Born Jason Kent Bateman, January 14, 1969, in Rye, NY; son of Kent (a TV producer) and Victoria (a flight attendant) Bateman; married Amanda Anka (an actress), July 3, 2001.
Actor on television, including: Little House: A New Beginning, 1981-82; Silver Spoons, 1982-84; It's Your Move, 1984; Valerie (renamed The Hogan Family), 1986-1991; Simon, 1995; Chicago Sons, 1997; George & Leo, 1997; Some of My Best Friends, 2001; Arrested Development, 2003—. Appeared in commercials as a child. Film appearances include: Teen Wolf Too, 1987; Necessary Roughness, 1991; Breaking the Rules, 1992; Love Stinks, 1999; The Sweetest Thing, 2002; Starsky & Hutch, 2004; Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story, 2004.
Awards: Golden Globe award for best performance by an actor in a television musical/comedy series, for Arrested Development, 2005; Golden Satellite award for best actor in a comedy series, for Arrested Development, 2005.
Jason Bateman made his television debut in commercials at the age of ten, peddling Cheerios and Coke with his cherubic, good-boy charm. He shot to fame a few years later playing Ricky Schroder's mischievous best friend on the 1980s sitcom staple Silver Spoons. Bateman's minor Spoons character became such a big draw that he was given his own comedy vehicle, It's Your Move, in 1984. Several other series followed. Unlike most teen-idol stars of his era, Bateman—and his endearing boyish face—is still around. He became a born-again star in his 30s, playing the central figure on FOX Television's quirky Emmy-winning sitcom Arrested Development. "Most people retire after 25 years in this business," Bateman told People. "I got to start over."
Bateman was born on January 14, 1969, in Rye, New York, to Kent and Victoria Bateman, who divorced in 1989. It only seems natural that Bateman ended up in television given that his father was a producer, director, and writer of television programs and educational films. His mother worked as a Pan-Am flight attendant. Because of these careers, the Bateman family moved around a lot. During his first dozen years, Bateman spent time in Rye, New York; Winchester, Massachusetts; and Salt Lake City before the family settled in Los Angeles in 1981.
When Bateman was ten, he informed his father that he wanted to star in a commercial. Fulfilling this desire was pretty easy for Bateman. With his winsome, boy-next-door presence—and his father's connections—Bateman found an agent and starred in several commercials, including Cheerios, McDonald's, and Coca Cola. Within a year, Bateman landed his first television role, playing James Cooper, adopted son of the Ingalls clan, on the well-liked Little House on the Prairie series. The year Bateman joined the cast the show was renamed Little House: A New Beginning. That season, 1981-82, turned out to be its last.
NBC immediately found a new role for Bateman, casting him as child-star Ricky Schroder's misguided sidekick on Silver Spoons, which debuted in 1982. Bateman's character, Derek Taylor, was supposed to be a minor foil on the show, but he became a fan favorite. Rumor has it that as the show's second season wore on, Schroder became increasingly jealous of Bateman's popularity and felt he was stealing the show. Though he was barely a teen himself, Bateman broadcast a heartthrob quality young female viewers craved. "Jason was starting to get a lot of mail," show writer Ron Leavitt told TV Guide's Andrea Darvi. Neither side said much about the conflict at the time, but Bateman later told People's Susan Toepfer, "I was 13 and it was my first rude awakening to the dark side of the business. Ricky taught me a lot about what not to do."
NBC resolved the situation by yanking Bateman from Silver Spoons and giving him his own show, It's Your Move, where he played the conniving-yet-irresistible adolescent Matthew Burton. Though the show only lasted one season, it had better ratings than Silver Spoons the year it ran. Bateman's older sister, Justine, was enjoying her own success simultaneously, starring as the ditzy Mallory Keaton on the wildly popular sitcom Family Ties.
Like other teen actors, Bateman had an unusual childhood. Keeping up with school was challenging. During his time on Little House, Bateman received a progress report with a failing grade—in drama. "Sometimes the teachers are jealous, and you're picked on," Bateman told Darvi in the TV Guide interview. On the upside, there were perks to the show business life. Bateman spent his free time hanging out on studio lots, riding bikes with other teen actors. He became particularly close to teen star Glenn Scarpelli, whose One Day at a Time set was nearby.
In 1986, Bateman was cast as Valerie Harper's girl-crazy, sharp-tongued son David Hogan on her self-titled situation comedy, Valerie. The show followed the antics of the Hogan family. Bateman, playing the oldest son in a family of three boys, brought a huge adolescent following of viewers. Harper played a super-mom stuck raising three boys on her own because her husband was an airline pilot and rarely home. After a couple seasons, Harper clashed with producers, apparently over her salary, and left the show, which was then renamed Valerie's Family and later, The Hogan Family. Her character was killed off and Sandy Duncan became the matriarch of the clan. The show ran until 1991. Bateman also directed a few of the episodes.
When Bateman turned 18, he went through a period of arrested development himself. He took his show-business earnings and bought his own home, furnishing it in real frat-boy style with a pool table, big-screen television, and indoor basketball court. "I was trying to make up for not going to college," he told People. "I needed the basketball hoops and the neon beer signs . But I'm all caught up now." He also traveled a lot, renting ski houses and planes to enjoy with his friends. He also drove race cars and once won the Long Beach celebrity grand prix.
During the 1990s Bateman had plenty of work, though none of it was terribly successful. He appeared in a number of sitcom bombs, including 1995's Simon, 1997's George & Leo, and Chicago Sons, a sitcom that same year about blue-collar brothers. In 2001, he found a role on Some of My Best Friends playing a gay writer struggling to overcome a breakup. The show, based on the 1997 gay indie film Kiss Me, Guido, lasted just three months on the air. Among other failures was his 1987 feature film debut in Teen Wolf Too. The movie was a sequel to the 1995 Michael J. Fox original, Teen Wolf. In this film, Bateman played a college co-ed coping with his penchant for changing into a wolf during stressful times. The movie was far too similar to the original and bombed at the box office. Bateman also starred in the failed 1999 feature film Love Stinks.
Though he worked steadily through the 1990s, Bateman failed to ignite audiences until he appeared on Arrested Development in 2003. This quirky, daringly different FOX show gained critical acclaim from the start. Arrested Development explores love and incarceration through the eyes of the Bluths, a dysfunctional, well-to-do family that owns a profitable real-estate development firm. The Bluths fall apart, however, when family patriarch George Bluth (Jeffrey Tambor) is tossed in jail for questionable accounting practices, thus rendering the Bluths bankrupt. The sitcom centers on Bateman's character, Michael Bluth, son of George, who is the only levelheaded one in the family. Other characters include his 13-year-old son, his socialite mother, his Segway-riding magician brother, his perpetual college-student brother, and his twin sister, who uses the company credit card to fund her personal escapades. The clever title refers to two things: literally the arrested real-estate developer as well as the stunted maturity of the family members. The smart-humored show, full of satire concerning upper-middle-class absorption, has a small but faithful following.
While highly scripted, Arrested Development has a spur-of-the-moment feel because it is filmed in handheld digital video, giving it the bouncy quality of a real-time documentary. This technique also gives the viewer an intensely personal relationship with each character because the camera has to pan around all the time to catch the action, unlike sitcoms shot with a single, see-all camera. The show's producers also shun canned laugh tracks to cue viewers—this makes the show more intense because there is no pausing for laughter. The fast-paced grittiness also makes it harder to follow punch lines; viewers have to work a bit to get the wit. "The show is unpredictable, and it takes time to get it," Bateman told USA Today's Donna Freydkin. "You miss a word in the first act, and four jokes in the third act aren't going to pay off. That's one of the reasons we are having problems building an audience."
The show is so different from old-school sitcoms that it generated critical acclaim but failed to secure a mass audience its first two seasons. Writing in the New Yorker, television critic Nancy Franklin noted that "Arrested Development has an energetic, seat-of-the-pants style, which gives its absurdities an air of realism." She also credited Bateman with making his character "appealingly sardonic and smart." Despite all of the encouraging reviews, the show ranked 116th during the 2003-04 season, capturing an average audience of just 6.2 million viewers. Nonetheless, the show was nominated for several Emmy Awards in 2004. It won five: outstanding comedy series, direction, writing, casting, and editing. Winning the outstanding comedy award blew the cast away because they beat out such favorites as Everybody Loves Raymond and Sex and the City. "I think I blacked out when they said our name," Bateman told the Los Angeles Times' Lynn Smith. "I'm glad I TiVo-ed it."
Bateman's co-stars are quick to credit him for the show's award-winning success. Speaking to People, co-star Tambor compared Bateman to Johnny Carson. "He lets the people around him shine, then he has his moment and he just kills."
While critics praised the show as the freshest sitcom to come out of Hollywood in years, ratings dipped to just six million viewers its second season. To grab more viewers, the show has used a steady stream of Hollywood favorites for guest appearances, including Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Liza Minnelli, and Henry Winkler. The show also suffered a slow start to the 2004 season when it should have been gaining viewers on the coattails of its Emmy wins. The show won the Emmys in September, yet stayed off the air until November because FOX had to broadcast the Major League Baseball playoffs and World Series. In February of 2005, FOX announced that it would only go ahead with filming 18 of the show's 22 planned episodes for the season. Industry insiders wondered how much longer the show would go on if viewership did not perk up. Speaking to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Rob Owen, Bateman summed up his frustration, "I think there was some unfortunate timing with us winning the Emmy and not being on the air during the first part of the fall, so it was tough to capitalize on that."
Besides his surge in popularity on television, Bateman enjoyed simultaneous success on the big screen as well. He starred as Vince Vaughn's drug-dealing subordinate in 2004's Starsky & Hutch and also had a role in Ben Stiller's 2004 comedy Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story. When he is not busy filming, Bateman enjoys spending time admiring his backyard Japanese koi pond. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Amanda Anka, daughter of pop star Paul Anka. They married in 2001.
While Arrested Development has been slow to capture the imagination of the masses, Bateman is enjoying renewed popularity. In 2005, he won a Golden Globe for best actor in a television comedy for his role on the show. Bateman is enjoying his recent success, but he is also smart enough to know that he cannot rest on his laurels—after all, he has spent 25 years of his life reinventing himself for the camera. "Work is tenuous at best," he told the Hollywood Reporter. "If you do a perfect job, you are basically fired at the end of it, and you have to find another one."
Hollywood Reporter, January 18, 2005, p. 23.
Los Angeles Times, September 20, 2004, p. E3.
New Yorker, November 10, 2003, p. 124.
People, May 16, 1988, p. 101; December 8, 2003, pp. 121-22; November 29, 2004, p. 98.
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, February 11, 2005, p. WE45.
TV Guide, February 9-15, 1985, pp. 37-40.
USA Today, March 17, 2004, p. 6D.
"Jason Bateman: Having a Ball," USA Weekend Magazine,http://www.usaweekend.com/04_issues/040613/040613bateman.html (February 22, 2005).