CONELRAD: Mutated Television
The Stevens - Darren, Samantha and Tabitha

Mutated Television: The Uncorked Bottle and Magical Children

Feminist media essayists have gotten a lot of mileage out of critiquing the blatantly chauvinist shows "I Dream of Jeannie" and "Bewitched," but few of these writers ever bother to point out that these programs are also prime examples of Mutated Television.

In "I Dream of Jeannie" the atom—in the form of a beautiful and temperamental blond—has sprung out of a bottle (in a puff of pink smoke no less). Nuture or astrophysical nature... you decide.The Air Force, as represented by Majors Tony Nelson and Roger Healy, don't know how to contain her. The atom (read: Jeannie) can do weird, inexplicable things to people, places, things and time (read: destruction, fallout, mutations, etc.). Jeannie must, at all costs, be kept a secret just like the atom (read: traditional containment will not work). Even when Jeannie is finally married to Maj. Nelson she continues to be a threat. Healy continues to want to exploit Jeannie's power for his own gain, while Nelson knows better. Dr. Bellows and General Peterson personify the upper echelons of military power, who like their real-life counterparts, completely misunderstood and underestimated atomic energy.

"Bewitched" features Dick York (York was later replaced by the somewhat less excitable Dick Sargent) as panicked advertising executive Darrin Stevens, a man constantly trying to prevent his magical in-laws from destroying the universe. Darrin is emblematic of the terrified and technologically neutered post-war male who futilely rebels against surrendering his power to science (read: magic).

Wilbur and Carol Post with their 'son' In both shows there is a pronounced fear that the children of the protagonists will be "magical" (read: mutants). "Mr. Ed, " another mutated show from the era featured a garrulous palomino as the surrogate and "special" son of the barren (at least for the duration of the show) Wilbur and Carol Post.

There is an episode of "I Dream of Jeannie" where Major Nelson is allowed to view his future children (with Jeannie) through a special video device Jeannie produces. The Major is horrified to see his progeny performing all sorts of bizarre magic in his very own backyard. Was it because Nelson was allowed to witness the future that he and Jeannie never had children? Or was it because the network canceled the series before they could procreate?

The Stevenses, though, had not one, but two magical (mutated) children, a baby witch named Tabitha and baby warlock named Adam. Darrin was actually kept in the dark about his own daughter's "powers" for a good while after her birth. But once he knew the truth about his family, there was even more chaos to contain (a little knowledge is dangerous). Despite his eventual acceptance of these children, Darrin's dread of "damaged" offspring was one of the more obvious and unsettling parallels Mutated TV shared with atomic reality.
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