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Dark Behind-The-Scenes Stories About 'I Dream Of Jeannie'

When it comes to classic TV guilty pleasures, I Dream of Jeannie often makes the list. Starring Barbara Eden as the title character and Larry Hagman as astronaut Major Tony Nelson, who's both in love with and exasperated by Jeannie, the show was a delightfully silly and campy romp from the moment it debuted in 1965.

In the show's pilot episode, Major Nelson returns from a spaceflight and lands on a deserted South Pacific isle where he discovers an unusual bottle. When he rubs it, out pops Jeannie, who proceeds to plant a kiss square on his lips. Thus begins Jeannie and Major Nelson's culture-clash adventures and wacky road to romance.

With its Technicolor sets, flashy pastel wardrobes, and Jeannie's out-there backstory as a 2,000-year-old, blonde-haired, all-American genie supposedly from the Middle East, the show proved to be a frothy indulgence. But while Jeannie was all fun and games to viewers' eyes, life behind the sitcom scenes was much different. Behind-the-scenes I Dream of Jeannie stories show the darker side of the showbiz veil.

  • Photo: NBC

    Network Censors Worked Overtime On 'Jeannie'

    NBC censors focused on stifling any hint of impropriety between Jeannie and Major Nelson. They never allowed viewers to see Jeannie in Major Nelson's bedroom without the bedroom door left open. Even when Jeannie disappeared in a puff of pink smoke, the network censors insisted that viewers should see the pink smoke leaving the room.

    In addition, the producers could never show Jeannie's legs, even though she wore see-through harem pants. They had a thick fabric lining to cover Barbara Eden's legs.

  • Photo: NBC

    Larry Hagman Supposedly Terrorized Nuns Who Came To See The Show

    Jeannie's soundstage was adjacent to the soundstage for The Flying Nun, which filmed concurrently. One day, a group of elderly nuns came to see The Flying Nun, and someone invited them over to the Jeannie set. 

    When Larry Hagman caught sight of the visitors, he reportedly grabbed an ax from a prop man, swung it around his head, and started screaming profanities. He even purportedly started chopping away at some nearby cables until the crew removed him from the set, and someone had to escort out the terrified nuns.

  • Photo: NBC

    Larry Hagman Was Allegedly Often Drunk And High At Work

    Because of Larry Hagman's apparent job dissatisfaction, NBC executives encouraged him to see a therapist. The therapist suggested that Hagman smoke pot and drop acid to help him relax on set. So he did - and added champagne into the mix.

    Hagman later talked openly about his struggles with addiction, but during Jeannie, he was in the throes of it. According to Barbara Eden:

    Instead of being nervous, on edge, and confrontational, he started every day at the studio drinking vast quantities of champagne, and in between scenes, he sequestered himself in his dressing room, smoking pot and downing yet more champagne, all in the interests of maintaining a calm serenity.

  • Photo: NBC

    Barbara Eden Befriended A Lion That Appeared On The Show

    Barbara Eden had experience working with lions. During her pre-Jeannie years, while making movies at Fox, Eden appeared with lions in more than one film.

    When a 900-pound lion starred in a Jeannie episode, Eden skillfully befriended the animal, and soon had it purring in her lap. She tried to advise Larry Hagman on how to approach the lion: 

    You have to stand very still and let the lion smell you. Then, when he's finished doing that, you should lean forward very, very gingerly and stroke him as gently as you can. That way, he'll get to know you and everything will be fine.

    Hagman's reply? According to Eden: "Dream on, Barbara. I'm not making friends with any f*cking lion!"