Sometimes, you just want to kick it old school, sitcom wise. At least I do. Even if the show isn’t great, there are rhythms to classic sitcoms you don’t get anymore. Since I grew up watching Nick at Nite, these shows and styles are engrained in my brain. It had been years since I had watched I Dream of Jeannie, which I found on the Roku Channel but I’m sure it’s available elsewhere (my guess would be Amazon). Having watched it five nights a week as a kid for a couple years, I was interested in jumping back in.
If you aren’t familiar, the premise is high concept and simple. Major Tony Nelson, an astronaut played by Larry Hagman, lands on an island where he finds a bottle. In that bottle is Jeannie, who is, well, a genie, played by Barbara Eden. Jeannie, having been freed by Tony, considers him her master, so she heads back to Tony’s home with him. She’s there to answer his wishes, and sometimes she just tries to do nice stuff for him. It often backfires. Also, Tony is trying to hide Jeannie from everybody, though his friend and fellow astronaut Major Roger Healey finds out and is cool with it. Basically in every episode the Air Force base’s psychiatrist, Colonel Bellows, thinks Tony is crazy, but then everything is fixed before he can prove it.
There is a lot of that old-school sitcom repetition in I Dream of Jeannie. It’s quite plug-and-play. Jeannie does something, Tony is exasperated, things get worse, Tony has to try and hide things for Colonel Bellow, and Jeannie fixes everything just in the nick of time. Jeannie is also in love with Tony. Some people get squeamish about I Dream of Jeannie because Jeannie feels a life debt to Major Nelson and calls him “Master” and stuff. To which I say: It’s a sitcom about a genie. Relax. Nobody gets mad about Chewbacca serving out a life debt to Han Solo. She’s magic. Don’t be weird about it.
They managed to generate 139 episodes of plot out of this premise, which is kind of incredible. They don’t all hit. Every episode is crazy and silly. Sometimes its cheesy. And yet, it’s fun. They don’t really make shows like I Dream of Jeannie anymore. The cast is delightful for sitcom acting. Hagman and Eden have a lot of chemistry. Maybe they aren’t quite on the Dick York and Elizabeth Montgomery in Bewitched level, but they work well together. Plus, Daily is maybe the best “wacky friend/neighbor” sitcom actor ever. Just check out The Bob Newhart Show for further proof of that.
Look, if you want to watch something deep and intricately plotted, this won’t be for you. However, if you want to stay in, relax, turn your brain off, and try and sit out the end of winter with the wacky, brightly-colored adventures of a genie and an astronaut, you can pick and choose I Dream of Jeannie episodes and fill a weekend.