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Remember This? 'It's Your Move'

Posted: 08/10/2012 1:42 pm

its your move

"Remember This?" is a recurring feature on HuffPost Entertainment, resurrecting pop-cultural artifacts that haven't enjoyed the spotlight for quite some time. Today, Mike Ryan writes about the Jason Bateman sitcom, It's Your Move. If there's a topic you want us to cover, let us know in the comments.

First, before even starting, I'm going to openly admit that the following statement is kind of sad: Growing up as an only child (actually, an only grandchild, somehow, which I'm not even sure is possible) who moved around quite a bit due to my father's job, I latched on to television characters in a way that probably wasn't particularly healthy. One in particular was Derek Taylor, Jason Bateman's character on Silver Spoons. So much so that when he left the show, I actually cried. (Give me a break, I was 8.) Luckily, along came It's Your Move.

It's not lost on me that to say that "Silver Spoons was never the same after Derek Taylor left the show" is ridiculous hyperbole. (Ridiculous in the sense that today, as a society, we think very little about Silver Spoons. It may rank only behind Eight is Enough on the "Most Popular Shows At One Time That No One Ever Mentions Today" list.) On the show, Derek, Ricky Stratton's smart-aleck next-door neighbor, moved away. (I can only assume that my overreacting emotions, even for an 8-year-old, stemmed from the fact I had already been through this scenario many times myself. I wanted to be Derek's friend.) In reality, Jason Bateman was being given his own show. Now, in a perfect world, Bateman would have still played Derek Taylor. Instead, on It's Your Move, Bateman played a character that, instead, simply possessed Derek's attributes. He was named Matthew Burton.

It's Your Move is a remarkable show in the sense that unless you were born during a three-year span in the mid-1970s, the odds are that you have absolutely no idea that It's Your Move ever existed. Though, if you were born during that three-year span in the mid-1970s, It's Your Move was most likely your favorite show.

The premise is that Matthew Burton, even though he's young, is the smartest person in the room. This is an appealing premise to someone under the age of 12. I mean, at that age I still trusted that my parents knew what they were talking about, but I was starting to have doubts. (My first doubt was when my mother told me that the band Styx and the St. Louis department store chain Stix, Bear and Fuller were related.) It's Your Move was the first television show that proved to me that, just maybe, I wasn't so naive after all. I mean, look at Matthew Burton! He's not that much older than me (a little more than I realized at the time, actually) and he's pulling schemes left and right. I didn't want to be Matthew Burton's friend. I wanted to be Matthew Burton.

Having said that, the interesting thing about It's Your Move is that Matt Burton, as the protagonist, wasn't a particularly nice person. Yet, as an audience, we liked him. Something that's become more and more prevalent in episodic television over the last 28 years.

Most of the friction on the show was between Matt Burton and his neighbor, Norman (David Garrison). You see, Norman was dating Matt's mom, Eileen, something Matt didn't like. So, a good portion of the series was spent on Matt making Norman look like a buffoon. Here, in one of the few episodes online, Eileen had written Norman a love letter, which included instructions for a late night rendezvous. Norman accuses Matt of writing the letter, something Matt denies. However, in the process, he openly tricks Norman into believing that Matt did in fact write that letter. Jason Bateman's comedic timing to the confrontation at the five-minute mark in this clip still makes me laugh out loud.

I mean, there was an episode in which Burton created a fake band and killed them off in attempt to account for some missing party planning money. Again, I wanted to be Matt Burton.

Unfortunately, as stated, the prospect of only people my age at the time watching It's Your Move wasn't enticing to NBC as far as ratings went. Everything that made this series great was obliterated in the 14th episode in which Matt's mother finally become wise to his schemes. The remaining four episodes portrayed Matt as a normal kid in a normal family environment. I no longer wanted to be Matt Burton because, after the change in format, I pretty much was Matt Burton. And I already knew that sucked. Thankfully, at this point, It's Your Move was cancelled. I did not cry.

From a nostalgia standpoint, for the people who remember It's Your Move, it has no real equal -- at least when it comes to a television series that isn't readily available on DVD or Netflix. (In fact, I fully expect the comments for this post will range from, "I loved It's Your Move" to "I have no idea what this is.") This is probably because there has never really been anything quite like it before or after (at least the first 14 episodes.) Sure, other series delivered scheming teenagers (Mike Seaver on early episodes of Growing Pains is a decent example), but never quite like Matthew Burton. He was presented without woeful regard for regret or retribution. For fans of the series, perhaps there's a lot of Matthew Burton in us -- and perhaps It's Your Move made us realize that.

Mike Ryan is senior entertainment writer for The Huffington Post. He realizes that his dream of an It's Your Move reunion movie will never happen. You can contact Mike Ryan directly on Twitter.

 

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