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Family Matters is an American sitcom which originated on ABC from September 22, 1989 to May 9, 1997 and on CBS from September 19, 1997 to July 17, 1998. The series is about a middle-class African American family living in Chicago. The series is a spin-off of Perfect Strangers and revolves around the Winslow family.

Midway through the first season, the series introduced the Winslows' nerdy neighbor Steve Urkel (played by Jaleel White), who quickly became its breakout character and eventually, a main character.

With 215 episodes, Family Matters is the second-longest-running U.S. sitcom with a predominantly Black-American cast, surpassed only by The Jeffersons, also a spin-off (of All in the Family), which lasted longer than its parent series.

History Edit

Family Matters originally focused on the character of Carl Winslow and his family: Wife Harriette, son Eddie Winslow, intelligent daughter Laura Winslow, youngest child Judy Winslow (until Season 4), and (later) let his sister-in-law Rachel Crawford and her son, Richie Crawford live in his house.

In the series opener, the family had also opened their home to Carl's street-wise mother Estelle Winslow (usually known as "Mother Winslow"), as well as Harriette's sister, Rachel Crawford, and her son, Richie Crawford, after the death of Rachel's husband prior to the start of the series.

The Winslows' nerdy next-door neighbor Steve Urkel was introduced midway through the first season and quickly became the focus of the series. The popular sitcom was part of ABC's TGIF from 1989 until 1997, before it became part of the CBS Block Party lineup from 1997 until 1998. Family Matters was produced by Bickley-Warren Productions and Miller-Boyett Productions, in association with Lorimar Television (1989–1993), and later, Warner Bros. Television (1993–1998), and distributed by Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution.

As the show progressed, episodes began to center more and more on Urkel (and occasionally his alter-ego Stefan) and other original characters also played by Jaleel White.

Network Change Edit

In early 1997, CBS bought Family Matters and Step by Step for $40 million from ABC. ABC then promised to pay Miller-Boyett Productions $1.5 million per episode for a 9th and 10th season of Family Matters. However, tensions had risen between Miller-Boyett Productions and ABC's parent company Disney. Miller-Boyett thought that they would not be big players on ABC after recently being bought up by Disney. So in turn Miller-Boyett Productions signed in the $40 million offer from CBS for both Family Matters and Step By Step to be renewed for a 22-episode season on CBS. CBS put Family Matters, along with Step By Step as a part of their new Friday line-up they called the "CBS Block Party". They put up the "CBS Block Party" against ABC's TGIF lineup, where the two series previously originated. CBS cancelled Family Matters and Step By Step after one season, along with the rest of the "Block Party" lineup.

Cancellation Edit

The cast was told to get ready to film a tenth and final season after the ninth one was completed. However, it was later discovered that CBS had the sets for the show demolished. Had the series continued for one more season, several events would have occurred:

  • Steve and Laura's wedding and honeymoon in Hawaii
  • The return of Cornelius Eugene Urkel and Myrtle Mae Urkel
  • 3J deciding to return to his biological mom
  • Stefan merging back into Steve's personality, making him a more mature person
  • Eddie and Waldo marrying their respective girlfriends
  • The birth of Stephanie Laurine Urkel

Cast Edit

Main article: List of Family Matters characters

Main Edit

Actor Years active Character Seasons
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
Reginald VelJohnson 1989–1998 Carl Winslow Main
Jo Marie Payton 1989–1997 Harriette Winslow Main
Judyann Elder 1998 Main
Darius McCrary 1989–1998 Eddie Winslow Main
Kellie Shanygne Williams 1989–1998 Laura Winslow Main
Jaimee Foxworth 1989–1993 Judy Winslow Main
Rosetta LeNoire 1989–1997 Estelle Winslow Main Recurs. Guest
Jaleel White 1989–1998 Steve Urkel Recurring Main
Bryton McClure 1990–1997 Richie Crawford Main Supporting (Recurs)
Joseph and Julius Wright 1989–1990 Main
Telma Hopkins 1989–1997 Rachel Crawford Main Recurring Guest
Shawn Harrison 1990–1996 Waldo Geraldo Faldo Recurring Main
Michelle Thomas 1993–1998 Myra Monkhouse Recurring Main
Orlando Brown 1996–1998 Jerry Jamal Jameson Recurring Supporting (Main)
  • Jo Marie Payton made her last appearance in "Deck the Malls" (season 9, episode 11). Judyann Elder assumed the role of Harriette Winslow for the remainder of the season, beginning with "Crazy for You (Part 1)" (season 9, episode 14).
  • The character was first portrayed by Valerie Jones (Judy Winslow) in the pilot episode ("The Mama Who Came to Dinner"). Jaimee Foxworth assumed the role thereafter.

Other Urkel characters Edit

Actor Years active Character Seasons
Jaleel White 1993–1998 Stefan Urquelle 5–9
1990
1996–1998
Myrtle Mae Urkel 2, 7–9
1998 Cornelius Eugene Urkel (O.G.D.) 9 (guest)

Main supporting cast Edit

Actor Years active Character Seasons
Cherie Johnson 1990–1998 Maxine Johnson 2–9
Tammy Townsend 1995–1998 Greta McClure 6–9

Recurring Edit

Seasons Edit

Main article: List of Family Matters episodes
Season Episodes Network First air date Last air date
1 22 ABC September 22, 1989 April 27, 1990
2 25 September 21, 1990 May 3, 1991
3 25 September 20, 1991 May 8, 1992
4 24 September 18, 1992 May 14, 1993
5 24 September 24, 1993 May 20, 1994
6 25 September 23, 1994 May 19, 1995
7 24 September 22, 1995 May 17, 1996
8 24 September 20, 1996 May 9, 1997
9 22 CBS September 19, 1997 July 17, 1998

Production notes Edit

Family Matters was created by William Bickley and Michael Warren (who also wrote for, and were producers of parent series Perfect Strangers) and developed by Thomas L. Miller and Robert L. Boyett (who also served as producers on Perfect Strangers), all four also served as executive producers of the series. The series was produced by Miller-Boyett Productions, in association with Lorimar Television who co-produced the show until 1993, when Warner Bros. Television absorbed Lorimar (a sister company under the co-ownership of Time Warner). Starting with season three, the series was also produced by Bickley-Warren Productions. The series was filmed in front of a live studio audience; the Lorimar-produced episodes were shot at Lorimar Studios (later Sony Pictures Studios) in Culver City, California, while the Warner Bros.-produced episodes were filmed at Warner Bros. Studios in nearby Burbank.

Themed song and opening credits Edit

The show's original theme was Louis Armstrong's "What a Wonderful World"; it was scrapped after the fifth episode of season one ("Straight A's"), though it was heard only in the pilot episode in syndicated reruns. The second theme, "As Days Go By," written by Jesse Frederick, Bennett Salvay and Scott Roeme and performed by Frederick, was the theme for the majority of the series until 1995; it was last used in the season seven episode "Fa La La La Laagghh," the only episode during the final three seasons to feature it (this was heard in season one episodes in ABC Family and syndicated airings). A longer version of "As Days Go By" was used during the first three seasons, though in syndicated reruns the short version is heard (in ABC Family airings, the long theme was used for all of the episodes during the first three seasons).

Reunion Edit

On September 28, 2017, eight of the Family Matters cast members reunited in Los Angeles for their 18th anniversary. Publicists for Jaimee Foxworth and Orlando Brown said that they "weren't able to attend, given their work schedules."

Reception Edit

Despite the show's popularity, critical acclaim by viewers, and cult following, critics' reviews for Family Matters were by most accounts mediocre, particularly in its early years but became more positive in later years. The first season holds an aggregate score of 31/100 ("Generally unfavorable reviews") on Metacritic. In Slate, Willa Paskin referred to the series as "a hackneyed and saccharine family sitcom". Isaac Feldberg opined that it was "archetypally average, hiding behind a ubiquitous laugh track and obnoxiously on-the-nose life lessons."

Crossovers Edit

Family Matters is set in the same "TV universe" as several other TV shows related to ABC's TGIF or CBS' Block Party:

Perfect Strangers Edit

Before Family Matters, Harriette Winslow was originally the elevator operator at the Chicago Chronicle newspaper office in the third and fourth seasons of Perfect Strangers. Family Matters was a spin-off series given to this character in 1989. In the second episode of Family Matters, Harriette was fired as elevator operator at the Chronicle, but was soon re-hired as "Chief of Security," which explained her absence from dealings with the Perfect Strangers cast.

Full House Edit

In the season 4 Full House episode "Stephanie Gets Framed," Urkel helps Stephanie Tanner (Jodie Sweetin) deal with her anxiety after she finds out she has to wear eyeglasses because her vision is fading.

Step by Step Edit

In the original ABC broadcast, the ending gag of Family Matters third season episode "Brains Over Brawn" is crossed over with the opening of the second episode of Step By Step, "The Dance." Urkel's jet-propelled flight pack causes him to fly through the Winslows' roof as one show ends and crash-land in Port Washington, Wisconsin, where the Lambert-Foster family is enjoying a barbecue as the other show opens. Urkel goes on to help his science-fair pen pal, Mark Foster (Christopher Castile) and lifts Al Lambert's (Christine Lakin) spirits after her potential date dumps her just before a school dance. He reprises his "Do the Urkel" dance in the scene where Al gives the guy who dumped her his comeuppance. Urkel also makes a brief cameo in the 1997 episode "A Star Is Born," snapping a clapperboard on the set of the movie that Al was cast in over her two sisters.

Boy Meets World Edit

In the episode "Beauty and the Beast" Urkel sent a chain letter to his friend Cory Matthews (Ben Savage), who lived in Philadelphia. The two never actually appeared together on either show. (In the spin-off Girl Meets World, VelJohnson made a cameo appearance as "James," a NYPD officer.)

Meego Edit

In this short-lived series, Steve makes a non-speaking cameo appearance in the second episode "Love and Money" where he angrily retrieves a television set stolen by Meego. He then appears in the third episode "The Truth About Cats and Dogs" helping out at a model car derby competition.

DVD Release Edit

Warner Home Video has released the first four seasons of Family Matters on DVD in Region 1 while the remaining five seasons were released by the Warner Archive Collection. On February 4, 2014, Warner Home Video released season 4 on DVD, but consumers complained when it was found that the season 4 set contained syndication edits rather than the original broadcast masters. Warner Bros. responded to the complaints, offered a replacement program to receive corrected discs and reissuing the set with corrected broadcast copies on April 4. All episodes are the original broadcast form, except for the episode "Number One With a Bullet", disc 1, episode 6. The entire series is also available for digital download on Amazon.com and the iTunes Store, all but season 6 remastered in both SD and HD.

DVD Name Ep # Release Date
The Complete First Season 22 June 8, 2010
The Complete Second Season 25 February 14, 2012
The Complete Third Season 25 February 12, 2013
The Complete Fourth Season 24 February 4, 2014
The Complete Fifth Season 24 February 16, 2016
The Complete Sixth Season 25 April 12, 2016
The Complete Seventh Season 24 July 26, 2016
The Complete Eighth Season 24 September 20, 2016
The Complete Ninth Season 22 November 9, 2016

Syndication Edit

It was rerun on WTOG (1991–1993), TBS Superstation (1995–2003), ABC Family (2003–2008), and UPN (2004–2006), and BET (2009–2014), Superstation WGN Chicago (now WGN America) (1997–2003); and as of April 2017, they can be seen on Centric (now BET Her in 2017) (2015–present), and Nick at Nite (2008–2012). In Canada, the series also aired on CTV and CBC for reruns.

On September 29, 2017, Family Matters, along with the other classic "TGIF" shows, can be streamed on Hulu.

Awards Edit

Year Award Result Category Recipient
1991 BMI Film & TV Awards Won BMI TV Music Award Bennett Salvay
1992
1996 Emmy Award Nominated Outstanding Individual Achievement in Special Visual Effects Kelly Sandefur
(For episode "Send in the Clone")
1994 NAACP Image Awards Won Outstanding Youth Actor/Actress Jaleel White
1995
1996 Nominated Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series
1997
1996 Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards Nominated Favorite Television Show
Favorite Television Actor
2008 TV Land Awards Nominated Favorite Character(s) Who "Went Missing" Jaimee Foxworth

See also Edit

External Links Edit

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