Although there had been several attempts throughout the 1950s and early 1960s to create a TV sitcom based on the legend of Aladdin's Lamp--one of these, "Al Haddon's Lamp", featured Buddy Ebsen as a bucolic genie--the premise did not result in a full series until producer Sidney Sheldon hit upon the brilliant idea of featuring a sexy female genie. Debuting September 18, 1965 on NBC, the weekly, half-hour I Dream of Jeannie starred Barbara Eden as Jeannie, a curvaceous blonde bottle imp rescued from 2500 years' imprisonment by astronaut Tony Nelson (Larry Hagman). Out of gratitude, Jeannie arranged for Tony to likewise be rescued from a desert island, then followed him to his home in Cocoa Beach, Florida, there to serve and obey her new "master." Unable to convince anyone that he'd found a genuine genie, Tony opted instead to keep Jeannie's presence, and her true identity, a secret, which proved problematic whenever our heroine used her magic to get her master in and out of various jams. The only other person who knew Jeannie's secret was Tony's astronaut buddy Roger Healy (Bill Daily), whose various efforts to profit from Jeannie's awesome powers invariably came a-cropper. Also featured was Hayden Rorke as Cocoa Beach's air force psychiatrist Dr. Alfred Bellows, who was convinced that the mysterious goings-on in Maj. Healy's household were proof that Tony was crazy and delusional, obliging Jeannie to gently discredit Bellows in the eyes of his superiors week after week after week. Although Tony tried to maintain a normal social life with several girlfriends, these relationships were forever scuttled by the jealous Jeannie, who of course had fallen in love with her master. Ultimately, Tony reciprocated Jeannie's affections, and the couple was married during the series' fifth and final season. By this time, Jeannie had begun wearing "civilian" clothes and had pretty much forsaken the midriff-baring harem costumes that had been her trademark in the first few seasons (Amusingly, network censors demanded that the series' producers disguise the fact that Barbara Eden had, like practically every other woman on earth, been born with a belly button!) Complicating the lives of the principal characters were several "visitors" from Jeannie's past life in Baghdad. Among these were Jeannie's twin sister Jeannie II (also played by Barbara Eden), a dark-haired vixen who hatched endless sinister schemes to snag Tony for herself; and Jeannie's magical pet dog Djinn Djinn, who managed to render himself invisible at the most inopportune moments. Lasting 139 episodes (109 of these in color), I Dream of Jeannie ended its NBC run on September 1, 1990. Barbara Eden went on to star in a brace of "reunion" TV movies, telecast in 1985 and 1991; and from 1973 to 1975 an animated version of the property, simply titled Jeannie, was seen on CBS' Saturday-morning lineup.
The acronymic letters in the title of this NBC sitcom stood for "Alien Life Form," as a good a way as any to describe the protagonist, an orange-haired, pint-sized 299-year-old space alien with an aardvark-like nose and a propensity for mischief and comic sarcasm. Known on his home planet Melmac as Gordon Shumway, ALF (his voice provided by the series' co-creator Paul Fusco) crash-landed in the earthbound garage of the Tanner family: dad Willie (Max Wright), a social worker, mom Kate (Anne Schedeen), and children Lynn (Andrea Elson) and Brian (Benji Gregory) -- in the final season, the Tanner family was increased by one baby son, Eric, played by twins J.R. Nickerson and Charles Nickerson. Persuading the Tanners not to turn him over to the authorities (he can't return to Melmac, which has recently blown up!), ALF moves in with the family -- a decision the Tanners often have reason to regret, inasmuch as ALF has a bad habit of breaking things, poking his huge nose into other people's business, and doing his best to make a meal of the family's pet cat. Whenever snoopy neighbors like the Ochmoneks or other visitors showed up, ALF was hidden in the kitchen, where he proceeded to eat everything in sight. As he attempted to repair his spaceship, ALF did his best to soak up earthling culture by watching network television. In the series' final season, ALF was able to make contact with two other surviving Melmacians named Skip and Rhonda, and was about to leave the Earth to establish a new world, when suddenly he was captured by the dreaded Alien Task Force -- at which point the series ended, leaving our hero's ultimate fate up in the air. Debuting September 22, 1986, ALF proved to be one of NBC's most popular series, not to mention a merchandising bonanza. ALF himself began showing up as a "guest star" on such series as The Hollywood Squares and The Tonight Show; perhaps it should be explained that the character was essentially a puppet, though he was "played" by uncredited dwarf actor Michu Meszaros in those scenes where he was shown walking about. Nearly six years after the final ALF telecast on June 18, 1990, a TV movie sequel, Project: ALF, explained what had happened to the furry little alien after the government closed in (he was living on an Air Force Base and enjoying all the comforts of home, including endless supplies of Earth food -- but no cats!) From 1987 to 1990, an animated version of the property, variously titled ALF and ALF Tales, was seen on NBC's Saturday-morning schedules.