1 9 8 9 – 1 9 9 8 (USA)
215 x 30 minute episodes
A spin-off from Perfect Strangers, Family Matters focused on the middle-class African-American Winslow family, who lived in a suburb of Chicago.
Carl, a heavyset policeman, always blustering about one thing or another, was played by Reginald VelJohnson. His sharp-tongued wife, Harriette, was played by Jo Marie Payton, who had attracted attention on Perfect Strangers as a sarcastic elevator operator.
The Winslow children, Eddie (aged 15), Laura (13) and Judy (9), were played by Darius McCrary, Kellie Shaygne Williams and Jaimee Foxworth.
Grandma Winslow was played by Rosetta LeNoire, while Harriette’s recently widowed sister, Rachel Crawford, was played by Thelma Hopkins, and Rachel’s infant son, Richie, was played by Joseph and Julius Wright, and, as he grew older, by Bryton McClure.
Rachel operated a local lunch counter and teen hangout called “Rachel’s Place.”
However, the show’s real star was nerdy teenager Steve Urkel (Jaleel White), who didn’t show up until episode nine but immediately became extremely popular.
Steve had a mad crush on Laura and constantly dropped in on the Winslow home.
Steve Urkel’s oversized glasses, his too-short trousers (which he wore up by his chest), his high-pitched nasal voice, and his awkward, grasshopper-like walk had viewers doubled over with laughter for the entire seven years the series was on the air.
In 1995, Urkel moved in with the Winslows when his parents left the country without him and in later years, Family Matters focussed almost exclusively on skinny Urkel.
Judy disappeared from the scene without explanation (producers decided to simply fire Jaimee Foxworth, and for the remaining five seasons of the show, the characters acted like she never existed) and Eddie (who was off to college) and Rachel were seldom seen after 1993.
Eddie’s dim-bulb buddy Waldo Faldo (Shawn Harrison) and Laura’s friend Maxine (Cherie Johnson) were seen from time to time, but perhaps the most surprising addition was Myra Monkhouse (Michelle Thomas), a bright, beautiful teenager in pursuit of Urkel, who still had eyes only for disdainful Laura.
Episodes became more far-fetched and were frequently based on Urkel’s fantastic inventions, such as when he transported the entire family to Paris on the “Urk-Pad” or time-travelled with Carl back to an eighteenth-century pirate ship.
He also learned the secret of cloning, and Urkels began to multiply. There was Myrtle Urkel, his outrageous cousin from Biloxi; he also dreamed up the debonair Stefan Urquelle, as a way to get to Laura.
When Family Matters came to the end of its run in 1998, Urkel and Laura (who were 20 years old by that time) had miraculously become engaged.
Urkel had helped Carl get a promotion to Captain on the police force, and he had become the first student astronaut after he won a contest. When he blasted off in a shuttle to outer space, the mission went wrong.
After a series of disasters (some caused by himself), Steve performed a spacewalk, removed an errant satellite that had crashed into the shuttle, and saved the day. He was reunited on Earth with his fiancée Laura, and everybody hugged.
The theme song was What A Wonderful World, sung by Louis Armstrong when the series first aired, but in 1989 it became As Days Go By.
Carl Otis Winslow
Edward ‘Eddie’ James Arthur Winslow
Laura Lee Winslow
Kellie Shanygne Williams
Steven Quincy Urkel
Estelle ‘Mother’ Winslow
Joseph Wright (1)
Julius Wright (2)
Bryton James (3)