It’s been 50 years since the fantasy comedy series reached its ending after 5 unforgettable seasons on NBC, but thanks to endless reruns, the show is still loved by people of all generations, and it remains full of secrets.
When a TV show reaches such legendary status as “I Dream of Jeannie” (1965-1970) has, and its legacy can still be perceived after half a century, it is natural to become fascinated with what happened behind the scenes.
From the inspiration behind the show to the way the personal lives of its stars contrasted to what was portrayed on the screen, here are ten little-known facts for fans of the beloved sitcom.
In season five of the series, Jeannie and her “master” Tony got married, which, according to Eden, accelerated the cancelation of the show at the end of that season. In her own words, “it ruined the show.”
“[Jeannie] wasn’t human. She was an entity. Genies aren’t human. Witches are human, and genies are not. She thought she was and [Tony] knew she wasn’t,” Eden explained. She believes this fact broke the credibility of the series.
The first season of the series was shot in black and white for practical and financial reasons, but given the show’s success, the producers made some important changes from season two on, starting by adding color to the sitcom.
The signature animated intro and theme song of the series were introduced on season two, and we cannot imagine the show without any of those elements nowadays.
On the same day that the pilot for “I Dream of Jeannie” was granted the green light to become a series, Eden learned that she was pregnant by her husband of seven years Michael Ansara.
But since finding the right actress to play the character of Jeannie wasn’t easy, the showrunners opted to disguise Eden’s pregnancy in every way possible for the first 13 episodes of the show.
Hagman, who portrayed the charismatic Major Tom Nelson in the series, was apparently the last to know about the show’s cancelation in 1970 when he walked into the studio to get something in his dressing room and was given the bad news.
As the late actor shared years later, it was a security man from the studio that first told him the show wasn’t going to return after the fifth season. Not even his manager had let him know about it.
One of the episodes of the series featured a lion, and the actors had to interact with a real animal during the filming. It turned out that Eden had previous experience with acting alongside lions, which gave her an advantage over her peers.
Barbara Eden does her signature move from "I Dream of Jeannie." I Image: Getty Images.
As Eden shared both in writing and during a press conference, she advised co-star Hagman about “making friends” with the lion before shooting the scene, something that he wasn’t willing to do
As a result, during one point in the scene, Hagman got too close to the lion, prompting it to roar with all its power and making the actor and the entire crew run off the set.
During the mid-sixties, the studios were only starting to defy the conservative and outdated Code of Practices for Television Broadcasters, but the producers of “I Dream of Jeannie” didn’t want to take any risks.
There was reportedly an entire meeting of NBC executives dedicated to discussing whether or not to show Eden’s navel in the series, and the result was that production went out of their way to prevent it from showing.
While “Bewitched” might have influenced the development of “I Dream of Jeannie,” there is another source of inspiration for the series, and it is a 1964 film titled “The Brass Bottle,” also starring Eden, although not playing a genie.
Producer Sidney Sheldon is credited with coming up with the idea of a female genie, this time with Eden bringing it to life, and that’s how the show as we know it finally took form.
"I Dream of Jeannie" main stars Barbara Eden and Larry Hagman. I Image: Getty Images.
The comparisons between “I Dream of Jeannie” and “Bewitched,” which premiered a year earlier, were frequent from the beginning, and this soon led to a rivalry between the two sitcoms.
To writers, however, it was just another job, and James S. Henerson had the chance to write for both shows, but only until the “I Dream of Jeannie” staff learned about this and fired him from the show.
According to some of his “I Dream of Jeannie” castmates, Hagman’s behind-the-scenes behavior was rather unpleasant, apparently due to the fact that he felt less important than his co-star Eden.
Actor Larry Hagman, who passed away in 2012. I Image: Getty Images.
Late director Gene Nelson shared that NBC even tried to fix his behavioral problems with an on-the-set psychiatrist, but this didn’t make things better.
Eden has also shared that Hagman had grown frustrated about the scripts of the show and had turned to alcohol to deal with his discomfort.
Barbara Eden donning her famous costume in 2013. I Image: Getty Images.
In 2013, a 78-year-old Eden put on the iconic outfit she wore to portray Jeannie for a special appearance in an AIDS benefit event in Vienna, Austria, where she walked former US President Bill Clinton to the stage.
At the time, Eden proved to be in amazing shape for someone about to reach the age of 80, and she was praised for her impressive abs and youthful looks.