When people ask about the choice between Ginger and Mary Ann, they’re typically talking about what general kind of woman you’re interested in. It’s an archetypal question. When that same question is applied to I Dream of Jeannie’s Jeannie and Bewitched’s Samantha, things can get a little grittier. Both magical women are perky blondes who are utterly devoted to the men in their lives. Both Elizabeth Montgomery and Barbara Eden are iconic sitcom actresses who are simply watchable to their very cores. In other words, it’s a tough call.
1. Hooray for Feminism!
I know, that seems like an odd place to start in a comparison of two chicks’ comparative hotness, but it’s still important. In the 1960s, when both shows hit the air, the feminist revolution was in full swing, so each female protagonist’s approach to their lives was of great interest. And here’s the thing: Jeannie spends a lot of her time in a bottle waiting for her astronaut husband to get home. Meanwhile Samantha was a problem solver, constantly overcoming her family’s interference in order to live the life she wants for herself. In that respect, points for Samantha Stevens.
2. The Nose Wiggle vs. the Nod
Okay, time to judge the actress’ legendary spell casting processes in terms of … “hotness” seems silly, so let’s go with “cuteness” because that adjective seems more applicable. At any rate, when it comes to nose wiggle vs. the cross-armed nod, we have to give it to Jeannie. Barbara Eden always seemed so excited to be doing a little magic, you can’t help but fall in love at least a little bit.
3. Samantha Inspired Jeannie
Jeannie was only created as a response to the immense (and immediate) popularity of Bewitched. It was designed for NBC as a way to siphon Samantha’s ratings as much as possible. That plan didn’t actually work, because apparently a suburban witch is way more of a powerful draw than a genie in a bottle.
4. NBC Never Wanted a Blonde Jeannie
When casting for Jeannie began, the producers were adamant that the part not be played by a blonde actress. Then, after failing to find the right woman, Eden won them over in spite of her hair color. NBC refused to spend extra money on the series because they didn’t expect the show to survive. Then, Jeannie won enough fans to earn the extra budget. She’s just that likable.
5. Who Would Win in a Fight?
When you’re dealing with two super-powered ladies, you have to take into account who could take the other if worse came to worse. While both women have the ability to conjure pretty much anything at the drop of a hat, you have to give the advantage to Samantha, here. Sorry, but not only is the witch able to sling spells under her own volition, but she has a shorter draw time. Jeannie’s gotta go through the whole clasping her arms together head nod routine; all Samantha has to do is wiggle her nose.
6. The Lizzie Borden Connection
Okay, not sure whether this is a positive or not, but it bares mentioning. Elizabeth Montgomery was distantly related to one of history’s most famous murderers: Lizzie Borden. Montgomery actually won herself an Emmy nomination for playing the axe murderer in a TV movie, though Montgomery herself was unaware of the genetic connection at the time.
7. Interior Decoration
Since both Jeannie and Samantha spent a lot of their time at home, their ability to decorate their surroundings should likely come into play. On this front, we have to hand it to Jeannie. That may be controversial, but think about it like this: Jeannie’s place is unique, it’s quiet and out of the way (while still being close to literally everything), and it’s basically just a giant plush purple couch. What more could you want?
8. Was Jeannie a Human or a Genie?
You have to make mention of the fact that Bewitched was — by far — the better written show. Here’s one example: was Jeannie born human or was she born a genie? Depends on which season you’re watching. They kind of flip-flopped on that point. That’s the mark of a program that was just the tiniest bit sloppy when it came to plotting its arcs.
9. Samantha Was the Ratings Star
Not only did Samantha’s show run for eight full seasons (as opposed to I Dream of Jeannie’s five), but Bewitched was far more popular in its time on the air than Jeannie could even dream. Samantha scored top ten Nielsen rankings in her first three seasons, and top 25 for the next three seasons after that. I Dream of Jeannie, meanwhile, never got above 26 its entire run.
10. Jeannie Could Keep a Man
Okay, I admit that this one is a cheap shot. Dick York was forced to leave Bewitched at the end of season five because he was suffering from debilitating back pain; as a result, the role of Darrin Stephens was offered to Dick Sargent (who was originally offered the role before turning it down). Larry Hagman’s Major Nelson stuck with Jeannie for the whole run, and was an astronaut (which is cooler than an ad man). I know, cheap shot.
11. Samantha Made It to the Big Screen
Okay, different actress and different concept, BUT, you can’t knock the fact that Elizabeth Montgomery’s portrayal of Samantha inspired a big budget remake based more on her lovable, no nonsense attitude than her actual onscreen character. That kind of tribute says as much about the actress as it does the witch she pretended to be.
12. Jeannie’s More Resilient
Even though Samantha has hit the big screen, the Bewitched movie was totally panned across the board. Meanwhile, Jeannie has remained so popular on the small screen that she’s appeared in popular TV reunion movies more than 20 years after her show went off the air. What’s more, Jeannie has actually had a cartoon show made about her, where Samantha only had an animated guest shot on the Flintstones.
13. Samantha Came With that Mother-in-Law from Hell
Lots of married folks complain about their mothers-in-law, but Endora, played magnificently by Agnes Moorehead, was a real witch.
14. Jeannie Had Some Annoying Baggage Too
At some point in the show, it was revealed that Jeannie had been turned into a genie by the evil Blue Djinn because she refused to marry him. You wouldn’t want that blue-faced guy messing with you. In reality, the actor who played him was Barbara Eden’s real life first husband, Michael Ansara.
15. Samantha The Fashionista
Samantha (and her doppelganger cousin Serena) knew how to rock a miniskirt, and occasionally went bra-less, as some liberated women did back in the day. And check out that groovy fashion-forward cocktail dress. Did your mother dress like that?
16. But You Can’t Beat Jeannie’s Harem Pants
Jeannie wore some stylin’ mini-dresses too, but that pink harem outfit just takes the cake, even if we can’t quite see her bellybutton.
17. The Verdict
We’re going to have to lean Samantha on this one, folks. Jeannie is delightful to the max, but she’s just a little too subservient to really get the job done in a modern society. Samantha, meanwhile, may be all about helping out her man, but she’s still a strong woman who’s willing and able to stand up for herself when the time comes. No one puts Samantha in a bottle.
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