Following in the magical fantasy footsteps of Bewitched (1964-1972), I Dream of Jeannie was one of the classic sitcoms of the 1960s. Perched precariously between the conservative 1950s and the sexual revolution, it was both a paragon of wish fulfillment and a product of the Cold War and the Space Race, thanks to the memorable device of making the hero an astronaut. This four-DVD set collects the first season, consisting of 30 half-hour episodes.
The concept is no doubt familiar to just about everyone thanks to endless years of syndication, but briefly, in the pilot episode Captain (later Major) Anthony Nelson (Larry Hagman) is shot off in a rocket for a mission, but something goes wrong and he's forced to land on a desert isle. Instead of Gilligan and friends, he finds a bottle that contains a genie named Jeannie (Barbara Eden). She immediately falls in love, and although Nelson frees her from her servitude, she's delighted to continue in his service back at Cocoa Beach, Florida. But a genie isn't the sort of thing you can explain to the Air Force, so Tony has to keep her under wraps. When Jeannie invariably makes trouble by trying to help, base psychiatrist Dr. Alfred Bellows (Hayden Rorke) is determined to find out what secret Nelson is hiding, or go nuts himself in the process.
Initially, Tony Nelson was strapped with a fiancée, Melissa (Karen Sharpe), but she and her father (Philip Ober) were briskly written out of the series and were gone by episode 4. But Melissa does serve the purpose of setting up the theme of Jeannie's sexual jealousy and possessiveness over Tony. The show was fairly radical for its time, featuring a scantily clad young woman living with a man not her husband, and certainly not in a platonic relationship. Jeannie's attempts to appeal to Tony are the focus of some good episodes, such as G.I. Jeannie, in which she attempts to join the WAPs in order to become Tony's secretary. In The Americanization of Jeannie, she decides to remake herself in the model of women's magazines, and soon is out of control with Tony's credit cards, among other problems, an episode sure to rankle the feminists. In Too Many Tonys, she creates a second Tony, who's eager to marry her, which understandably causes significant confusion.