I searched high. I searched low.
I searched the forgotten realms of Christmas nostalgia, and I think I found something truly worthy of an Allison’s Written Words recap.
You know what? The crying thing is getting old. It’s ok, really!
In the days before Jason Bateman was a teen idol, and later an actor who hit a resurgence as an adult, he was a child actor in search of something that would launch him into “teen idol” status.
The show this happened on wouldn’t come until 1986…so let’s go back a few years.
It was in 1984 that a fifteen-year-old Bateman, cemented in the role of bratty child extraordinaire (if you’ve seen Derek on Silver Spoons, you’ll understand where I’m going with this) starred in a rather forgettable sitcom called It’s Your Move.
It’s one of your typical sitcoms featuring a smartass child, except he’s met his match in his neighbor/mom’s love interest, who proves to be both equally adept at scheming and gaining the upper hand. It has the distinction of being short-lived. That’s right, it only lasted eighteen episodes.
I’m also sure that having a theme song that reminds everyone of CBS Storybreak and a title that sounds more like a game show didn’t exactly help.
Further, it also has the distinction of being a show forced into retooling after the main character is caught in his worst scheme ever, which obviously showed that someone had the bright idea to ensure Jason Bateman shouldn’t be typecast. Once the show was retooled, it lost its luster (which was questionable at the time) and the whole concept became your typical sitcom, except it really wasn’t funny anymore. If it wasn’t endearing the viewers prior to the retooling, it was unwatchable afterwards. I watched the entire series (not that it took me long) late last year, and I can tell you that bigger things were coming for Bateman, and playing the perfect bratty child wasn’t one of those things.
Besides, who doesn’t love the neurotic, rational, Nervous Nellie-type he plays now?
And despite being such a short-lived sitcom, It’s Your Move had a Christmas episode that thankfully happened before The Retooling, which meant we got to see the sitcom for how it was originally concepted (and our two adversaries at their best), and not some conventional Christmas episode of some conventional sitcom.
So without further ado, let’s see what Cute Brat Jason Bateman schemes up at Christmas!
It’s Christmastime in Van Nuys, California, and Matt and Julie Burton are concocting their Christmas present for relatives and other people they deem worthy of their wonderful gift. What is it exactly? Well, it’s anything they want it to be…according to the fake labels they typed up.
Meanwhile, across the hall neighbor/mom’s love interest Norman Lamb arrives with a jug of his family’s eggnog recipe…which he pours on nice and thick.
No seriously, it’s nice and thick.
Norman goes on to insult the Burton family Christmas tree, which is silver, and well, untraditional. Matt points out that the tree is not only beautiful, but functional. In fact, if one hooks it up to the television, channel six in San Diego comes through clearly.
Norman tells of Christmas in Chicago and the time-honored tradition of trekking through snow to get the perfect Christmas tree, and wants to know where the decorations are…just as the landlord, Lou Donatelli, shows up. Matt informs him that a “jolly fat man” has arrived, if that makes Norman happy.
Matt uses Donatelli’s head head to seal Christmas card envelopes (see? functional!), and after the threat of eviction, Lou gets his Christmas present from Matt…the highly-coveted after-dinner liquor he loves so much…that he just can’t seem to get anywhere but from Matt.
Oh Matt, don’t go changing. Ever.
Well, you will change your ways, but not right now.
Julie informs Matt that the bathtub enamel is becoming a victim to the concoction of sorts. Norman tells the kids that he will be a little late for a date with their mom so he can finish his shopping. Julie informs Norman about what their mother really wants for Christmas (a watch), and since she is feeling so empowered, Julie informs Norman that there is a shirt she has on hold in the Young Attitudes Department at Bullock’s, and anyone can pick it up. The whole idea of this gets Norman all riled up, but it’s the fireplace artwork Eileen Burton (their mom) brings home that really drives him out of his gourd.
Mom tells the kids that she is going to make her traditional Christmas guacamole, and for Matt to hook up the Christmas tree to watch a good movie on the San Diego channel.
Norman leaves the apartment, and is greeted by Matt’s friend Eli, who is passing out his gifts early, as he is going to visit his grandmother, who lives “over the river and through the woods”…in a combination retirement community/minimum security prison. He gives Norman a Christmas ham, because if you love someone, say it with pork products.
Sounds about right.
Norman invites Eli in, and Eli dispenses with a problem he has…he forgets his mother and father’s Christmas presents. Norman’s solution? Make your own! Eli feels that may make him look cheap. Norman resolves to Eli that the gifts will be more special to his parents, because he made them. And it’s at this exact moment that he decides instead of Christmas shopping, he will make a gift for Eileen. He then offers Eli his eggnog, to which sweet, lovable Eli replies “I thought you liked me.”
I’m assuming this eggnog passes for a running joke on this show?
It’s now Christmas Eve, and Matt is curious as to Norman’s idea of making Matt’s mother a Christmas gift.
Norman’s gift turns out to be a poem. And it turns out to be a flop. It’s not that Eileen doesn’t like the idea of a poem. She just…doesn’t like the idea of what Norman thinks of as a traditional Christmas, which for the Burtons, means opening presents on Christmas Eve and bowling on Christmas Day. Norman exits in a huff about the lack of tradition, following an argument with Eileen.
Oh, and it turns out Norman is known to the local carolers as “The Eggnog Man,” which scares them to no end.
Seriously, their interpretation of a running joke. Eggnog.
Back in his apartment, Norman putters around, sprays some fake snow on everything that doesn’t move (including a window he winds up breaking), sings Christmas songs badly, sprays fake snow on himself, and believes that “this” is Christmas.
But he’s not happy. Well, maybe turning off the home lights and flashing the Christmas tree lights by flicking the switch is fun for him, but he begins to realize how much tradition apparently stinks for him. But not before playing with his Nativity set pieces. Because why not do what every eight-year-old did with theirs?
For the record, Baby Jesus’ arm broke in storage, not because I played with him. Scotch tape works wonders.
Matt and Julie ponder the unhappiness Norman placed on their mother, as they prepare their bowling balls. Matt resolves to make his mother happy again.
And how does he do that, you say?
Matthew goes over to Norman’s apartment to inform him of his mother being miserable and sticking it to family tradition that had been around long before he came into their lives. So Norman, flustered over this confrontation, runs down the list of ways Matt has made his life miserable – forwarding Norman’s mail to Iceland, having him reported as an illegal alien, an ad in the paper that says “Kittens Wanted,” and then accuses Matt of being the last person to give a lesson on how to behave. And you know Matt is just loving the recounting of schemes we never saw (but may have made this show even better!). One must admit, the kid is brilliant.
Then The Retooling happened.
Here nor there.
Matt informs Norman that he forgot the one tradition of Christmas that is important, not to ruin the happiness of others. Norman knows he was wrong, but he can’t figure out why Matt is trying so hard to make his mom happy.
Matt’s solution? The gift that his mom actually wants. The cost? Eternal gratitude. Because when Norman offers to write Matt a check, Matt informs him he couldn’t accept it…and neither would anyone in town.
The gift, you ask?
A “thank you” note for helping Norman realize his wrong ways…much to the delight of Matt, who witnesses the whole thing with Julie.
OMG, this kid. But he’s so cute.
But, Eileen forgives Norman, and all is right with the world. Which means Matt has to put up with Norman for a little longer (a little longer being a few more episodes).
But if Norman didn’t give in to Matt’s scheme, he wouldn’t have left his apartment…and he would have been $5000 richer.
Random radio contests.
Oh well. Maybe next…oh, wait.
“The Christmas Show” aired on December 19, 1984, as the show’s 11th episode. It was one of the last episodes before the show’s premise was redone, and Matt Burton became your average sitcom kid, with less brattiness. Unfortunately, the retooling did nothing for the show’s ratings (it competed with Dynasty, and seriously, who competes with Aaron Spelling and lives to tell the tale?), and the show was cancelled in February 1985.
But don’t weep for Jason Bateman, he will firmly secure his spot in teen idol fandom a little over a year later, on a show I would be old enough to find him on…and discover my life-long crush.
Pathetic, I know. But love!
But for one very brief half-television season in 1984-1985, he was playing a bratty teenager trying (and failing) to make mincemeat out of his neighbor/mother’s lover. And for an even more brief moment, he was a bratty teenager who tried (and failed) to make mincemeat of his neighbor/mother’s lover at Christmastime.
They don’t make television like they used to.
They don’t make sitcoms like this either. Seriously, who gets away with this crap? And by crap, I mean the crap that gets put on television.
And there you have it, forgotten Christmas sitcom glory.
Want to see for yourself? Click play below!
We’re almost there! One more day until Christmas!