While this may be a new Golden Era of television, with streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon creating groundbreaking, thrilling television such as The Handmaid’s tale, Sense8, and The Man in the High Castle, it could also be called the Era of the Reboot.
Some writers and studios are taking risks on great adaptations or original content, but more and more of TV line-ups are like looking at a random TV Guide from the past 30 years. With Charmed, Dynasty, Twin Peaks, and Will and Grace barely scratching the surface of older shows being renewed for modern audiences (be it for good or ill), we at TGON decided that, rather than fight the wave of “reimaginings” that we should lean into it by looking at some classic television shows and determining whether or not they could be rebooted for a modern audience, as well as if they should.
Each week, we’ll look at a classic show, and decide if the premise can be adapted for today’s viewers (and still be recognizable as the same show), and whether it should be revamped, or left “perfect” as it is.
Our first pick is NBC’s I Dream of Jeannie starring Barbara Eden as Jeannie, an actual genie who lives in a bottle, and Larry Hagman as Major Tony Nelson, Jeannie’s reluctant “master.”
At first glance, I Dream of Jeannie seems problematic as hell. A guy is stranded and finds a naive, all-powerful genie who falls in love with him and he takes her home. This ignores a few things, however, that make it a show that can still work, if given the care it would need. Tony frees Jeannie immediately, but she’s smitten and hides herself and her bottle in his bag. While this doesn’t remove all the squick factor in a televised master/servant show, it certainly helps to know that Jeannie is there of her own free will. Also, though Barbara Eden’s midriff baring outfit was a bit daring for the time, Jeannie’s antics are usually more lighthearted, and slapstick than overtly sexual. That also helps when you have this kind of dynamic on a television show.
Can it be revived?
Yes! I think there are a lot of different ways to do so that would preserve the integrity of the original, but freshen it up for today’s audience. The most important aspect would have to be the relationship between Tony and Jeannie. Regardless of being her “master,” Tony always enjoyed and respected Jeannie, and so much of the charm that made the show work was the chemistry between Eden and Hagman. Another way to go is a gender-bend show, having a woman be the “master,” and having a diverse cast and writer’s room dealing with more modern issues that arise, which would be a challenge in itself, considering everyone has a camera, so many of Jeannie’s solutions wouldn’t stay secret for long.
Should it be revived?
Honestly, I’m not sure. Given the right care and the thought (i.e. making sure a minority isn’t cast as Jeannie, and being careful not to over-sexualize either Jeannie or the relationship between Jeannie and Tony), it could be a great show for today’s audiences. In the time post #MeToo, however, it’s a tough sell to have a man “own” a woman who will do anything he wants. This, of course, is all to the good. The dynamic was very carefully navigated with the original series, and it would be an even more delicate balance today. I think the biggest hurdle for today’s writers would be the temptation to play towards the fantasy of having your own sex slave, which would destroy the entire premise. The show managed to have Jeannie living under Tony’s roof for four years without any hanky panky going on, and it was clear that Jeannie was in charge of the house, bottle notwithstanding.
Jeannie’s charm is in her innocence, and her antics are almost child-like in her desire to make Tony happy. Tony, for his part, genuinely cares for Jeannie and, though it causes some hiccups and bumps in his career, never tries to make her suppress her natural urges to “help” him. Once the two got married in the original version, the show ended in part because that tension was gone. It didn’t help that the premise of the show changed from hiding Jeannie to hiding her powers, in a Bewitched twist.
What do you think? Is there room for a playful, campy show on TV today? Should I Dream of Jeannie be re-done, or is it perfect as is? Let us know in the comments and if you want to see any other shows looked at, email them to firstname.lastname@example.org!!