‘I Dream of Jeannie’: What Barbara Eden Said ‘Ruined the Show’

The 1960s sitcom I Dream of Jeannie brought a new type of love story to the small screen. With Barbara Eden portraying a 2000-year-old genie – aptly named Jeannie – rescued by U.S. astronaut Tony Nelson, played by Larry Hagman, the main will-they-or-won’t-they storyline kept viewers in suspense for almost five seasons.

When the show was cancelled in 1970, the cast members and show creator Sidney Sheldon placed the blame on something specific.

Barbara Eden and Larry Hagman of 'I Dream of Jeannie'
Barbara Eden and Larry Hagman of ‘I Dream of Jeannie’ | NBCU Photo Bank

Attraction between ‘I Dream of Jeannie’ characters drives up ratings

While Jeannie was technically not of the human realm and Tony was a mere mortal, their potentially doomed coupling created instant chemistry. With Jeannie’s beauty on display in her now legendary pink silk harem pants and Tony being a handsome bachelor, their attraction for each other jumped off the screen. Hagman later commented on the unique dynamic of the storyline.

“It was a kind of strange thing,” the I Dream of Jeannie star said, according to Closer Weekly. “Here’s this guy that finds this bottle and out of this bottle comes this absolutely gorgeous, beautiful girl that’s 2000 years old, and she’s always on the make for him. I mean, always trying to get him in the sack. And my motivation is, you know, I can’t do that, because I’m an astronaut and my career is at stake.”

Actor Bill Daly played Tony’s colleague and pal Roger, who always had a wandering eye.

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“Here’s this guy with this beautiful girl who can give him anything he wants and he can’t accept it,” Hagman remarked of his character. “And then Roger, my sidekick, is the guy that wants everything. He says, ‘Give it to me, give it to me. I’ll do it.’ The chemistry was wonderful between all of us.”

‘I Dream of Jeannie’ has a wedding in season 5

In the fifth season of I Dream of Jeannie, Tony and Jeannie head to the altar on the 11th episode. Ending years of sexual tension between the two, the storyline didn’t sit well with Eden due to its lack of accuracy.

“It just ruined the show,” Eden said on the Today Show in 2015. “Because [Jeannie] wasn’t human. … She thought she was, and [Tony] knew she wasn’t … I think it broke credibility.”

The sitcom was cancelled at the end of the season, which didn’t come as much of a surprise to Hagman due to low ratings after the main characters tied the knot. The actor revealed he was given the news by a guard on the studio lot.

“That’s the first time I heard about it,” Hagman said in a previous interview of the cancellation. “From the guy at the gate. … I knew that once they got us married it wasn’t going to work. And the ratings had dropped steadily since then.”

Marrying Tony and Jeannie ‘destroyed’ the show

Eden and Hagman weren’t the only ones opposed to their characters walking down the aisle. When NBC executive Mort Werner came to the creative decision that the two I Dream of Jeannie characters should wed, Sheldon fought against the idea.

“’That would destroy the show, Mort,'” Sheldon recalled saying to Werner, as reported by Closer Weekly. “‘The fun of Jeannie is the sexual tension between Jeannie and her master. Once you marry them, that’s gone. You have nothing to work with.’”

Though the cast members and Sheldon lobbied to keep Tony and Jeannie unwed, the network brass wouldn’t budge. The show creator attributed the show’s demise to that fateful storyline.

“[Mort] thought he was smarter than any of them,'” Sheldon said of Werner. “For the fifth year of Jeannie, I wrote a wedding scene … With their marriage, the relationship had changed and much of the fun went out of the show. At the end of the fifth year, I Dream of Jeannie was canceled. Mort Werner had taken a hit show and destroyed it.”