Barbara Eden and Larry Hagman: When "Jeannie" visited "Dallas" and More

Herbie J Pilato
[The Classic TV Preservation Society]

[Author's Note: All quotes and commentary that appear in this article were culled from interviews the author conducted with those individuals mentioned.]

I don't know about you, but whenever I watch Larry Hagman playing JR Ewing on a rerun or DVD of CBS' campy classic evening soap, Dallas (CBS, 1978-1991) his other TV alter-ego, Major Anthony Nelson via I Dream of Jeannie (NBC, 1965-1970) doesn't even come to mind.

That is a testament to Hagman's talent in portraying the character, who suffered a gun wound during the "Who Shot JR?" period -the peak of the show's long run.

The character was shot when Dallas was Number One in the ratings. That was the catalyst for the interest in the series. Certainly, it went on for a long time after that but that's what really kicked it off. Of course, a lot of people watched it just because of the novelty of the situation.

As to why he was shot?

Suffice it to say, the character was "bad to the bone." Hagman's interpretation, however, was good. Make that outstanding. As JR, the thespian son of actress Mary Martin (Broadway's best and brightest Peter Pan) turned in one of the most likable performances of an "evil" character in TV history. And for an actor, it's always more fun to play "bad," than "good."

Hagman once said he enjoyed portraying JR on Dallas more than he did playing Major Nelson on Jeannie because it was more "deceptive." "You could do more with it," he explained. "Tony Nelson was easier to play, more like me to tell you the truth, kind of naïve and good looking and humble, don't forget, humble."

Ironically, as it turned out, one of the most popular episodes of Dallas featured Hagman's reunion with his I Dream of Jeannie co-star Barbara Eden. The two had reunited once before (in a post-Jeannie TV-movie movie). But on Dallas, Eden played an "evil" character that, like Hagman as JR, delivered a likable performance as the character she played.

Of course, Eden had already played a not-so-pure character on I Dream of Jeannie, whenever she portrayed Jeannie's dark-haired look-a-like sister, Jeannie II.

Unfortunately, however, when NBC gave the green light for the 1985 TV-reunion movie called I Dream of Jeannie: 15 Years Later, Hagman was nowhere in sight. He had opted not to do the film and was replaced by M*A*S*H star Wayne Rogers. Rogers did an admiral job becoming the "second" Tony Nelson" (as when Dick Sargent became the "second Darrin" on Bewitched, which ultimately inspired I Dream of Jeannie). But it wasn't the same - and the Jeannie fans were not in the least pleased.

But that didn't stop I Dream of Jeannie: 15 Years Later from becoming one of the highest-rated TV-movies in history. So much so, that a second small-screen sequel was made, Still Dreaming of Jeannie, which aired in 1991 - the same year Eden delivered her arc of episodes on Dallas. But neither Rogers, Hagman, or the character of Tony Nelson was involved. That second film was a solo-Jeannie effort.

However, when that major Hagman/Eden reunion took place in Dallas, it was nothing but pure magic. Additionally, all viewers were hoping that JR would break character for just a moment to yell, Jeannie, as she would return with "Master," soonafter merely "blinking" the two away to her "bottle" of love.

And while that scenario never, "materialized," both Jeannie and Dallas fans delighted in seeing Eden and Hagman back together again.

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Herbie J Pilato is the author of several books about pop culture including THE 12 BEST SECRETS OF CHRISTMAS: A TREASURE HOUSE OF DECEMBER MEMORIES REVEALED, MARY: THE MARY TYLER MOORE STORY, TWITCH UPON A STAR, GLAMOUR, GIDGETS AND THE GIRL NEXT DOOR, DASHING, DARING AND DEBONAIR, and NBC & ME: MY LIFE AS A PAGE IN A BOOK, among others. He's also a TV writer/producer, and has worked for Reelz, Bravo, E!, TLC, and hosted THEN AGAIN WITH HERBIE J PILATO, the hit classic TV talk show (which premiered on Amazon Prime in 2019).

Los Angeles, CA

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