Considering the censors wouldn't even allow her to show her navel after the third season, was the concept for the show initially to push the boundaries of what was allowed to be shown on TV? Was it more early tv erotica by accident, through marketing, or was it an attempt by the creators to be artistic and break ground?
But it was nipped in the bud by the network.
In The Other Side of Me, Sidney Sheldon's autobiography, he writes in chapter thirty:
I'd had an idea about doing a show with a genie. I knew that genie projects had been done, but they had always consisted of a giant man, like Burl Ives, coming out of a bottle saying, "What can I do for you, Master?" I thought it would be intriguing to make the genie a beautiful, young, nubile girl, saying, "What can I do for you, Master?" That was the project I decided to create for Screen Gems.
However, the network realised what show they had signed up for. Later in that same chapter, he writes:
On my next trip to California, all hell broke loose. Mort Werner, the head of NBC, sent for me. He was grim.
"I have a memo here from our Standards and Practices Department, Sheldon." He shoved it at me.
As I started to read it, I realized what had happened. The network had awakened to the fact that in those closely censored days they had bought a show that was about a nubile, half-naked young woman, living alone with a bachelor, constantly asking, "What can I do for you, Master?" They had panicked. The memo was eighteen pages long. It contained orders like:
They must never touch each other.
We will see Jeannie go into her bottle to sleep alone.
We will see Tony go into his bed to sleep alone.
Jeannie must never go into Tony's bedroom.
Never let Tony go into Jeannie's bottle.
And on and on for eighteen pages.
When I finished reading, Mort Werner said to me, "What are you going to do about it? The network cannot afford to air a show like this." The word "cancellation" hung in the air.
I took a deep breath. "I'm doing a comedy. I don't intend to make it titillating. There will be no sexual innuendoes or double entendres."
This clearly shows that Sidney Sheldon, the show's creator, main writer, and producer, had intended it as such, but was reigned in by the network.
Also of note is that Mort Werner more or less killed the show by demanding Jeannie and Tony would marry in the fifth season (or there would be no fifth season), which ended the sexual tension between them and thus much of the basis for the comedy of the show.
As he writes in chapter thirty-two:
"(...) The fun of Jeannie is the sexual tension between Jeannie and her master. Once you marry them, that's gone. You have nothing to work with."
I tried to make the script as interesting as possible, but with their marriage the relationship had changed and much of the fun went of the show.
Not at all. It wasn't intended to be risqué at all. The writers did not see it that way. It was not an attempt at pushing the boundaries. The thing is back then the censor was much tighter than modern days.
The serial was running in trouble with the censor from time to time. The show writers had a hard time keeping up with the censor board. But despite all that, it was just an artistic attempt, and was not intended to be early tv erotica.
An interesting note here is that originally Jeannie was supposed to live in the house itself. But the censor would not allow for the two of them living together without being married. That is why the script writer strictly made her return to her bottle in every episode. That is how tight censor was back then.
A relevant excerpt from Sidney Sheldon's (one of the original writers) autobiography, The other side of me:
Censor board: "They must never touch each other. We will see Jeannie going into her bottle to sleep alone. We will see Tony going into his bedroom to sleep alone. Jeannie must never go into Tony's bedroom. Never let Tony go into Jeannie's bottle"
So considering this, one could see that the show writers were not pushing the boundaries. The boundaries were already wrapped too tight.
It was supposed to break the barriers of what was shown on TV. No one would have dreamed of having a show based on a character wearing such little clothing AND having a girl who is not married to the guy living in the same house. (I do believe they got married though). Just the same with Psycho. Alfred Hitchcock was trying to break the boundaries in movies. If I recall correctly they were both made in the same generation.