Today, Jason Bateman is a big movie star. If you never caught him in Arrested Development on Fox, in just the last few years, you could have seen him in Paul, The Switch, Juno, Couples Retreat, Up in the Air, The Invention of Lying, State of Play and Hancock, and he’s in the forthcoming Horrible Bosses and swapping bodies with Ryan Reynolds in The Change Up, too.
But what you might not know is that Jason Bateman was actually a child star back in the 80s, getting his first shot at the big time in Little House on the Prairie. Look, here he is getting a spanking.
But in 1984, Bateman got to star in his own show, It’s Your Move. Created by Michael G Moye and Ron Leavitt, the show was actually a surprisingly dark affair for an early 80s sitcom – although since they went on to create Married… With Children maybe it’s not that surprising. In it, Bateman played Matthew Burton, a teenage conman who’s always scamming someone at school, his relatives or anyone else he could make money from.
Then a writer called Norman (David Garrison who also went on to Married… With Children) moves in across the hallway and gets friendly with Burton’s widowed mother, Eileen (Caren Kaye). Matthew gets protective and tries to scam Norman into abandoning interest in Eileen… only to discover that Norman is just as much of a scam artist as he is.
As the show’s title suggests, subsequent episodes are then essentially a chess match between Matthew and Norman, Matthew trying to sabotage Norman and Eileen’s relationship, Norman trying to foil Matthew, each without exposing his true nature to Eileen.
The series was well received, but unfortunately was up against ratings dynamo Dynasty. As a result, the show was retooled after episode 14. Matthew tries to help his mother at work, but by doing something blatantly illegal. Eileen finds out and as a result, Matthew can’t scam anyone any more. After that, the show became a regular sitcom. All the same, ratings didn’t improve and the show was eventually cancelled after 18 episodes.
It’s not well remembered, it’s not available on DVD: it’s a Lost Gem. All the same, you can watch pretty much every episode – and a very young Jason Bateman – on YouTube. And here’s the pilot episode