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Family Matters is an American sitcom about a middle-class African American family living in Chicagomarker. The series was spun off from Perfect Strangers and revolves around the Winslow family. 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 a main character. Family Matters aired from September 22, 1989, to September 19, 1997, on ABC, and moved to CBS from September 19, 1997, to July 17, 1998.

Having aired 215 episodes, Family Matters is the second-longest-running U.S. sitcom with a predominantly African-American cast, surpassed only by The Jeffersons.


Family Matters originally focused on the character of Carl Winslow and his family: wife Harriette Winslow, rebellious son Eddie Winslow, intelligent daughter Laura Winslow, youngest child Judy Winslow (until Season 4), and (later) adopted son 3J.

In the series opener, the family had also opened their home to Carl's street-wise mother, Estelle Winslow (usually known as "Mother Winslow"), as well as Harriette's sister, Rachel Crawford, and her son, Richie Crawford, after the death of Rachel's husband prior to the start of the series.

The Winslows' nerdy next-door neighbor, Steve Urkel was introduced midway through the first season and quickly became the focus of the show. The popular sitcom was part of ABC's TGIF from 1989 until 1997, before it became part of the CBS Block Party lineup from 1997 until 1998. 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).


Notable guest stars

Character departures

As the focus of the show began to center more and more on Urkel (and occasionally his alter-ego, Stefan), other original characters were shunted to the periphery. By 1993, the actresses who portrayed two members of the Winslow household, Judy (Jaimee Foxworth) and Rachel (Telma Hopkins), left the show. Hopkins (as Rachel) left the series after the fourth season to focus on her own series (Getting By), but she made occasional guest appearances until 1997. Foxworth was let go at the end of the series' fourth season due to a "budget consideration", and her character's absence was never explained. Show creator William Bickley admitted Judy's absence was never explained because producers hoped that audiences wouldn't notice. Foxworth later revealed on The Oprah Winfrey Show and The Tyra Banks Show that her mother demanded that her character be developed in order to receive more money, and those demands were denied.

In later seasons, other characters also disappeared. Shawn Harrison's character, Waldo, was said to have gone off to culinary school. Waldo had been mentioned a season later by Maxine, who received a poorly addressed Dear Jane letter from Waldo. Bryton McClure, who played Richie, started to appear less once 3J was introduced, and disappeared by the last season. Rosetta LeNoire, who played Carl's mother, Estelle Winslow, was gone by the last season as well, due to aging (she was 85 in the 8th season). Jo Marie Payton-Noble, the original actress who played Harriette (originating the character on Perfect Strangers), left in December 1997 because she was unhappy with the emphasis placed on Steve Urkel and his sub-characters (Stefan, Myrtle, O.G.D., etc.). When a Parade viewer asked why she was replaced, Jo Marie Payton-Noble stated that she also wanted to write or direct an episode, but was never permitted to do so. She was replaced in the last nine episodes of the ninth season by Judyann Elder.

In the Season 9 Christmas episode "Deck the Malls", Estelle, Richie, and Rachel appear for the last time. It is also Jo Marie Payton's last appearance as Harriette.

Network change

In early 1997, CBS bought Family Matters and Step By Step for $40 million 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 parent company, Disney. Miller-Boyett thought that they would not be big players on ABC after recently being bought up by Disney. So in turn Miller-Boyett Productions signed in the $40 million offer from CBS for both Family Matters and Step By Step to be renewed for a 22-episode season on CBS. CBS put Family Matters, along with Step By Step as a part of their new Friday line-up they called the "CBS Block Party". They put up the "CBS Block Party" against ABC's TGIF lineup, where the two series previously originated. CBS cancelled Family Matters and Step By Step after one season, along with the rest of the "Block Party" lineup.



Family Matters was a top 50 hit for its first eight seasons, and ranked in the top 30 for the second, third, and fourth seasons. However, when the show moved to CBS, it fell out of the top 100 altogether.

Production notes

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 (also producers of Perfect Strangers), it was also executive produced by Bickley, Warren, Miller and Boyett. 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 Time Warner banner) in 1993). Starting with season three, the series was also produced by Bickley-Warren Productions.

The series was filmed in front of a live studio audience at WB studios in Burbank, Californiamarker.

Theme song and opening credits

Theme song

The show's original theme was the Louis Armstrong classic "What a Wonderful World", but was scrapped after three episodes, though it was only heard 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, would be the theme for the majority of the series until 1995 (again this was heard in season one episodes in ABC Family and syndicated airings). A longer version of "As Days Go By" can be heard in the first three seasons, though in syndicated reruns the short version is heard (in ABC Family airings, however, the long theme was used for all of the season one through three episodes).

Opening credits

The opening sequence begins with a shot of the Chicago Lakefront (the John Hancock Centermarker 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 season two through four version, or Eddie as a bag boy at a grocery store during season one version). The opening credits during the first three seasons feature a scene showing the Winslow family riding their bicycles across a bridge over the Chicago Rivermarker; an allusion to parent series Perfect Strangers, which featured a scene of Larry and Balki (played by Bronson Pinchot and Mark Linn-Baker) riding a tour boat underneath the same bridge in its own opening credits from season three until the end 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 W. Wrightwood Avenue in Chicago, Illinois. 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 Chicago skyline 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). In season seven, the opening theme song and credits were dropped. The names of cast members and some producers were shown in the opening teaser for season seven and eight.

The role of Richie as a baby was credited as being played by "Joseph Julius Wright" in season 1 (the duo was credited this way because the show's producers did not want audiences to know that Richie was then played by twins). Julius' name was made to appear as Joseph's middle name in the titles (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 TV or film production to be played by twins). Another Miller-Boyett production, Full House credited Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen in the same manner in its opening credits until its seventh season. In season five after Telma Hopkins left the show, Jaleel White was now 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" (Hopkins was credited similarly as "And Telma Hopkins as Rachel" prior to season five).

Crossovers with other TGIF shows

Family Matters is set in the same "TV universe" as several other TV series related to ABC's TGIF:
  • 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 1991 episode, "Stephanie Gets Framed", Steve Urkel helps Stephanie Tanner (Jodie Sweetin) deal with her anxiety after she has to wear eyeglasses.
  • 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 Philadelphiamarker. The two never actually appeared together on either show.
  • 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, Wisconsinmarker, 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.


In 1995, reruns aired on TBS Superstation until 2003. From 1997-2002, it was aired on WGN America. In 2003, ABC Family picked up the series and would air it for five years. In March 2008, ABC Family removed the show from their line-up.

The show currently airs on Nick at Nite, a U.S. cable network, since June 28, 2008. The WB network also aired reruns of the series during the 1990s.

Awards and nominations

Year Award Result Category Recipient
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 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)


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