August 20, 2016

JEANNIE

JEANNIE
(CBS, September 8-December 22, 1973)


Hanna-Barbera Productions, Screen Gems Television

MAIN CAST:
Julie McWhirter – Jeannie
Mark Hamill – Corey Anders
Joe Besser – Babu
Bob Hastings – Henry Glopp
Janet Waldo – Mrs. Anders
John Stephenson – Haji, Master of all Genies
Tommy Cook – S. Melvin Farthinghill

            It was 1964 when ABC had just scored a major success with its supernaturally-themed sitcom, Bewitched. Sidney Sheldon was tasked with coming up with a competing series for NBC to match that success, and was inspired by the movie The Brass Bottle to come up with a show surrounding a beautiful female genie. 


            I Dream of Jeannie followed the adventures of Major Anthony Nelson (Larry Hagman), a NASA astronaut who crashed on a deserted island and found a bottle containing said genie, aptly-named Jeannie (Barbara Eden). Jeannie would activate her power typically by crossing her arms and blinking (although she didn’t always need to do so). Nelson, who had no interest in getting anything magically, ended up spending all of his time trying to keep Jeannie under control and under wraps; particularly from his eternally-suspicious superior, Dr. Bellows (Hayden Rorke). Eventually, Nelson developed feelings for Jeannie and the two were married. 

Major Nelson and Jeannie tie the knot.

            I Dream of Jeannie debuted on September 18, 1965. While most television shows had switched to a color format at the time, Screen Gems executives weren’t convinced the show would be successful and wanted to save money by filming it in black and white. Also, it helped with Jeannie’s special effects, which couldn’t be adequately shown in color at the time. The series did prove successful, and ran for five seasons (with color!). When ratings plummeted after Jeannie and Nelson were married, the network decided to cancel it at the end of the fifth season.

The animated Jeannie.

            When I Dream of Jeannie entered into syndicated reruns, the show performed remarkably well in the ratings. CBS executive Fred Silverman asked  Hanna-Barbera to see if they could capture that newfound popularity with an animated version for the network. Hanna-Barbera had previously been part of Screen Gems when they were founded until being sold to Taft Broadcasting in 1966, and were able to secure the license from the studio. However, Hanna-Barbera’s production of The New Scooby-Doo Movies, which featured numerous guest appearances from various celebrities of the day, caused a tremendous strain on their budget. That meant that Hanna-Barbera had a very little money to work with on their Jeannie spin-off. They couldn’t afford the fees to make the characters look like the sitcom’s stars, or even to cast the stars themselves.

Henry, Corey, Jeannie and Babu.

            As a result, Hanna-Barbera rebuilt the concept from the ground up to where only the fact that an ordinary human found an attractive female genie remained. That human became the teenaged surfer Corey Anders (a play on the Middle Eastern spice coriander, voiced by Mark Hamill in his first animated starring role) who shared the secret with his best friend, Henry Glopp (Bob Hastings). Corey would end up finding Jeannie’s bottle while he was out surfing one day.

Jeannie model sheet showing her walking, zapping and flying.

Jeannie (Julie McWhirter) became a bit younger herself (at least in appearance—she was still technically thousands of years old!) and was made a redhead. To use her powers, she would cross her arms and whip her ponytail instead of blink. When the live Jeannie was in production, there was some controversy over Eden’s bellybutton being seen on camera, resulting in her costume being cut specifically to cover it. The animated Jeannie seemed to suffer no such restrictions as not only was her navel shown, but her pants were made translucent to show off her legs. Jeannie was also given a sidekick for comic relief: a genie-in-training named Babu (Joe Besser), who would get so nervous his magic would constantly go haywire. Babu’s magic would be cast by saying “Yapple Dapple!” The only character carried over from the live show was Hadji, Master of all Genies (John Stephenson). 

Main character model sheet.

            Jeannie debuted on CBS on September 8, 1973. It was written by William Canning, Marion Hargrove, Austin Kalish, Irma Kalish (both of whom wrote for the original series), David Ketchum, Sidney Morse, Bruce Shelly, Arlene Stadd, Leonard Stadd, Frank Waldman, Phyllis White and Robert White, with music by Hoyt Curtin. Like the sitcom, many of the adventures were driven by Jeannie being constantly jealous of girls Corey would hang out with. Meanwhile, Corey was completely oblivious to Jeannie’s feelings for him. Jeannie would either use her magic to interrupt Corey’s “dates” or in a misguided attempt to give him unwanted help. Causing Corey additional trouble was snooty rich kid and bully, S. Melvin Farthinghull (Tommy Cook). Despite the massive changes to the source material leading to critical disdain and only lasting one season, Jeannie performed well in the ratings even against Star Trek: The Animated Series. To help promote the show, Jeannie and Babu guest-starred on an episode of The New Scooby-Doo Movies. Rand McNally published a coloring book (notably using the original series’ title), and Ben Cooper made a costume based on Jeannie (however, the mask’s face looked fairly close to Eden’s).

Jeannie in her Scooby-Doobies vest from Laff-a-Lympics.

            In 1974, Columbia Pictures assumed control of Screen Gems and it became Columbia Pictures Television. Because of that change, plans to use Jeannie and Babu in Laff-A-Lympics fell through as Columbia owned all the rights to the Jeannie character and forbade her use. Babu, however, was owned by Hanna-Barbera and appeared on the show as planned. Jeannie did appear on early promotional art for Laff-A-Lympics. Reruns of the show were featured in their syndicated weekday package series Fred Flintstone and Friends, which was co-produced by Columbia. To date, the only home media appearances of the characters is their episode of The New Scooby-Doo Movies. Years later, Hamill and Hastings would be reunited as recurring characters in Batman: The Animated Series.


EPISODE GUIDE:
“Surf’s Up” (9/8/73) – Jeannie gets jealous when Corey partners with Aggie for the surfing contest, but she soon dumps him to enter with Melvin.

“The Decathlon” (9/15/73) – Henry and Corey are convinced their diet is helping for their upcoming athletic competition until Babu reveals Jeannie’s been helping them magically.

“The Great Ski Robbery” (9/22/73) – When Henry and Corey are fired from their ski resort jobs, Jeannie help them capture some crooks so they can get them back.

“Survival Course” (9/29/73) – Jeannie sends Corey and Henry on a survival camp field trip.

“The Power Failure” (10/6/73) – A jealous Jeannie takes Corey and Henry’s motorcycle and goes to a beauty salon where she loses her pony tail—and her powers.

“The Dognappers” (10/13/73) – Corey and Henry are accused of dognapping when a show dog in their care ends up taken.

“The Pigeon” (10/20/73) – Corey and Henry’s racing pigeon lays an egg, leaving them to care for her chicken offspring.

“Helen of Troy” (10/27/73) – Jeannie conjures up Helen of Troy to help Corey with his paper, but regrets it when the two begin getting close.

“The Sailors” (11/3/73) – Jeannie replaces Corey’s female partner in the sailboat race and ends up getting his boat disqualified.

“The Kid Brother” (11/10/73) – Young Billy catches a glimpse of Jeannie and attempts to prove her existence.

“The Blind Date” (11/17/73) – Corey sends Jeannie to her bottle over her latest bout of jealousy, and unfortunately his mother decides to recycle it.

“The Commercial” (11/24/73) – Corey wins a contest and has to appear in a commercial in order to earn a place in a four-year college course, but Jeannie has objections.

“Don Juan” (12/1/73) – Jeannie attempts to help Henry get over his shyness around girls by casting a spell, which earns him a lot of attention from girls and makes Corey miserable.

“The Dog” (12/8/73) – Jeannie is assigned to watch Haji’s dog, but when the dog steals his golden cup, he turns Corey into a dog.

“The Jinx” (12/15/73) – Jeannie and the guys are tasked with bringing Babu back after he runs away thinking he’s a jinx, and to keep him around Jeannie corrects all his mistakes.

“The Wish” (12/22/73) – When Henry feels inadequate after Corey wins a football game, Jeannie grants him a birthday wish that switches his and Corey’s bodies.


Originally posted in 2016. Updated in 2020.

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