Welcome to another edition of our upstart series, Mindhole Blowers, in which we troll the Internet and listen to DVD Commentaries to bring you what we hope is fascinating minutia. Typically, we look at movies (see our Mindhole Blowers columns on Cameron Crowe’s Singles and Shane Black’s Kiss Kiss Bang Bang), but today — with the release of Horrible Bosses on the horizon — I thought we’d take a look at a person, the fascinating and ridiculously durable Jason Bateman.
Jason Bateman has been acting now in Hollywood for 29 years. In that career, there are only two roles that I can identify in which he didn’t play a variation on his “Jason Bateman” character, which is to say: Sly, dry wit and a personality halfway between ridiculously charming and spectacularly douchy. Those two roles were his first, as a kid in “Little House on the Prarie” and a TV movie with Maura Tierney called “Married to the Mob,” in which he (badly) attempts an Italian accent.
Little House on the Prarie
Married to the Mob
Jason Bateman appeared in exactly 21 episodes of both his first series, “Little House on the Prarie,” and his second series, “Silver Spoons,” in which he played best friend to Ricky Schroeder’s character. He was replaced in that role two years later by Alfonso Ribeiro when Bateman landed his own series, “It’s Your Move,” in which he played a similar sleazy character. In fact, he played a con artist who engaged in illegal scams; the show lasted only 18 episodes, and in later episodes, the showrunners softened the tone in the hopes for better ratings. It didn’t work, but those showrunners — Michael G. Moye and Ron Leavitt — resurrected the harder tone in a different format several years later in “Married … with Children.” (Jason’s sister, Justine — who would later come to fame on “Family Ties” — made her acting debut on “It’s Your Move”).
It’s Your Move
In 1987, Bateman starred in “Bates Motel,” with Bud Cort and Lori Petty. It was a movie about a man who roomed with Norman Bates in the insane asylum and later inherited the Bates Motel. It starred Kurt Paul, who was Anthony Perkins’ stunt double in Pyscho. It was meant to be a pilot for a television series, but it was never picked up.
Jason Bateman’s sequel to Teen Wolf, Teen Wolf Too, was released the same day as Phoebe Cate’s Date with an Angel on what some describe as one of the worst release dates in the history of film. The combined Tomatometer reading of both films currently stands at 28 percent.
In 1986, Bateman landed his second successful sitcom, “Valerie.” However, two years later, when the network wanted to focus attention more on the young stars of the show, specifically, Bateman, Valerie Harper balked. She was written out of the show — her character died in a horrific car accident. The show was renamed “Valerie’s Family” and then, simply, “The Hogan Family.”
Jason Bateman directed three episodes of “The Hogan Family,” and became, at age 18, the youngest ever member of the Director’s Guild.
Valerie/Valerie’s Family/The Hogan Family
Between 1995 and 2001, Jason Bateman starred in four television series. The Most successful, “George and Leo” — with Bob Newhart and Judd Hirsch — only managed 22 episodes.
George & Leo
Some of My Best Friends
In the 1990s, Jason Bateman abused a lot of drugs and alcohol.
In “Some of My Best Friends,” Jason Bateman played a gay character. (The series was inspired by the film, Kiss Me Guido). That series was co-created by Marc Cherry, the creator of “Desperate Housewives.”
In 2001, Jason Bateman married Amanda Anka, the daughter of Paul Anka. She is an actress who has had very small roles in 20 films and television shows. She appeared in only one film with Jason, the 2001 romantic comedy Sol Goode, starring Balthazar Getty. Amanda and Jason have a five-year-old daughter together, Francesca Nora.
Depending on who you ask, it was either his small role in Starsky and Hutch or his small role in Dodgeball that helped resurrect Jason Bateman’s career.
Despite all the television series that Bateman has starred in, he has only one Emmy Nomination, in 2005 for “Arrested Development.”
Before landing the role in “Arrested Development,” Jason Bateman starred alongside Greg Grunberg and Nikki Cox in a series called “The Jake Effect.” In 2002, NBC cancelled that sitcom before it had aired a single episode. However, the 7 produced episodes were aired on Bravo in 2006 in their “Brilliant but Cancelled” series. It was a great show.
The Jake Effect
Jason Bateman has appeared in 19 films. The average gross is $56 million. The highest was Hancock, with $227 million and the lowest was Breaking the Roles, with $52,000, which starred Bateman, C. Thomas Howell, Jonathon Silverman, and Bateman’s father, Kent.
Jason Bateman’s father was his manager until Jason turned 20. Kent also produced Teen Wolf Too and Breaking the Rules. He is an author under the pseudonym Odin Roark.
Bateman auditioned for the role of Alex P. Keaton in “Family Ties.” The role went to Michael J. Fox.
Bateman was cast in The Heartbreak Kid but later dropped out. The role went to Ben Stiller.
Bateman is apparently good friends with Keith Olbermann and television critic, Tim Goodman, dating back to years in which the three were in a fantasy baseball league together.
In 2005, Jason Bateman was voted the most underrated actor on television by network executives.
Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.