Jeannie's 50 Years of Magical Success in Syndication!
"I Dream of Jeannie" is a 1960s American TV sitcom with a fantasy premise. The show starred Barbara Eden as a 2,000-year-old female genie and astronaut Larry Hagman. Producer: Sidney Sheldon.
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In the U.S. industry syndication is where the real money is made when a television series concludes its network run.
While the initial run of any particular program may theoretically lose money for its producing studio it is the hope a successful run in syndication will generate enough profit to balance out any losses.
Many situation comedies earned high ratings and long life spans only to flop in syndication.
Television stations have lost thousands of dollars buying the rights to rerun such series as Happy Days, Laverne and Shirley and The Cosby Show.
These are only a few examples of long running comedies which generated little interest from viewers in syndication. On the other hand series which were only moderate successes on the network have become financial goldmines and earned high ratings airing in reruns.
"I Dream of Jeannie" (1965-1970) was a moderate rating’s success during its five year run on the NBC network due to frequent time period changes.
When the show found its niche, airing on Monday nights at 7:30pm during the series’ fourth season, it frequently finished in the top twenty or thirty.
However, seeking a big television event, NBC ordered Sidney Sheldon (who created the program) to marry Jeannie (Barbara Eden) and Tony Nelson (Larry Hagman).
This format change and yet another time period switch weakened the audience’s hold on the series.
I Dream of Jeannie left the air after completing 139 episodes and was offered to independent television stations in early 1971.
Barbara Eden said of the series in the June 20, 1971 edition of The Chicago Tribune; “I never treated Jeannie as though the following year was a positive thing.
TV is like a crap game-you have no control over. So I never looked beyond the season I was doing. But during the fifth season, I had a premonition that the last show would be the final chapter to Jeannie.”
Little did the actress know the series would become one of the top rated syndicated series during the 1970’s.
This happened not only in the United States but on an international level. By the summer of 1971 I Dream of Jeannie was the number one program airing in Australia, Germany and Japan.
The October 6, 1971 edition of Variety noted I Dream of Jeannie was the first off-network series, airing in syndication, to beat out its network competition in the ratings.
The paper noted, “The big switch, no doubt representing the first time in ratings history that the indies (independent television stations) have knocked over the network stations in a prime time slot, was prompted by WPIX-TV’s premiere of the off-web, Jeannie reruns back to back from 7-8 p.m. Jeannie won the timeslot in the overnight Nielsen count with a 13 rating and 23 share."
In 1985 USA Today called the series “evergreen” meaning it could run forever.
When Nick At Nite began airing the series in the 1990’s its popularity spawned many products including salt and pepper shakers, lunchbox, matchbox car, TV Collector mug, magic bubble bottle, play sets, comic books and several dolls. More items have been produced based on the series success in reruns than during its original run on the network.
Many performers tend to distance themselves from properties which made them a household name. Barbara Eden is not one of them and grateful for the opportunities the show's success has provided. The versatile actress stated performers are often defined by a particular role and feels Jeannie is a “good” one.
To endure for fifty years in worldwide syndication I Dream of Jeannie is not only "good' but, to quote Tony the Tiger, "Great!"
Richard Deacon guest stars in the "Who Are You Calling A Genie?" episode of Screen Gems' "I Dream of Jeannie" starring Barbara Eden. © 1967 Screen Gems, Inc.
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