Family Matters


Family MattersThe differences between Family Matters at the beginning of its run (1989) and its end (1998) are so vast that it might as well have been run through one of Steve Urkel’s inventions. What started off as a look into the life of a middle-class Chicago family ended up as a look into the life of a middle-class Chicago family that sometimes teleports, time travels and clones themselves—as if those were also just ordinary, everyday things.


Originally part of ABC’s TGIF lineup, Family Matters focused on the family of police officer Carl Winslow (Reginald VelJohnson) and his wife, Harriette (Jo Marie Payton). The couple is raising three kids. The oldest, Eddie (Darius McCrary), is a popular high school basketball player, struggling with grades and his dad’s strict rules. Middle child Laura (Kellie Shanygne Williams) is beautiful, smart and popular, and preteen daughter Judy (Jaimee Foxworth), disappears without any explanation during the fourth season. The family also lives with Harriette’s widowed sister, Rachel (Telma Hopkins), and her young son, Richie (Joseph and Julius Wright). By the end of the show, they had adopted a second son, 3J. Most memorable, though, is neighbor Steve Urkel (Jaleel White), a clumsy supernerd with a crush on Laura, an obsession with cheese and the catch phrase, "Did I do that?" Oh, and he also started a dance craze.

Carl Winslow played by Reginald VelJohnson   Harriette Winslow played by JoMarie Payton   Eddie Winslow played by Darius McCrary   Laura Winslow played by Kellie Shanygne Williams   Judy Winslow played by Jaimee Foxworth   Steve Urkel played by Jaleel White   Stefan Urquelle played by Jaleel White
Carl Winslow
Reginald VelJohnson
  Harriette Winslow
JoMarie Payton
  Eddie Winslow
Darius McCrary
   Laura Winslow
Kellie Shanygne Williams
   Judy Winslow
Jaimee Foxworth 
   Steve Urkel
Jaleel White
   Stefan Urquelle
Jaleel White
Estelle Winslow played by Rosetta LeNoire   Rachel Crawford played by Telma Hopkins   Richie Crawford played by Bryton James   3J played by Orlando Brown   Maxine Johnson played by Cherie Johnson   Waldo Geraldo Faldo played by Shawn Harrison   Myra Monkhouse played by Michelle Thomas
Estelle Winslow
Rosetta LeNoire
  Rachel Crawford
Telma Hopkins
  Richie Crawford
Bryton James
Orlando Brown
   Maxine Johnson
Cherie Johnson
  Waldo Geraldo Faldo
Shawn Harrison
  Myra Monkhouse
Michelle Thomas

Family Matters‘ stories included a lot of the same mix-ups and morals as other 90s sitcoms, but they were usually accompanied and often overshadowed by Urkel’s antics and wacky inventions. The Urk-pad teleported the Winslows to Paris for a family vacation. A cloning device created two Steves. His invention of "Cool Juice" altered his DNA to turn him from a nerd into Stefan Urquelle, a suave, handsome version of Steve. A transformation chamber allowed characters to transform into other people for periods of time. A time travel device sends Steve and Carl back to the 1970s. These devices usually malfunction or cause troubles in some way, and yet the Winslows just continue to use any invention Steve presents without many questions or concern. It’s no wonder they didn’t notice when Judy vanished.

Steve shows Carl his latest contraption   Steve Urkel clones himself   Steve creates an Urkel-bot

By the time the show ended, Steve managed to win over Laura, and the two are engaged. We never get to see the Winslow-Urkel wedding, however, because the show was canceled. ABC dropped the show in 1997, and CBS picked it up for one season before canceling it in 1998. Before it ended, Family Matters, which started as a spin-off of Perfect Strangers, ran for nine years and 215 episodes. It is the second-longest running U.S. sitcom with a predominantly African-American cast, trailing only the Jeffersons, which ran for 11 seasons.

The pop culture references to Steve Urkel are too numerous to list, making this TV show an important piece of 90s cultural history. He’s shown up everywhere from the current TV show, New Girl (where Jess co-opts his catch phrase as her own) to the Internet meme below.

Steve Urkel: 90s Nerd | 2011 Hipster

Related Links:  Steve Urkel costume idea


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