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Family Matters

By Wikipedia

Family Matters was a sitcom based on a middle class African American family living in Chicago that ran from 1989 to 1998 on ABC and later on CBS. The show, which was a spinoff of Perfect Strangers, originally focused on the character of Harriet Winslow and her family: husband Carl Winslow, a police officer; rebel son Eddie Winslow; smart daughter Laura Winslow; and youngest child Judy Winslow. They had opened their home to Harriet's sister Rachel Crawford and her son Richie Crawford, as well as Carl's streetwise mother Estelle Winslow.

Steve Urkel (played by Jaleel White), was the most famous character on the show. Introduced midway through the first season, the bespectacled Urkel, complete with high-pitched voice and suspenders, was the ultimate nerd; he was highly intelligent but was very clumsy. His trademark line, "Did I do that?" (whenever he caused an accident) became a catchphrase imitated across the United States.

Originally intended to be a one time only character, White's portrayal of Urkel was so enthusiastically received, that he became a permanent part of the cast; in fact, several scripts had to be hastily rewritten to include Urkel, while new opening gags were added on already completed shows.

While Family Matters originally focused on the Winslow family, later episodes centered almost exclusively on Urkel. Plots centered on his unrequited, long-standing crush for Laura; his unannounced visits to the Winslow home at inopportune times; and his constantly backfiring inventions wreaking havoc on the Winslows (with comic foil Carl the most frequent victim). His visits were so frequent, that Richie would call Urkel "Uncle Steve." Despite the perceived annoyance, everyone always stuck up for Urkel and appreciated his help and company (although this realization usually didn't happen until after a series of misunderstandings).

Aside from Urkel, Eddie and Laura had other friends. Eddie's friends were Rodney Beckett (during the first and second seasons; Randy Josselyn was the series' lone white regular), the streetwise Weasel (Shavar Ross) and dim-witted Waldo Faldo (Shawn Harrison). Laura's best friend in the first season was Penny. Starting in the second season, Laura's best friend was Maxine (Cherie Johnson).

During the fourth season, in an effort to rid herself of Urkel, Laura and her then-boyfriend Ted introduced him to Ted's cousin Myra Monkhouse (Michelle Thomas). She was a pretty girl who had huge crushes for nerds. Urkel tried his best to devote himself to Myra, but his heart always stayed true to Laura. In the end, Urkel's dream finally came true: Laura's feelings for him softened in later seasons, and during the 1997-1998 season, the two fell in love and became engaged. This was much to Myra's chagrin, who always saw Laura as a competitor for Urkel's affections; the two never got along.

As time went by the characters and stories changed. Richie grew up, Steve made increasingly incredible and more improbable inventions, including a transformation chamber, which he often used to change into cool, sexy Stefan Urquelle to get to Laura. Also notable, he invented a cloning machine, a long story of how Stefan became permanently real. Eddie, who attended the police academy so he could follow in his father's footsteps, also gained a steady girlfriend in Greta McClure (Tammy Townsend). Carl and Hariette took in a local youth named 3J (Orlando Brown who was introduced as part of an episode paying tribute to the Big Brothers Big Sisters of America program). Urkel's cousin from Biloxi, Myrtle Urkel (also played by White), often tried to attract and flirt with Eddie.

While most of the episodes were wildly comical (some likened the show to a black version of Abbott and Costello), there were episodes on serious topics, such as teen alcoholism, racism, cancer, death, dyslexia and gun violence. Several episodes also focused on Carl's job at the police station.

As the focus of the show began to center more and more around Urkel (and occasionally Stefan), other, original characters were shunted to the periphery of the show. By 1993 the actresses who portrayed members of the Winslow household, namely Judy (Jaimee Foxworth) and Rachel (Telma Hopkins) left the show. Hopkins (as Rachel) made guest appearances until 1997, but no explanation was ever given for Carl and Harriet's youngest child mysteriously disappearing though she was mentioned once in a later episode. The real reason was Judy was never popular with fans and rarely had an entire episode centering on her character. Because of this, she was completely written out of the show (see Chuck Cunningham syndrome).

During its final season the show moved to CBS, and in December 1997 actress Jo Marie Payton left, with Judyann Elder taking over her role as Harriet. Family Matters ranks as one of the longest running African American sitcoms along with The Jeffersons and The Cosby Show.

Cast

Reginald VelJohnson as Carl Winslow
Jo Marie Payton as Harriet Winslow (1989-1997)
Darius McCrary as Edward "Eddie" Winslow
Kellie Shanygne Williams as Laura Winslow
Jaimee Foxworth as Judy Winslow (1989-1993)
Rosetta LeNoire as Estelle "Grandma" Winslow (1989-1997)
Telma Hopkins as Rachel Crawford (1989-1993, occasionally appearing 1994-1997)
Bryton McClure as Richie Crawford (1990-1998)
Jaleel White as Steve Urkel (1990-1998)
Barry Jenner as Lt. Lou Murtaugh (1990-1992)
Michelle Thomas as Myra Monkhouse (1992-1998)
Orlando Brown as 3J (1996-1998)
Shawn Harrison as Waldo Geraldo Faldo (1991-1996)
Tammy Townsend as Greta McClure (1996-1998)
Judyann Elder as Harriet Winslow (1997-1998)

 

Share Your Memories!

Do you have a favorite episode of Family Matters? What do you remember about the series? Share your stories with the world! (We print the best stories right here!)

Your Memories Shared!

"I loved Family Matters - it was my favorite show! Laura was my favorite character. I was hurt when it ended! I watched it ever since I was a little girl. I am 20 years old now. I am so glad it was an appropiate show. It was for all kids, and when I have my baby in December, I will show it to her. My husband likes it too. We been married for a year and a half. We are thinking of naming our baby Laura."

--Danielle

"I moved to the US from Vietnam in late 1995. Family Matters was one of the show I saw on TV along with others like The Simpsons and Home Improvement. I learn English and American culture (^__^) from these shows.

It has been roughly seven years since then. I've traveled through many turns and corners that life has to offer me. However, when I have a chance to sit down and think about the days from the past, I would remember this: A sunny afternoon in Lewisville, Texas. Strangely, sunny afternoon comes to me with images and memories of watching Family Matters. Those memories are so soft and heart warming, that it makes my past seems so beautiful and worth missing. I miss Family Matters and those afternoons. I miss the carefree days and the days of peace. Family Matters gave me acceptance and hope for the future. Granted that it was a TV show and the situations weren't real. However, the feelings they gave me were real. I felt so close to their family, their problems and emotions as they share with one another and the audiences. Now a day, when things get a bit tough, I usually think about the time when I was watching Family Matters. It usually make my heart overwhelmed with longing for the peaceful past. I truly wish that my next generation would be able to see the show and all that it has to offer; not Family Matters as a comercial TV show, but rather a great collection of lessons about love and respect for life and family. To the casts and creaters of the show where ever they might be: thank you. [The first time I saw the film was when I was around 13 or 14. I am now 21.

I sometimes search for the show on TV, and would catch a glimse of them once in a while. I hope that the show would be on DVD soon."

--AutalphA

"I really enjoy family matters and the cast, but I only have one problem. They never did a final ending to the show, I mean last I watched the show, steve was up in space with a problem and Laura was worried waiting for him to come down for there wedding, you never showed the wedding and final ending to the show. I still really enjoy watching the show in reruns it still makes me laugh and I really enjoy the comdey."

--Pam

 

TV TIDBITS

Aired: 1989-1996

Cast: Reginald VelJohnson, Jo Marie Payton, Darius McCrary

Network: ABC

Genre: Sitcom

Theme song

Spinoff of: Perfect Strangers

Image courtesy of ABC


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