FIVE-O YOUR ENTHUSIASM (3)
April 8, 2021
One in a series of 25 enthusiastic posts, contributed by 25 HILOBROW friends and regulars, on the topic of our favorite TV shows of the Sixties (in our periodization: 1964–1973).
I DREAM OF JEANNIE | 1965–1970
In 1983, I was 19 and crazy about a boy who bagged groceries at a supermarket in Minneapolis. We saw each other at parties and I was pretty sure he liked me too. But he was shy and after weeks of flirting, never asked me out.
So, I decided I was going to do the asking. For reasons I still don’t understand, I thought it was a good idea to call my dad and tell him about my plans.
“I think that’s a terrible idea,” he said.
My parents had been divorced for three years. After the agony of the initial separation had eased, he’d become an enthusiastic dater. And he had developed his own theories about relationships, which he summed up that day on the phone: “If you’re not chasing it, it will be chasing you.”
I had just finished my freshman year at college in Boston, where I’d taken a women’s studies class. I told my dad that his advice was ridiculous. I then summed up his worldview as some serious “bullshit” and hung up on him.
That phone call came back to me recently, when I rewatched episodes of I Dream of Jeannie, the 1960s sitcom about an astronaut, Tony Nelson, who accidentally discovers a genie’s bottle on an island in the South Pacific. When he opens the bottle, Tony releases Jeannie, and also uncorks not just her undying love for him but also five seasons of attempts to get him to realize that he loves her, too.
Naturally, that involves many attempts at feigning indifference. When Tony is too absorbed watching football to take Jeannie out for night in Cocoa Beach, where they live in a rambler with palm trees in the yard, she conjures up a millionaire suitor, who is both a black belt and Rhodes Scholar. The trick works, until Tony — flowers in hand — discovers the relationship is a ruse. Order is restored because, once again, Jeannie is doing the chasing.
There is so much about I Dream of Jeannie that is easy to criticize as toxically retro, from Jeannie’s insistence on calling Tony master to her skimpy outfit, to the fact that Tony could take away her power by putting the stopper back on her bottle when she was inside it. Even as a kid, those messages about a woman’s role in society were so hyperbolized that they didn’t make a mark on my psyche.
But the idea that men had to be dragged kicking and screaming into a committed relationship — that stuck. Larry Hagman, the actor who played Major Nelson, was born in 1931, two years before my dad. He wasn’t inventing a new idea, just parroting a time-tested trope that was ingrained in popular culture.
I’ve been married for almost 23 years. Not every day is joyful. But the fact that my husband and I still adore each other sometimes feels like, well, magic.
FIVE-O YOUR ENTHUSIASM: INTRODUCTION by Josh Glenn | Lynn Peril on DARK SHADOWS (1966–1971) | Mark Kingwell on THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. (1964–1968) | Elizabeth Foy Larsen on I DREAM OF JEANNIE (1965–1970) | Luc Sante on SECRET AGENT/DANGER MAN (1964–1968 seasons) | Erin M. Routson on THE PATTY DUKE SHOW (1963–1966 run) | Gordon Dahlquist on HAWAII FIVE-O (1968–1973 seasons) | Annie Nocenti on GET SMART (1965–1970) | Sara Driver on THE ADDAMS FAMILY (1964–1966) | Carlo Rotella on MANNIX (1967–1973 seasons) | Adam McGovern on JULIA (1968–1971) | Mimi Lipson on THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW (1970–1973 seasons) | Josh Glenn on BATMAN (1966–1968) | Tom Nealon on HOGAN’S HEROES (1965–1971) | Miranda Mellis on THE ODD COUPLE (1970–1973 seasons) | Peggy Nelson on GILLIGAN’S ISLAND (1964–1967) | Susan Roe on THE BRADY BUNCH (1969–1973 seasons) | Michael Grasso on UFO (1970–1973) | Richard McKenna on DOOMWATCH (1970–1972) | Adrienne Crew on BEWITCHED (1964–1972) | Michael Lewy on STAR TREK (1966–1969) | Greg Rowland on THE PARTRIDGE FAMILY (1970–1973 seasons) | David Smay on THE MONKEES (1966–1968) | Vijay Parthasarathy on THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW (1964–1966 seasons) | Carl Wilson on THE CAROL BURNETT SHOW (1967–1973 seasons) | Jessamyn West on EMERGENCY! (1972–1973 seasons).
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