Family Matters Wiki
Family Matters Wiki

Carlton "Carl" Otis Winslow is a fictional character portrayed by Reginald VelJohnson on the ABC/CBS American sitcom Family Matters from 1989 to 1998. He is the main protagonist.



Carl is a hard-working and humble man despite that Steve is driving him crazy in most episodes. He is a police officer for the Chicago Police Department. and then as a police sergeant, next Lieutenant and then Captain. Carl takes his role as the bread-winner of the household very seriously. His opinion of being the "man of the house" tends to get in the way of more personal issues with his wife, Harriette. His ego often gets him into trouble with Harriette, although he is somewhat quick to concede to his wife, as she often ends up teaching him a lesson when it comes to resolving petty marital disputes. Carl can be very cheap, he usually cut corners to save money or when he sees the bills and tries to pays his own taxes. He even builds things himself, when he sees the bill of how much it would it cost (understandably) and decide to build it himself. That ends in disaster and Harriette having to see his brother, Calvin to help them properly with their taxes. Carl has a tendency to come down very hard on his only son, Eddie, and occasionally his pesky neighbor Steve, while being protective of his daughters, Laura and Judy, at the same time. On occasion, Carl acts in an erratic fashion and usually blames it on his stressful job. However, deep down, Carl has shown he is a very loving and caring father. Once, he became offended when Laura wore a skimpy, revealing dress in Dumb Belle of the Ball and gave Eddie an ultimatum when it was revealed that he was drinking beers at his fraternity parties in Tips for a Better Life. In Hot Stuff, this had Eddie telling Carl "It's time you stopped acting like a cop and started acting like my dad!". His favorite food is doughnuts, something very stereotypical of policemen. Carl is the son of Estelle and Samuel Winslow. According to the pilot episode of the series, he has four brothers: Walter, Darryl, Calvin and Frank. Frank (Ted Lange) appeared in the eighth-season episode "The Brother Who Came to Dinner," and was portrayed as a long-estranged member of the family who was on the wrong side of the law. Carl, along with his son and daughter is mostly, constantly and always being annoyed, irritated, harassed, bothered and tormented by his pesky neighbor Steve who doesn't learn to leave him alone, keep his personal space and always never stop accidentally damaging to his house with Urkel's ill-fated invention machines.

10 things Carl likes so much[]

  • Carl chases Steve around the Winslow home
  • Punishing Eddie for his reckless behavior.
  • Trying to get Steve to leave him alone.
  • His nerd-free days where he gets peace and quiet
  • His house rules
  • He job as a police officer
  • Steve paid him off for damaging the Winslow house.
  • Trying different ways get to rid off of Steve.
  • Throwing snowballs at Judy and Richie and blame Steve for it.
  • Try to get Steve to value his personal space(which he does after going through a similar experience with Myra)
  • Keep Steve out of his house.

21 things that Carl Dislikes in his house[]

  • Steve irritates him too many times
  • His extremely pesky neighbor, Steve Urkel
  • Eddie's irresponsible behavior
  • House Parties
  • Steve damages his Winslow house (which he has apologized for and paid for it's repairs).
  • Steve tried to kill him
  • Steve hitting him seen in the Words Hurt episode.
  • Steve damages his Winslow bedroom Tips for a Better Life.
  • Steve disturbs him in the middle of conversation with Eddie.
  • Lt. Murtaugh being an overbearing and unpleasant boss in his home
  • Nick's obnoxious, overbearing, not-so-neighborly and bad behavior.
  • Harriette going on strike against him and the "Man of the House" rules
  • His mother dating Fletcher Thomas.
  • Eddie endangering Richie's life by willingly leaving him with Waldo just so he can go on a date at a friend's Halloween party.
  • No one taking in account where he wanted to go on a family vacation(which Harriette set him straight)
  • Eddie's gambling addiction, explored three times in season 2's Fast Eddie Winslow, Busted and season 5's Money Out the Window.
  • Charlie Carnelli's disrespectful nature explored in Flashpants
  • Weasel's disrespect to meter maids by mooning them, which is offensive to law enforcement officers in general.
  • Steve's cousin, OGD, giving 3J a rap CD containing lyrics that disrespect police officers.
  • Dr. Urkel's compost heap.
  • Eddie coming home late after curfew with his late-night carousing(the latest being back in season 4's The Oddest Couple)
  • Harriette telling him not to fix things in the house(having valid reasons against doing so)

11 Things Carl Likes about Steve[]

  • Selflessly risked his own life to save Carl's as revealed in Ice Station Winslow, Number One With a Bullet, My Bodyguard and Random Acts of Science.
  • Saved Carl from doing something he was about to regret Born to Be Mild, when a street gang the Dragons beat the snot out of Eddie and find a way to bring down the gang the right way.
  • Steve helped him out a few times catching dangerous criminals.
  • Came to his and his children's aid when they needed his help as revealed in the flashbacks on What's Up Doc?
  • Gave him, Eddie, and Laura a few or couple of days of not to be tormented by Urkel.
  • Defended Urkel against Dexter Thornhill when he questioned Carl about his clumsiness. However unlike in What's Up Doc?, he can forgive Steve for it because he had saved Carl's life before with flashbacks to back up his statement in Presumed Urkel.
  • Wisely sets Carl straight when he has done selfish stuff as revealed in Number One With a Bullet, Till Death Do Us Apartment, Fa La La La Laagghh! and Throw Urkel off the Train.
  • Gave good advice when Carl was down on himself and reminded him the road not taken is the best decision he made in Throw Urkel off the Train.
  • Valued Carl's personal space (which Urkel does after going through a similar experience with Myra).
  • Selflessly gave up his own time to help Carl over come his fear of heights in High Hopes by having him go on a balloon ride.
  • Teamed up with Urkel and used the transformation chamber(with the Bruce Lee sample) to be Bruce Lee Urkel and Bruce Lee Winslow to stop a dangerous gang whose been raiding police warehouse in lieu of their own gang members being arrested in Random Acts of Science.
  • Saved Carl's life after being electrocuted by administering CPR in Saved by the Urkel. The harrowing experience inspired Eddie, Laura and Waldo to learn CPR.
  • Has respected Carl's House rules since Surely You Joust.
  • Has apologized for the damages he's caused to Carl's house due to his clumsiness and paid to get the damages fixed (thanks to his relatives giving him money for the times he doesn't visit them and even his job at Mighty Weenie)


Relationship with Steve Urkel[]

Especially during the early years, Carl is openly vocal when it comes to showing his displeasure with next-door neighbor, Steve Urkel, who seemingly shows up at the house during inconvenient or inopportune times. Carl often becomes annoyed and irritated with Steve for one of several occasions:

  • Most often, when he is pressed into helping Steve test out his often useless—and accident-prone—inventions. The contraption would invariably backfire, and Carl would become the victim of its unpredictable and/or undesirable effects. Property damage and/or bodily harm to the Winslows' household caused by Steve's clumsiness (or the ill-fated machines) only adds to Carl's frustration.
  • When Steve disrupted him in the middle of the discipline Eddie, Carl become irritated.
  • When Steve is always picking on him, irritating his son Eddie and annoyed his daughter Laura.
  • When Steve is damaging his Winslow house 🏡 too many times.
  • When Steve tries to talk about an odd or esoteric topic that the Winslows have no interest in (e.g.- a visit to a cheese festival).
  • When Steve tries any one of a number of elaborate schemes to win Laura's heart (which usually fails or succeeds, but something happens at the wrong time)

However, Carl understands that Steve looks up to him like a father-figure, and often shows gratitude when he helps him resolve a series of tough personal crisis (ex., helped him conquer a fear of heights, thwarted a bank robber attempting to kill him, scaring away a cat with a match stick who tried to eat them when they shrunk, using his transformation chamber to defeat a dangerous gang, rescuing him from drowning and using CPR to bring him back after he got electrocuted). Other times, he helps him deal with tough situations of his own, such as learning how to swim to pass physical education class, while on occasion, Carl has to stick up for his nerdy neighbor. Carl eventually grows tolerant of Steve, and accepts him as a member of his family. At the end of the episode "Random Acts of Science" he reveals to Urkel "I couldn't be even more proud if you were my own son." since he saved his life five times. Carl even revealed it during season 5's Presumed Urkel that while Steve has caused a lot of damages, it's only really minor because he selflessly has saved his life before (something that Dexter Thornhill, Principal Shimata or anyone else in the makeshift courtroom obviously didn't notice). Like his children Eddie and Laura, Carl has gotten an opportunity to see what it is like to walk in Steve's shoes through different means. This happened to Carl in the sixth-season opener, "To Be or Not to Be", where he stepped into Steve's transformation machine in an effort to improve his eyesight without having to visit the optometrist. However, he ended up adopting a Steve-like personality and clothing, becoming known as Carl Urkel after his girlfriend, Myra Monkhouse, tampered with the machine thinking that Stefan will use it to return as Steve and realized her mistake when she learns that Carl is in there instead. He spends the next few days walking a mile in Urkel's shoes, indulging in things that he would never indulge in when he was normal. While Steve as Stefan found out what life was like as Carl and realized all the inconvenient times he let himself as Steve in without asking, leading to him bellowing at his nerdy neighbor. After returning to his normal self, Carl realizes that he could've spared himself the trouble by taking Harriette's advice and go see an opathomologist for glasses.

In Crazier for You (Part 2), Carl warns Steve not to be involved with Laura until he's absolutely certain that he has ended things with Myra properly. He mentions of a similar past with an ex-girlfriend named Georgia whom he used to date while he was in the police academy. Carl also reveals that he had bought a ring and had been planning to propose to Georgia. However, she had different plans and dumped him. Harriette had comforted him and they were enjoying each other's company. On the night Carl had been planning to propose to her, Georgia came back into his life claiming she had regretted her decision to leave him. When she realized that he was dating Harriette, Georgia got angry and staked him relentlessly. Harriette was able to ward her off, but Carl still felt remorse for having not ended things with Georgia before hand. The story hits home to Steve and he later sees the similarities between her and Myra. The two women had refused to take No for an answer and stalked them. Thus, Urkel is convinced Carl is right and he must go to Myra's house. He needs to confront her again for her actions and end his relationship properly before moving on to Laura


  • Steve's nickname for Carl, "Big Guy", is also a nickname used by Sonic the Hedgehog to address Miles "Tails" Prower in the first two Sonic the Hedgehog cartoons. Not surprisingly, Sonic is voiced in these cartoons by Jaleel White, who plays Steve.
  • The only punishment Carl gave to Steve was the chase the nerdy neighbor when Urkel irritated him.
  • Carl doesn't like when someone like Steve disturbs him.
  • Another common and running gag other than being the unwilling test subject for Urkel's experiments gone haywire, involves Carl attempting to fix things around the house that are more than outside his understanding. Despite Harriette's admonition to hire a qualified professional to get the job done properly, he refuses because of the costs (understandably) and commonly enlists Eddie in a futile attempt to get the job done themselves. The only times Carl was able to prove her wrong was in season 3's Brain Over Brawn and season 5's It Didn't Happen One Night. His ineptness in fixing a defective lamp nearly cost him: his life in Saved by the Urkel. After ignoring Urkel's warning to unplug the cord, Carl is electrocuted and knocked out cold. Fortunately, Steve is able to save his life by administering CPR(Cardiopulmonary resuscitation) to resuscitate him. This proved successful and the Winslows show gratitude. Carl's near death incident inspired Eddie, Laura and Waldo to take a CPR class.
    • Season 7's She's Back was supposed to have Carl attempt another DIY in attempting the fix the garbage disposal himself against Harriette and Laura's admonition that he calls a professional to do it for him. He makes it worse by ignoring them and paying for his mistake once more.
  • Carl's character was originally a fictional character on the show Perfect Strangers.
  • Carl didn't approve of his mother, Estelle, dating Fletcher out of fear that she would never get over his death like what happened to his own father and tried to keep them apart in a couple of episodes. However, he was convinced to give their relationship a chance when Harriette encouraged him to be open minded and stop hurting her by being cynical in keeping them away from each other. Fletcher is not seen in the ninth season, implying that Fletcher did indeed die.
  • Chicago Police Department Ranks
  • Police Officer - Perfect Strangers Crime busters and before Family Matters
  • Police Sergeant - Season 1-5
  • Police Lieutenant - Season 6-8
  • Police Captain - Season 9
  • The only character to appear in every episode.


Carl: (When Urkel drives him crazy too many) STTTTEEEEVEEEEE!!!!

Carl: (yells at Urkel when the clumsy nerd damaged the Winslows house by accident) STEVE!! YOU'RE GOING TO PAY FOR IT!

Carl: (When Urkel interrupted him in the middle of the discipline Eddie) Steve when I'm having a family conversation with Edward, You stay out of this!

Carl: (to Eddie about Urkel after interrupted of discipline Eddie) look Edward I know that Steve is driving us crazy with his antics, he's having the similar discussion with his father how annoying he is.

Carl: (when fed up with Urkel) GO HOME, GO HOME, GO HOME!!!

Carl: (to Harriette) Hariette, Steve is really driving me crazy every time!

Carl:[confronting Eddie for being late] Edward, son. Your curfew is 11 o' clock. Not 11:30, not 11:45 and certainly not 12:22.

Carl:[to Steve] Steve why can't you go irritate someone else for a change.