Despite only lasting one season, NBC’s It’s Your Move was a definite bright spot of the 1984-85 TV season. Having established himself as an intelligent young actor in his recurring role on Silver Spoons, Jason Bateman (brother of Family Ties’ Justine Bateman) was the obvious choice to play the crafty, fourteen-year old star of the show, Matthew Burton.
The show centered on the scheming Matthew and his ongoing battles with his adult neighbor, Norman Lamb. Norman, a struggling writer from Chicago, moved across the hall from Matthew and his family—his widowed mother Eileen, a legal secretary, and his sixteen-year-old sister Julie. Eileen and Norman had struck up a romantic relationship, much to Matthew’s chagrin. Matthew, who was convinced Norman wasn’t good enough for his mother, became determined to put an end to their relationship by any means necessary. This usually involved myriad unsuccessful attempts to make Norman look bad, introduce new men into his mom’s life, and generally foil any and all efforts on Norman’s part to win the heart of Eileen.
Unfortunately for Matt, he met his match in Norman, who proved to be just as clever and calculating as he was. A large part of each episode was a basic game of can-you-top-that, with Matt and Norman trying to outsmart each other through various set-ups, practical jokes and clever deceptions. It didn’t help Matt’s cause that both his mother and his typically bratty older sister found nothing wrong with Norman.
The highlight of each show came from watching the Jekyll-and-Hyde personalities of both Matthew and Norman. Matt, who was nothing short of a model son in front of his doting mother, would flash his mischievous grin and begin plotting his strategy the second she was out of sight. Norman, too, never let on in front of the women that he was always trying to outsmart Matt. Each had the ability to be charming and thoughtful around others, then conniving and underhanded when dealing with each other. Eileen, meanwhile, remained clueless as to the nature of their childish games.
Also included in the cast were the apartment building’s self-serving superintendent Lou, Saturday Night Live alumnus Garrett Morris as the school principal, and Matt’s moronic friend Eli, who had an unrequited crush on Julie. However, the show’s real charm was Matt and Norman, whose constant battle of wits was always a treat to watch, despite the fact that neither side ever got the better of the other.
USA / NBC – Embassy / 18×25 minute episodes / Broadcast 26 September 1984 – 10 August 1985
Theme Music: It’s Your Move by Rik Howard, Bob Wirth / Producers: Ron Leavitt, Michael G. Moye
Caren Kaye as Eileen Burton
Tricia Cast as Julie Burton
Jason Bateman as Matt Burton
David Garrison as Norman Lamb
Adam Sadowsky as Eli’ Matt’s friend
Ernie Sabella as Lou Donatelli
Garrett Morris as Dwight Ellis