Official logo, as seen on covers of the show's DVD releases
|Genre||Family sitcom, Teen sitcom, Black sitcom|
|Created by||William Bickley
|Developed by||Robert L. Boyett
Thomas L. Miller
|Theme music composer||Jesse Frederick, Bennett Salvay
& Scott Roeme
(episodes 1–5: Bob Thiele, George David Weiss & George Douglas)
|Opening theme||"As Days Go By,"
performed by Jesse Frederick
"What a Wonderful World" by Louis Armstrong)
Family Matters is an American sitcom which originated on ABC from September 15, 1989 to May 9, 1997, before moving to CBS from September 19, 1997 to July 17, 1998. A spin-off of Perfect Strangers, the series revolves around the Winslow family, a middle-class African American family living in Chicago, Illinois. Midway through the first season, the show introduced the Winslows' nerdy neighbor Steve Urkel (played by Jaleel White), who quickly became its breakout character and eventually the show's main character. Having run for nine seasons, Family Matters is the second longest-running non-animated U.S. sitcom with a predominantly African American cast, behind only The Jeffersons (11). Having aired 215 episodes, Family Matters is ranked third, behind only Tyler Perry's House of Payne (254) and The Jeffersons (253).
The series originally focused on the character of police officer Carl Winslow and his family: wife Harriette, son Eddie, elder daughter Laura and younger daughter Judy (who appeared until the character was written out in season four). In the pilot episode, "The Mama Who Came to Dinner," the family had also opened their home to Carl's street-wise mother, Estelle (Rosetta LeNoire), usually known as "Mother Winslow." Prior to the start of the series, Harriette's sister, Rachel Crawford and her infant son, Richie, had moved into the Winslow household after the death of Rachel's husband. The Winslows' nerdy teenage next-door neighbor, Steve Urkel (played by Jaleel White), was introduced midway through the first season in the episode "Laura's First Date" and quickly became the focus of the show. The popular sitcom was a mainstay of ABC's TGIF lineup from 1989 until 1997, at which point it became part of the CBS Block Party lineup for its final season. 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). As the show progressed, episodes began to center more and more on Steve Urkel and other original characters also played by White, including Steve's suave alter-ego Stefan Urquelle and his female cousin Myrtle Urkel.
In early 1997, CBS picked up Family Matters and Step by Step in a $40 million deal to acquire the rights to the programs from ABC. ABC then promised to pay Miller-Boyett Productions $1.5 million per episode for a ninth and tenth season of Family Matters. However, tensions had risen between Miller-Boyett Productions and ABC's corporate parent, The Walt Disney Company (which had bought the network in 1995 as part of its merger with ABC's then-parent Capital Cities/ABC, Inc.). Miller-Boyett thought that it would not be a big player on ABC after the network's recent purchase by Disney. In turn, Miller-Boyett Productions agreed to a $40 million offer from CBS for a 22-episode season for both Family Matters and Step By Step. CBS scheduled Family Matters, along with Step By Step, as a part of its new Friday lineup branded as the "CBS Block Party" and scheduled the family-oriented block against ABC's TGIF lineup, where the two series originated. Near the end of the ninth season, the cast was informed that a tenth and final season was planned, so scripts and plot synopses were written for the show. Ultimately, due to poor ratings, CBS cancelled Family Matters (as well as Step By Step) after one season, along with the rest of the "Block Party" lineup. CBS also pulled the show from its regular schedule in the winter and ended up airing the series finale with little fanfare during "burn off" summer TV time in 1998.
|Reginald VelJohnson||Carl Otis Winslow||Main|
|Jo Marie Payton[note 1]||Harriette Baines-Winslow||Main|
|Darius McCrary||Edward "Eddie" Winslow||Main|
|Kellie Shanygne Williams||Laura Lee Winslow||Main|
|Jaimee Foxworth||Judith "Judy" Winslow[note 2]||Main|
|Rosetta LeNoire||Estelle "Mother" Winslow||Main||Recurring|
|Richard "Richie" Crawford||Main|
|Telma Hopkins||Rachel Baines-Crawford||Main||Recurring||Guest|
|Jaleel White||Steven "Steve" Urkel
|Bryton McClure||Richard "Richie" Crawford||Main||Recurring|
|Shawn Harrison||Waldo Geraldo Faldo||Recurring||Main|
|Michelle Thomas||Myra Monkhouse||Recurring||Main|
|Orlando Brown||Jerry Jamal "3J" Jameson||Recurring||Main|
|Judyann Elder[note 1]||Harriette Winslow||Main|
|Season||Episodes||First air date||Last air date||Nielsen ranking|
|Season 1||22||September 22, 1989||April 30, 1990||#33|
|Season 2||25||September 21, 1990||April 26, 1991||#15|
|Season 3||25||September 20, 1991||May 8, 1992||#23|
|Season 4||24||September 18, 1992||May 14, 1993||#32|
|Season 5||24||September 24, 1993||May 20, 1994||#28|
|Season 6||25||September 23, 1994||May 19, 1995||#34|
|Season 7||24||September 22, 1995||May 17, 1996||#42|
|Season 8||24||September 20, 1996||May 9, 1997||#50|
|Season 9||22||September 19, 1997||July 17, 1998||#108|
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.
Theme song and opening credits
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).
The opening sequence begins with a shot of the Chicago Lakefront (the John Hancock Center can be seen in the center), then a shot of the Winslow home. In the opening titles, the main characters were shown around the Winslow home (though in some shots featured some characters in other places as well, such as Rachel at the Rachel's Place restaurant during the seasons 2-4 version or Waldo at the Vanderbilt High School gym during the seasons 4-6 version). The opening credits during the first three seasons feature a scene showing the Winslow family riding their bicycles across the Irv Kupcinet Bridge over the Chicago River; an allusion to parent series Perfect Strangers, which featured a scene of Balki and Larry (played by Bronson Pinchot and Mark Linn-Baker) riding a tour boat underneath the same bridge, shot from the same angle, in its own opening credits from seasons 3-8 of that series. Clips of episodes were shown after the bike scene and before the house shot in the season one through three versions. The house shown at the beginning and the end of the opening credits (as well as in establishing shots for scenes set at the Winslow house) is located at 1516 West Wrightwood Avenue in Chicago ( ). The closing shot at the end of the credits with the Winslow family at the piano (which also was shown during the closing credits when there was no tag scene), in which the shot pans outside the house and the camera zooms out showing neighborhoods and the northside Chicago skyline (Wrigleyville) in the background, was originally used in the pilot episode "The Mama Who Came to Dinner" (though the scene featuring the Winslows before the pan was redone twice in seasons two and five). The role of Richie as a baby was credited as being played by "Joseph [and] Julius Wright" in season 1, with Julius' name made to appear as Joseph's middle name in the titles-– the duo was credited this way because the show's producers did not want audiences to know that Richie was then played by twins-– the role of Richie as a baby was played by two children because California state law regulates the number of work hours for a young child, therefore it is common for the role of one baby in a television or film production to be played by twins (another Miller-Boyett series, Full House, credited Mary-Kate & Ashley Olsen in the same manner in its opening sequences until that show's seventh season, in which the Olsen twins were credited separately). In season five, after Hopkins left the show, White was given special billing in response to the popularity he earned as Steve Urkel. Appearing last in the credits, he was credited as "and Jaleel White as Steve Urkel," starting in the sixth season (Hopkins was credited similarly as "and Telma Hopkins as Rachel" prior to season five). In season seven, the opening theme song and credit sequence were dropped entirely-– though it was brought back for one episode: "Fa La La La Laagghh," the eleventh episode of that same season-– for all other episodes during seasons 7-9, the names of the show's main cast members, as well as co-executive producers and executive producers were shown during each episode's teaser scene.
Crossovers with other TGIF shows
- Perfect Strangers-– 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-– 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.
- Boy Meets World-– 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.)
- Step by Step-– 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.
- Meego-– 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.
In September 1993, Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution began distributing Family Matters for broadcast in off-network syndication; most television stations stopped carrying the show by around 2002, though some stations in larger markets such as WTOG in Tampa, Florida continued to air Family Matters until as recently as 2005. In 1995, reruns of the series began airing on TBS Superstation, where it ran until 2003. From 1997 to 2003, reruns of the series aired on WGN America. In 2003, ABC Family picked up the series and aired it for five years until March 2008. From 2004 to 2006, UPN aired the show for 2 years. BET aired reruns briefly in December 2009 and began airing the series on a regular basis on March 1, 2013. MTV2 also began airing reruns on September 7, 2013. The show aired on Nick at Nite from June 29, 2008 to December 31, 2012. ABC Family and Nick at Nite airings cut the tag scenes at the end of all episodes, despite the fact that many episodes during the series have tag scenes during the closing credits. In 2015, the series now airs on a Viacom owned cable network Centric. In Canada, the series also aired on CTV and CBC for reruns.
Warner Home Video has released the first four seasons of Family Matters on DVD in Region 1 while the remaining 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 episodes, 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 1st Season||22||June 8, 2010|
|The Complete 2nd Season||25||February 14, 2012|
|The Complete 3rd Season||25||February 12, 2013|
|The Complete 4th Season||24||February 4, 2014|
|The Complete 5th Season||24||February 16, 2016|
|The Complete 6th Season||25||April 12, 2016|
|The Complete 7th Season||24||July 26, 2016|
|The Complete 8th Season||24||September 20, 2016|
Awards, nominations and other reception
|1991||BMI Film & TV Awards||Won||BMI TV Music Award||Bennett Salvay|
|1992||BMI TV Music Award||Bennett Salvay|
|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||Outstanding Youth Actor/Actress||Jaleel White|
|1996||Nominated||Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series||Jaleel White|
|1997||Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series||Jaleel White|
|1996||Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards||Nominated||Favorite Television Show||
|Favorite Television Actor||Jaleel White|
|2008||TV Land Awards||Nominated||Favorite Character(s) Who "Went Missing"||Jaimee Foxworth|
|1990||Young Artist Award||Nominated||Best Young Actor Starring in a Television Series||Darius McCrary|
|Best New Television Series||
|Won||Best Young Actor Guest Starring in a Television Series||Randy Josselyn|
|1991||Nominated||Best Young Actress Supporting or Re-Occurring Role for a TV Series||Jaimee Foxworth|
|Best Young Actress Starring in a Television Series||Kellie Shanygne Williams|
|Best Young Actor Starring in a Television Series||Darius McCrary|
|Won||Outstanding Young Comedian in a Television Series||Jaleel White|
|1992||Nominated||Outstanding Young Comedienne in a Television Series||Kellie Shanygne Williams|
|1993||Nominated||Outstanding Young Comedienne in a Television Series||Kellie Shanygne Williams|
|Outstanding Young Comedian in a Television Series||Darius McCrary|
|Best Young Actress Recurring in a Television Series||Cherie Johnson|
|Best Young Actor Recurring in a Television Series||Patrick J. Dancy|
|Best Young Actor Co-starring in a Television Series||Shawn Harrison|
|Won||Best Young Actor Recurring in a Television Series||Bumper Robinson
(Tied with Aeryk Egan for Brooklyn Bridge)
WatchMojo.com rated Family Matters as the #8 African American TV show. Steve Urkel was rated as the #2 most annoying TV character and as the #4 TV neighbor. His catchphrase Did I do that? was rated as the #10 sitcom catchphrase.
Appearances in other media
- A 2014 episode of the Comedy Central sketch comedy program Key & Peele featured a sketch about how the Steve Urkel character took over Family Matters, and how that change affected others involved in show.
- The website Funny or Die featured an 2014 April Fool's skit in which Reginald VelJohnson tried to crowdfund a Family Matters movie, which would cross over with the film series Taken.
- Fearn-Banks, Kathleen (2006). Historical Dictionary of African-American Television. 7. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 135. ISBN 0-8108-5335-3.
- Fisherkeller, JoEllen (2002). Growing Up With Television: Everyday Learning Among Young Adolescents. Temple University Press. p. 178. ISBN 1-56639-953-X.
- Haithman, Diane (January 4, 1991). "Is Uncool Urkel the '90s Answer to the Fonz?". Los Angeles Times. LATimes.com. Retrieved October 18, 2012.
- Bellafante, Ginia (December 9, 1996). "Revenge of The Nerd". Time. Time.com. Retrieved October 18, 2012.
- Hal Boedeker (July 18, 1997). "He's A Goober But CBS Has A Lot Riding On Urkel TV". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved October 18, 2012.
- "Top Rating Program 1990-1995". Retrieved October 9, 2010.
- "Family Matters DVD news:Announcement for Family Matters - The Complete First Season". Retrieved January 13, 2013.
- "Family Matters DVD news:Announcement for Family Matters - The Complete Second Season". Retrieved January 13, 2013.
- "Family Matters DVD news:Announcement for Family Matters - The Complete Third Season". Retrieved January 13, 2013.
- "Family Matters: The complete Fourth Season Season".
- "Family Matters - EXCLSUVE! Release Date for 'The Complete 5th Season DVD". Retrieved December 27, 2015.
- "Family Matters - Warner Archive Gives Us the CORRECT Word About 'The Complete 6th Season' DVDs". Retrieved April 15, 2015.
- "Uncensored - Key & Peele - Family Matters". YouTube. Comedy Central. Retrieved 10 October 2014.