Classic Television Sitcoms: 'Family Matters'
BET(Black Entertainment Television) is a network that I seldom watch anymore. This would probably sound strange to some people, being that my eyes and ears once frequented this television network. My often viewing of BET took place a lot during much of my childhood days, and even during my high school and young adult era of life.
You may be wondering to yourself what caused me to switch up? Well BET quite frankly switched up as a network in my opinion. What used to be a network that was predominantly dedicated to music and showcasing music videos, has become a network that primarily focuses on TV series and award shows. I personally don't have anything against the newer series, or the awards shows that seem to be BET's focus - they're just not my cup of tea anymore. Besides, I don't really dedicate much of my time to television watching anyway.
BET has however allowed me to once again enjoy a show that was a favorite of mine during my childhood - 'Family Matters'. Even if you've never heard of Family Matters before, I'm willing to bet that there is a certain character from the series that you've caught wind of at some point. You may remember him as wearing big nerdy glasses, jeans hiked up to his stomach, and an annoying voice that frequently uttered "Did I do that?" If you've yet to figure out who I'm talking about, I'm talking about Steve Urkel.
I recently caught wind that BET currently airs episodes of Family Matters on a daily basis. Upon finding this out, I've been setting the DVR daily to record the episodes. I have to admit that it's been quite a nostalgic feeling watching this show again. A lot of those old episodes bring me back to various moments from my childhood with my cousins. I thought I'd take a little time and inform others that may not be aware of this show. I'm also aiming to rekindle memories from those who maybe watched this show during it's run.
Premise of 'Family Matters'
'Family Matters' is an American sitcom that highlighted an African-American middle class family living in Chicago, Illinois. The show was a spin-off of the show 'Perfect Strangers'. Family Matters ran for nine seasons, and made it's debut on September 22, 1989. The final episode took place on July 17, 1998. The show primarily focused on the Winslow family. However, the character of Steve Urkel, who was the Winslow's next door neighbor would become the show's breakout star.
The Winslow family is indeed a big family, and their household has just gotten bigger. The father of the household, Carl Winslow's, mother Estelle Winslow has just moved in to live with his family. The Winslow family consists of Carl's wife Harriette Winslow, children: Judy Winslow(youngest daughter), Laura Winslow(eldest daughter), and Eddie Winslow(eldest son). Harriette's sister Rachel Crawford and her young son Richie also lives with the family. Rachel moved in with the family following the death of her husband.
The Winslow's teenage neighbor Steve Urkel was introduced midway through the first season. The character of Steve was initially only meant to appear once, but became a regular character following audiences positive response to him. Although the show was centered around the Winslows, it would increasingly become more focused on Steve Urkel's character as time went on.
The success of the character Steve Urkel lead to actor Jaleel White portraying other roles on the show. White also portrayed the character of Myrtle Urkel, who was Steve's female cousin. He also portrayed the role of Stephan Urquelle, who was Steve Urkel's cool and suave alter-ego.
Changes During the Show's Run.
Family Matters maintained a level of popularity well throughout the 90's, but the show began to undergo quite a few changes. First off, the character of Judy Winslow, who was the youngest of the Winslow children was written off the series. Jaimee Foxworth, the actress that played Judy requested a salary increase, which lead to her character 'going upstairs and never coming back down.' Following Foxworth's character being written off, the shows timeline was adjusted to show that Judy never existed, and Eddie and Laura were the only two kids of Carl and Harriet.
In 1997, CBS bought Family Matters from the ABC network. CBS would cancel the show just after one season. Also, Jo Marie Payton, who played the character of Harriet Winslow left the show following the move to CBS. However, she did agree to appear in the first half of the 9th season. She was replaced by Judyann Elder, who portrayed the character of Harriette Winslow until the show's cancellation.
Reginald VelJohnson, Jo Marie Payton, Darius McCrary, and Kellie Shanygne Williams were the only actors to appear in episodes during all nine seasons. Rosetta LeNoire would become a recurring character in seasons 8 and 9. Telma Hopkins left after season 4, and would become a recurring character in seasons 6 and 9. Bryton McClure was a regular from seasons 2-7, but would become a recurring character in seasons 8-9.
Fun Facts about 'Family Matters'
Although 'Family Matters' often entailed serious issues, the show was a fairly lighthearted sitcom. Here are some fun facts about the actors and their characters from Family Matters.
- Eddie Winslow was the oldest Winslow child. However, Darius McCrary, who portrayed Eddie is 2 months younger than Kellie Shanygne Williams, who portrayed middle child Laura Winslow.
- In the show's first season, Jaleel White would often be spotted having a red tongue as Steve Urkel. White frequently drank Kool-Aid during taping's of the show to give himself a sugar rush. This helped White to display the hyperactive state of his character Steve Urkel.
- Reginald VelJohnson, who portrayed Carl Winslow is actually 2 years younger than Jo Marie Payton, who played Harriette Winslow. On the show, Carl was older than Harriet.
- Jaleel White began to progress into an adult during the show's run, which affected his character Steve Urkel. To help maintain Steve's appearance, White was required to shave daily and avoid lifting weights.
- Judyann Elder appeared as Sister Bernadette in an episode titled 'Nunsense' in season 5. She would later play the role of Harriette Winslow midway through the 9th season till the show's cancellation.
- Steve Urkel's character became so popular that a series of merchandise were created from his popularity. Merchandise included a talking doll, t-shirts, posters, and even the character's own limited edition cereal.
Starring Cast, and Where They Are Today.
Following their time on 'Family Matters', some of the Winslow family members have continued to act, while others have passed on. Here is where the majority of the cast are today.
- Reginald VelJohnson - Carl Winslow: Carl Winslow is the father of the Winslow household, and a cop with the Chicago police department. Reginald VelJohnson continues to act today. He recently appeared in the series 'Tron: The Uprising', and in the soap opera 'General Hospital'.
- JoMarie Payton - Harriette Winslow: Harriette Winslow is the mother of the Winslow household. JoMarie Payton also continues to act today. She has appeared in the series 'Desperate Housewives', and 'Meet the Browns'.
- Rosetta LeNoire - Estelle 'Mother' Winslow: Estelle Winslow is Carl's mother. She is often referred to as 'Mother Winslow'. After a long career as an actress, Ms. LeNoire passed away at the age of 90. Her passing came from complications due to diabetes in 2002. She was 85 at the time when she left 'Family Matters'. Her last role was in 1998 on the TV series 'Cosby'.
- Darius McCrary - Edward 'Eddie' Winslow: Eddie Winslow is Carl and Harriette's eldest child. Darius McCrary is currently still in the acting business. He has appeared in the movies 'Saw VI' and 'Next Day Air'. McCrary also voiced the Autobot Jazz in 2007's 'Transformers'. McCrary has also appeared on the soap opera 'The Young and the Restless'.
- Kellie Shanygne Williams - Laura Winslow: Laura Winslow is the Winslow's middle child and eldest daughter. She was romantically pursued by Steve Urkel throughout the show. Kellie Williams is still in the acting business, although she hasn't appeared in a lot of roles as of late. Williams is married, and has two kids.
- Jaimee Foxworth - Judith 'Judy' Winslow: Judy Winslow is Carl and Harriette's youngest child. She was later written off to show as if she never existed. Jaimee Foxworth left the acting business following her time on 'Family Matters'. She gained notoriety in 2000 when it was discovered that she had been doing pornographic films under the name 'Crave'. Foxworth gave birth to her first child in 2009.
- Telma Hopkins - Rachel Crawford: Rachel is Harriette's younger sister. Rachel came to live with Carl and Harriette following her husband's death. Telma Hopkins is still acting currently. She recently appeared in the TV series 'Are We There Yet'.
- Bryton McClure - Richie Crawford: Richie is Rachel Crawford's son. Bryton McClure is still acting, and is also a popular singer. He has appeared in the soap opera 'The Young and the Restless'.
- Jaleel White - Steve Urkel: Steve Urkel is the Winslow's nerdy neighbor, who would create wacky inventions, and later live with the Winslows. Jaleel White is still in the entertainment industry. Following his time on Family Matters, White has appeared in various TV series and movies. He has also done voice work in various films and cartoons. He has a daughter from a previous relationship. White recently hosted the show 'Total Blackout'
- Shawn Harrison - Waldo Geraldo Faldo: Waldo was Eddie and Steve's goofy friend. Waldo was a recurring character in seasons 2-3, but became a regular in seasons 4-7. Shawn Harrison is still currently in the acting business. He has appeared on the shows 'Girlfriend's', and 'Moesha' among others.
- Orlando Brown - Jerry Jamal Jameson '3J': 3J is an orphan that was taken in by the Winslow's. He was a recurring character in season 7, but became a regular in seasons 8-9. Orlando Brown is currently active acting, and is also in the music business as a rapper. Brown has appeared on the series 'That's So Raven', 'The Jamie Foxx Show', and 'Moesha'.
- Judyann Elder - Harriette Winslow #2: Judyanne Elder last appeared on the TV series 'Family Time'. She also appeared in the movie 'Seven Pounds', and the TV series 'Desperate Housewives'.
- Michelle Thomas - Myra Monkhouse: Myra Monkhouse is Steve Urkel's girlfriend for much of the series. She was a recurring character in seasons 4-5. She would become a regular in seasons 6-9. Michelle Thomas passed away in 1998 from cancer. Besides her time on 'Family Matters', Thomas is remembered for her stint on 'The Cosby Show', and 'The Young and the Restless'.
Did you watch 'Family Matters' during it's run on television?
Although 'Family Matters' was a successful series for quite sometime, I think that many of the changes during it's run was what lead to it's decline in popularity over the years. The child actors on the show were just kids when the show began. By the time the show reached it's conclusion, they were full blown adults. I think that regardless as to how good an actor may be, there are some roles that become difficult to pull off.
As I mentioned earlier, Jaleel White's Steve Urkel character became increasingly difficult for him. It seemed at times that White struggled maintaining Urkel's signature high pitched voice as the seasons progressed. However, it's a role that White will always be remembered for. I'm sure that 'The Urk-Man' continues to live on in many of our minds. Family Matters would become an increasingly unrealistic show throughout the seasons. Some of Steve Urkel's wacky inventions made no sense, but reminded us that in the realm of film and television, any and all things are possible.
Looking back at the show now, I can definitely point out a lot of things that I could be critical of. However, the characters on Family Matters were extremely likable, and the comedic elements of the show are enough to make me chuckle even today. I guess it's an example that no matter how far back the past can go, it's never too far away to still enjoy today.