Larry Hagman as Captain/Major Anthony "Tony" Nelson
Bill Daily as Captain/Major Roger Healey
Hayden Rorke as Colonel Dr. Alfred Bellows
Emmaline Henry as Amanda Bellows
Philip Ober as Brig. Gen. Wingard Stone
Barton MacLane as Maj. Gen. Martin Peterson
Vinton Hayworth as Maj. Gen. Winfield Schaeffer
Barbara Eden as Jeannie II/Jeaney
Barbara Eden as Jeannie's mother (fourth season)
Florence Sundstrom as Jeannie's mother (first season)
Lurene Tuttle as Jeannie's mother (first season)
Abraham Sofaer as Haji
The series was created and produced by Sidney Sheldon in response to the great success of rival network ABC's Bewitched series, which had debuted in 1964 as the second most watched program in the United States. Sheldon, inspired by the movie The Brass Bottle, which had starred Tony Randall, Barbara Eden, and Burl Ives as the genie Fakrash, came up with the idea for a beautiful female genie. Both I Dream of Jeannie and Bewitched were Screen Gems productions. The show debuted at 8:00 pm (EDT), Saturday, September 18, 1965, on NBC.
When casting was opened for the role of Jeannie, Sidney Sheldon could not find an actress who could play the role the way that he had written it. He did have one specific rule: he did not want a blonde genie because there would be too much similarity with the blonde witch on Bewitched. However, after many unsuccessful auditions, he called Barbara Eden's agent.
In most episodes, Eden wears her revealing "Jeannie" costume (created by veteran Hollywood costume designer Gwen Wakeling). Censors allowed her to be depicted living in a house with an unmarried man (because early episodes made it plain that she slept in her bottle) but would not permit Eden's navel to be seen. (In one scene midway through a season four episode entitled "The Case of My Vanishing Master, Part 2", Jeannie's waistband slips below her navel. It was also seen briefly during the third season episode "Meet My Master's Mother", and season five's "Mrs. Djinn-Djinn".) The makers of the series were also presented with the situation of filming around Eden's real-life pregnancy during the first eleven episodes of the first season, without writing it into the storyline. She wore veils to hide her stomach, and as her pregnancy progressed, they began to use body doubles and filmed Eden only above the waist, though her belly is visible in some profile shots.
When NBC began telecasting most of its prime time television programs in color in the fall of 1965, Jeannie was the one of two regular programs on NBC that remained in black and white, in this case because of the special photographic effects employed to achieve Jeannie's magic. By the second season, however, further work had been done on techniques to create the visual effects in color, necessary because by 1966 all US prime time series were being made in color.
According to the book Dreaming of Jeannie by Stephen Cox and Howard Frank, series producer Sidney Sheldon originally wanted to film season one in color but NBC did not want to pay for the extra expense because they (and Screen Gems) believed the series would not make it to a second season. According to Sheldon in his autobiography The Other Side Of Me, he offered to pay the extra $400 an episode needed for color filming at the beginning of the series, but Screen Gems executive Jerry Hyams advised him, "Sidney, don't throw your money away".
Despite the series being scheduled on a different night and time period each season it was originally in production, it was a moderate success on NBC. During its five-year run, I Dream Of Jeannie didn't even come close to approaching the same success that Bewitched had achieved in the Nielsen ratings. It didn't even crack the top 25. However, its ratings were respectable. In its first season (1965-66), it ranked #28 and in its fourth year (1968-69), it ended the season in 26th place. By the start of the fifth season, Eden, Hagman, and Sheldon were tired and wanted to end the series, but agreed to do one last year in which Jeannie and Tony were finally married. I Dream Of Jeannie ended its prime-time run on NBC on September 1, 1970, thereby guaranteeing five years of episodes for syndication which proved to be very profitable for Screen Gems, the television subsidiary of Columbia Pictures.
The show's popularity really exploded in the fall of 1971 when the series began playing in syndication. In reruns, it became one of the highest-rated series during the 1970s. For example, when the reruns debuted on New York's WPIX, Jeannie won its time period with a 13 rating and a 23 share of the audience (Variety, October 6, 1971). The series averaged a 14 share and 32 share of the audience when WTTG in Washington, D.C. began airing the series (Variety, September 22, 1971). Across the board, the series was reaching a bigger audience in syndication than on NBC. According to the October 6, 1971 edition of Variety, it was the first off-network series to best network competition in the ratings: "The big switch no doubt representing the first time in rating history that indies (local stations) have knocked over the network stations in a primetime slot was promoted by WGN's premiere of the off-web Jeannie reruns back to back from 7 to 8 p.m." The show continues to have a cult following today.