Carl Otis Winslow (born 1954) is a fictional character portrayed by Reginald VelJohnson on the ABC/CBS American sitcom Family Matters from 1989 to 1998. The initials in his name, which spells COW, is joked around several times throughout the series.
Carl is a stocky, hard-working, and humble man. He is a Police Officer for the Chicago Police Department. He starts out as a Police Sergeant, then Lieutenant, and then Captain. Carl takes his role as the bread-winner of the household very seriously. Because of this, his opinion of being the "man of the house" tends to get in the way of more personal issues with his wife, Harriette. His ego often gets him into trouble with Harriette, although he is somewhat quick to concede to his wife, as she often ends up teaching him a lesson when it comes to resolving petty marital disputes. Carl can be very cheap, he usually cut corners to save money or when he sees the bills and tries to pays his own taxes. He even builds things himself, when he sees the bill how much would it cost and decide to build it himself. That ends in disaster.
Carl has a tendency to come down very hard on his only son,Eddie, while being protective of his daughters, Laura and Judy, at the same time. On occasion, Carl acts in an erratic fashion, and usually blames it on his stressful job. However, deep down, Carl has shown he is a very loving and caring father. Once, he became offended when Laura wore a skimpy, revealing dress, and gave Eddie an ultimatum when it was revealed that he was drinking beers at his fraternity parties. In Hot Stuff, this had Eddie telling Carl "It's time you stopped acting like a cop and start acting like my dad!".
His favorite food is doughnuts, something very stereotypical of policemen.
Carl is the son of Estelle and Samuel Winslow. According to the pilot episode of the series, he has four brothers: Walter, Darryl, Calvin and Frank. Frank (Ted Lange) appeared in the eighth-season episode "The Brother Who Came to Dinner," and was portrayed as a long-estranged member of the family who was on the wrong side of the law.
- Harriette Baines-Winslow (wife)
Relationship with Steve Urkel Edit
Especially during the early years, Carl is openly vocal when it comes to showing his displeasure with next-door neighbor, Steve Urkel, who seemingly shows up at the house during inconvenient or inopportune times. Carl often becomes annoyed with Steve for one of several reasons:
- Most often, when he is pressed into helping Steve test out his often useless—and accident-prone—inventions. The contraption would invariably backfire, and Carl would become the victim of its unpredictable and/or undesirable effects. Property damage and/or bodily harm to the Winslows' household caused by Steve's clumsiness (or the ill-fated machines) only adds to Carl's frustration.
- When Steve tries to talk about an odd or esoteric topic that the Winslows have no interest in (e.g.- a visit to a cheese festival).
- When Steve tries any one of a number of elaborate schemes to win Laura's heart (which usually fails or succeeds, but something happens at the wrong time)
However, Carl understands that Steve looks up to him like a father-figure, and often shows gratitude when he helps him resolve a series of tough personal crisis (ex., helped him conquer a fear of heights, thwarted a bank robber attempting to kill him, scaring away a cat with a match stick who tried to eat them when they shrunk, using his transformation chamber to defeat a dangerous gang, rescuing him from drowning and using CPR to recessitate him after he got electrocuted). Other times, he helps him deal with tough situations of his own, such as learning how to swim to pass physical education class, while on occasion, Carl has to stick up for his nerdy neighbor. Carl eventually grows tolerant of Steve, and accepts him as a member of his family. At the end of the episode "Random Acts of Science" he reveals to Urkel "I couldn't be even more proud if you were my own son." since he saved his life five times. Carl even revealed it during season 5's Presumed Urkel that while Steve has caused a lot of damages, it's only really minor because he selflessly has saved his life before (something that Dexter Thornhill, Principal Shimata or anyone else in the makeshift courtroom obviously didn't notice).
Like his children Eddie and Laura, Carl has gotten an opportunity to see what it is like to walk in Steve's shoes through different means. This happened to Carl in the sixth-season opener, "To Be or Not to Be", where he stepped into Steve's transformation machine in an effort to improve his eyesight without having to visit the optometrist. However, he ended up adopting a Steve-like personality and clothing, becoming known as Carl Urkel after his girlfriend, Myra Monkhouse, tampered with the machine thinking that Stefan will use it to return as Steve and realized her mistake when she learns that Carl is in there instead. He spends the next few days walking a mile in Urkel's shoes, indulging in things that he would never indulge in when he was normal. While Steve as Stefan found out what life was like as Carl and realized all the inconvenient times he let himself as Steve in without asking, leading to him yelling at his nerdy neighbor. After returning to his normal self, Carl realizes that he could've spared himself the trouble by taking Harriette's advice and go see an opathomologist for glasses.
- Steve's nickname for Carl, "Big Guy", is also a nickname used by Sonic the Hedgehog to address Miles "Tails" Prower in the first two Sonic the Hedgehog cartoons. Not surprisingly, Sonic is voiced in these cartoons by Jaleel White, who plays Steve.
- Another common running gag other than being the unwilling test subject for Urkel's experiments gone haywire, involves Carl attempting to fix things around the house that are more than outside his understanding. Despite Harriette's admonition to hire a qualified professional to get the job done properly, he refuses because of the costs (understandably) and commonly enlists Eddie in a futile attempt to get the job done themselves. The only time Carl was able to prove her wrong was in It Didn't Happen One Night, when he was able to fix the kitchen window himself.(but then broke it again)
- Carl's character was originally a fictional character on the show Perfect Strangers.
- Carl didn't approve of his mother, Estelle, dating Fletcher out of fear that she would never get over his death like what happened to his own father and tried to keep them apart in a couple of episodes. However, he was convinced to give their relationship a chance when Harriette encouraged him to be open minded and stop hurting her by being cynical in keeping them away from each other. Fletcher is not seen in the ninth season, implying that Fletcher did indeed die.
- Chicago Police Department Ranks
- Police Officer - Perfect Strangers Crime busters and before Family Matters
- Police Sergeant - Season 1-5
- Police Lieutenant - Season 6-8
- Police Captain - Season 9
- The only character to appear in every episode.