Larry Hagman, who died last night, first came to most people's attention as the male lead of I Dream of Jeannie, a weird clone of Bewitched about an astronaut who becomes the owner of a cute, somewhat overenthusiastic genie in a bottle. She calls him "Master" and tries to please him with her magical powers — but she usually messes everything up.
The notion of a sitcom about a cute supernatural servant girl, who calls him "Master" all the time, could be immensely squicky or just a relic from a less self-aware time. But it actually works pretty well — largely thanks to Larry Hagman's good humor and tremendous energy. He is clearly just as eager to make her happy as she is to make him happy. It's only terrible in the way that most 1960s sitcoms that don't involve Dick Van Dyke are terrible.
Here's Larry Hagman, discussing the weird premise of I Dream of Jeannie:
In those days it was a job, I was trying to do the best that I could. And it was a kind of strange thing. Here's this guy that finds this bottle, and out of this bottle came this gorgeous, beautiful girl who's 2000 years old. And she's always on the make for him. I mean, always trying to get him in the sack. And my motivation is, "I can't do that. I'm an astronaut. And my career is at stake! How can you live in my home? That's just not done." Here's this guy with this beautiful girl, who will give him anything he wants, and he can't accept. And then Roger, my sidekick, is the guy that wants everything. He says, "Give it to me! Give it to me! I'll do it." The chemistry was wonderful between the four of us.
And somewhere between doing I Dream of Jeannie and doing Dallas, Hagman had a pivotal LSD experience, thanks to David Crosby from Crosby, Stills & Nash — which he describes in insane detail here.
More recently, he used his "J.R. Ewing" oilman persona from Dallas to star in commercials for solar energy.
He also had a role in the first Superman film — and he directed a low-budget sequel to The Blob, called Beware! The Blob. Here's the trailer:
Larry Hagman was one of the all-time great television actors in general — but we'll always remember him for his great work as Major Anthony Nelson, the best owner a 2,000 year old superbeing could have had.