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The Winslow family is a pretty normal family except for one thing, their neighbor Stephen Urkel. A genius and klutz Steve makes some really weird inventions while driving the Winslows insane. Written by
Like it or not, 'Family Matters' did produce a cultural icon. People everywhere knew who you were talking about when you mentioned the name 'Urkle,' the accident-prone next door neighbor who wore red framed glasses, suspenders, highwater pants, and had a passion for cheese and an admiration for Laura Winslow. Funny, too, that his becoming a regular on the show was by mere accident, since they only wrote Steve in for one episode. Like all cultural icons, it will be the one that actor Jaleel White will be forever associated.
'Family Matters' was a terrific comedy series, save the last one or two seasons where the situations became pretty desperate as an aging Jaleel White likely got tired (and too old) to play the hapless nerd character, and wanted to just be normal Steve (which he could because in the show he invented a machine where he often played a Dr. Steve and Mr. Urkle type towards the end of the series). It was also one of the few pleasant black comedies on television then and now, as few these days seem to offer anything more than insulting stereotypes and idiotic characters. The Winslows were a loving family (and one that didn't speak in ebonics just because they're black) who faced difficult problems in their lives and so forth. The show addressed issues of racial pride, of prejudice, of love, your typical family values.
The Winslow family consisted of the sometimes impulsive Carl (VelJohnson), the father; Harriet the intelligent mother (Judyann Elder); the oldest son, Eddie (McCrary); the oldest daughter, Laura (Kellie Shanygne Williams); the youngest sister Judy (Jaimee Foxworth), who appeared occasionally before disappearing altogether; and later, they added a little fellow named Ritche (Bryton McClure). There was also Mother Winslow (LaNoire); and of course, Steve Urkel.
Urkle did compete a few years later with Waldo (Shawn Harrison), Eddie's friend, because like all television comedy series, they need an idiot character. Urkel did create many misadventures because he never seemed to pay attention to what he was doing, but he was no idiot. Or, at least not the way Waldo was. He was a pretty funny guy for the while he was on the show.
And they were a pretty funny family, especially in the moments between Carl Winslow (Reginald VelJohnson), the father of the household, and his dufus friend, Urkel, which went on for some time the way Dennis the Menace often got on the nerves of George Wilson. Likewise, Urkel found it easy to annoy many of those in the Winslow household, namely the object of his affection: Laura, who squirmed around the hopeless dork, but finally managed to look past his faults (basically, just his appearance and awkward manner).
It was a pleasant show that ran in the TGIF line-up for quite some time, with other family comedy series that generated an audience and developed into series in a way that ABC may never again be able to reproduce. Everyone on the show was terrific, although my favorite, wasn't Urkel, but the lovely Rossetta LeNoire who played Mother (Estelle) Winslow. She was always such a pleasant character, and gave such a great performance.
If you ever get to see the reruns of the show, which do appear on network television every now and again, I would recommend watching it. It was a pretty good family series for it's day. And one that produced a cultural icon.
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