr. Alfred Bellows, who suspects that something is not quite right about Tony and Jeannie's relationship.

There were two subsequent TV movies - one in 1985, another in 1991 - that reunited the cast except for Larry Hagman, who by this time was thrilled to have shed his typecast image by starring as J.R. Ewing in the blockbuster hit show Dallas and wanted no part of a reunion. This summer, Barbara Eden made a promotional appearance in her Jeannie costume with President Bill Clinton, and still looks great in it.

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