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Steven Quincy Urkel (born 1976 or 1977), generally known as Steve Urkel or just simply Urkel, is a fictional character on the ABC/CBS comedy sitcom Family Matters, portrayed by Jaleel White. Originally slated to have been a one-time guest on the show, he soon became its most popular character.

Steve was the epitome of a geek/nerd, with large, thick eyeglasses, "high-water" or "flooding" pants held up by suspenders, multi-colored cardigan sweaters, and a high-pitched voice. He professed unrequited love for neighbor Laura Winslow, perpetually annoyed her father, Carl, and tried to befriend her brother, Eddie. Amongst the rest of the family, Harriette; Rachel; and "Mother" Estelle Winslow were more accepting and caring of Urkel.

Throughout the series' run, Steve was central to many of its recurring gags, primarily gratuitous property damage and/or personal injury as a result of his inventions going awry or his outright clumsiness. He became known for several catch phrases uttered after some humorous misfortune occurred, including "I've fallen and I can't get up!" after he accidentally got drunk in one episode and fell off of the edge of a building, "Did I do that?" (previously used by Curly in the 1934 Three Stooges short Punch Drunks), "Whoa, Mama!" and "Look what you did." (if, rarely, someone else caused the damage) Later in the show, Steve would say, "At least nobody got hurt!" with Carl saying, "Not Yet!" Steve was also known for his distinctive laugh, which consisted of a loud cackle followed by a nasal snort.

Character development

White's first appearance as Steve came in the episode "Laura's First Date," the twelfth episode of the first season (though in syndication he first appears in "Rachel's First Date"), as the Winslow family's next door neighbor who Carl set up to take Laura to a junior high school dance. Though he was only intended to be a one-time guest, White was quickly promoted to recurring guest and became a full-time series regular by the end of the first season.

Steve was portrayed as a highly intelligent but annoying and clumsy person who fondly admired the Winslow family. His strained relationship with his own parents led him to admire Carl and Harriette as father and mother figures, respectively, and caused him to be a regular, often uninvited guest at the Winslow house. Some of the Winslows, particularly Carl, Eddie, and Laura, did not always reciprocate Steve's admiration; despite this, he was always loyal to the Winslow family and would go out of his way to help them or anyone in need. As time progressed, the Winslows grew to love Steve, and he and Laura got engaged to be married in the third-to-last episode.

Family

The Urkels are very intelligent people; Steve and his family were known to do the Sunday New York Times crossword puzzle in pen in about 20 minutes. However, Steve's parents did not love him, something that is made clear through the recurring gags of comical verbal and physical abuse mentioned in the show (for example, his parents set a midnight curfew for when he is allowed to come home, and they used birthday candles that blew up). When he was born his parents tried to push him back in the womb, and his parents do not own a car because he was born in one.

The viewers see that Steve has at least three relatives who do care about him. Besides Myrtle, in an early episode, entitled "The Big Fix – AKA Mercy Date," his uncle Ernie, drives him on his date with Laura, and takes a picture. He also seems to have a good relationship with his "Aunt Oona from Altoona", (notably played by Donna Summer), as she pays him visits in two episodes. He also mentions his Uncle Cecil throughout the series, so it implies that Uncle Cecil cares for Steve. Other relatives included Myrtle's father "Big Daddy" (played by Reginald VelJohnson in a dual role) who didn't think Eddie was a good choice for his daughter, and Steve's gangster cousin Cornelius Eugene Urkel (also played by White) who went by the moniker "Original Gangsta Dawg."

In 1995, his parents moved to Russiamarker without Steve, because he didn't want to go, apparently abandoning him. He wanted to stay with his friends and finish his senior year of high school. Steve was then allowed to live with the Winslows; however, in a 1998 episode, a subplot has Steve visiting his parents.

In one episode, it was indicated that Steve's parents are atheists; Steve himself admitted that his family doesn't attend church after he was welcomed to the Winslow family church.

In addition to his parents (who were never seen, although his mother once was heard off-screen, and a glimpse of the side of her face is in one of Steve's baby pictures), his family also included his cousin, Myrtle Urkel (also played by White), a southern belle whose innocent infatuation with Laura's brother, Eddie, was equal to Steve's for Laura – except Myrtle (try as she might) never grew on Eddie as Steve over time grew on Laura.

Stefan Urquelle

During the fifth season episode "Dr. Urkel and Mr. Cool," Urkel devised the ultimate plan to win Laura's heart: transforming his DNA using a serum called "Cool Juice" to suppress his "nerd" genes and bring out his "cool" genes. This resulted in the alter ego known as Stefan Urquelle, played by White in more casual attire and with a smoother delivery. Initially, Laura is enamored with Stefan, but asks that he turn back into Steve when Stefan's self-centered, narcissistic attitude comes out.

Steve later improved the formula to limit the effects it had on his new personality, and re-dubbed the formula "Boss Sauce." He also invented a "transformation chamber," which allowed him to turn into Stefan for extended periods of time. He changed into Stefan several times — even while dating Myra — but some circumstance caused him to change back into Steve each time. Late in the sixth season, Steve transformed into Stefan as part of an inventors competition at Walt Disney Worldmarker; however, Laura sabotaged the transformation chamber to prevent him from turning back into Steve. During his extended stint as Stefan, he proposed to Laura in front of Cinderella Castle. Laura accepted, but their engagement was broken off when Myra appealed to Stefan and Laura revealed her sabotage.

At the end of the seventh season, Steve created a cloning machine, which he used on himself to create a duplicate. Faced with the dilemma created by having two identical Steve Urkels, and unable to determine which was the original and which was the clone, Laura suggested that one be permanently transformed into Stefan, who then became Laura's boyfriend.

The permanent Stefan made several more appearances throughout the series and proposed to Laura again before the series finale. After weighing her choices in the flashback episode "Pop Goes the Question," Laura went with Steve over Stefan, Stefan leaves and does not reappear.

Ratings effect

Steve first appeared in the 1989 episode "Laura's First Date," where Carl and Eddie separately set up dates for Laura for a Sadie Hawkins dance, and the first thing known about him is that he allegedly ate a mouse, and he later makes reference to a mouse when speaking to Carl, implying that it might be true. Several scripts had to be hastily re-written to accommodate the Steve character, while several first-season episodes that had been completed had new opening gag sequences filmed featuring Steve trying to push open a door while the Winslow family holds it shut. The addition of Steve immediately helped the show boost its modest ratings. White was credited as a guest star in the first season and became a regular member of the cast in season two.

The Urkel Dance

The Urkel Dance was a novelty dance that originated in the episode Life of the Party. It was based around the character of Steve Urkel and essentially incorporated movements which made the dancer's posture more like his. The lyrics instructed the dancer how to pose: "If you want to do the Steve Urkel dance, all you have to do is hitch up your pants, bend your knees, and stick out your pelvis; (I'm telling you, baby, it's better than Elvis!)". It was popular enough to appear on another show, Step by Step.Jaleel White also performed the song, in character as Steve Urkel, on the 5th Annual American Comedy Awards. Bea Arthur joined him on stage to "Do The Urkel," after which she replied, "MC Hammer had better watch his back".

A promotional cassette single of the song that accompanies the dance was pressed and distributed in limited numbers. A t-shirt was also produced featuring lyrics and Urkel'slikeness.

Appearances on other shows

  • Full House – In the 1991 episode, Stephanie Gets Framed he is called in to help Stephanie Tanner (Jodie Sweetin) deal with her anxieties after she has to get glasses. He was cousin to a friend of D. J..
  • Step by Step – In the series' second episode, The Dance, Steve helps his science-fair pen pal, Mark Foster and lifts Alicia "Al" Lambert (Christine Lakin's) spirits after her potential date dumps her just before a school dance. White reprises his "Do the Urkel" dance in the scene where Al gives her boyfriend his comeuppance. Also, Steve makes a brief appearance in the episode where Al gets the movie role over her two sisters. He can be seen for 2 seconds snapping a clapboard during the music video part. In another episode, Steve lands in the Step by Step family's back yard after launching himself with a rocket pack from the living room of the Winslows' house on Family Matters (the two scenes being shown in uninterrupted sequence, as Family Matters and Step by Step aired back to back on television at the time).
  • Additionally, Steve once received a chain letter and thought he'd send it on to his friend Cory Matthews who lived in Philadelphia. The reference is to Ben Savage's character from Boy Meets World, but there were no crossovers.


Merchandise

At the height of his popularity, Urkel's name was branded to several products including a short-lived fruit flavored cereal known as Urkel-Os and a Steve pullstring doll.

Catchphrases

Steve had many catchphrases and running gags, several of which were phased out in later seasons.
  • "Did I do that?" is the most popular catchphrase; usually uttered after Steve caused one of his famous messes. Occasionally, if said in front of an audience, they will respond with "Yes, you did," as well as tending to be parodied.
  • "At least no one got hurt.", which is said after a major accident occurs. Someone else would usually shout "Not yet!" and chase Steve.
  • "Got any cheese?"
  • "You love me, don't you?" which is also said whenever Laura shows the slightest interest in him.
  • "Look what you did!", which is said after someone causes a mess or accident in front of Steve.


Notes

  1. Episode Stephanie Gets Framed of Full House reads 1976, Robo-Nerd II reads 1977
  2. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9C0DE0DF163CF936A35751C0A961958260
  3. The House of Diabolique vs. Bea Arthur & Urkel
  4. [1]



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