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Family Matters is an American television sitcom which aired on ABC from September 22, 1989, to May 9, 1997, for 8 years and moved to CBS from September 19, 1997, to July 17, 1998, for 1 year. The series is about a middle-class African American family living in Chicago. The series is a spin-off of Perfect Strangers and revolves around the Winslow family.

Midway through the first season, the series introduced the Winslows' nerdy neighbor Steve Urkel (played by Jaleel White), who quickly became its breakout character and eventually, a main character.

With 215 episodes, Family Matters is the second-longest-running U.S. sitcom with a predominantly Black-American cast, surpassed only by The Jeffersons, also a spin-off (of All in the Family), which lasted longer than its parent series.


Family Matters originally focused on the character of Carl Winslow and his family: Wife Harriette, son Eddie Winslow, intelligent daughter Laura Winslow, youngest child Judy Winslow (until Season 4), and (later) let his sister-in-law Rachel Crawford and her son, Richie Crawford live in his house.

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 series. The popular sitcom was part of Syndication from 1989 until 1997, before it became part of the Syndication 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), and distributed by Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution.

As the show progressed, episodes began to center more and more on Urkel (and occasionally his alter-ego Stefan) and other original characters also played by Jaleel White.

Network Change[]

In early 1997, CBS bought Family Matters and Step by Step for $40 million from ABC. CBS then promised to pay Miller-Boyett Productions $1.5 million per episode for a 9th and 10th 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. The Tiffany network 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 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.


The cast was told to get ready to film a tenth and final season after the ninth one was completed. However, it was later discovered that CBS had the sets for the show demolished. Had the series continued for one more season, several events would have occurred:

  • Steve and Laura's wedding and honeymoon in Hawaii
  • The return of Cornelius Eugene Urkel and Myrtle Mae Urkel
  • 3J deciding to return to his biological mom
  • Stefan merging back into Steve's personality, making him a more mature person
  • Eddie and Waldo marrying their respective girlfriends
  • The birth of Stephanie Laurine Urkel


Main article: List of Family Matters characters


Actor Character Seasons
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
Reginald VelJohnson Carl Winslow Main
Jo Marie Payton Harriette Winslow Main
Judyann Elder Main
Darius McCrary Eddie Winslow Main
Kellie Shanygne Williams Laura Winslow Main
Jaimee Foxworth Judy Winslow Main
Rosetta LeNoire Estelle Winslow Main Recurs. Guest
Jaleel White Steve Urkel Recurring Main
Bryton McClure Richie Crawford Main Supporting (Recurs)
Joseph and Julius Wright Main
Telma Hopkins Rachel Crawford Main Recurring Guest
Shawn Harrison Waldo Geraldo Faldo Recurring Main
Michelle Thomas Myra Monkhouse Recurring Main
Orlando Brown Jerry Jamal Jameson Recurring Supporting (Main)
  • Jo Marie Payton made her last appearance in "Deck the Malls" (season 9, episode 11). Judyann Elder assumed the role of Harriette Winslow for the remainder of the season, beginning with "Crazy for You (Part 1)" (season 9, episode 14).
  • The character was first portrayed by Valerie Jones (Judy Winslow) in the pilot episode ("The Mama Who Came to Dinner"). Jaimee Foxworth assumed the role thereafter.

Other Urkel characters[]

Actor Years active Character Seasons
Jaleel White 1993–1998 Stefan Urquelle 5–9
1990, 1996–1998 Myrtle Mae Urkel 2, 7–9
1998 Cornelius Eugene Urkel (O.G.D.) 9 (guest)

Main supporting cast[]

Actor Years active Character Seasons
Cherie Johnson 1990–1998 Maxine Johnson 2–9
Tammy Townsend 1995–1998 Greta McClure 6–9



Main article: List of Family Matters episodes
Season Episodes Network Originally aired (U.S. dates)
Season premiere Season finale
1 22 ABC September 22, 1989 April 27, 1990
2 25 September 21, 1990 May 3, 1991
3 25 September 20, 1991 May 8, 1992
4 24 September 18, 1992 May 14, 1993
5 24 September 24, 1993 May 20, 1994
6 25 September 23, 1994 May 19, 1995
7 24 September 22, 1995 May 17, 1996
8 24 September 20, 1996 May 9, 1997
9 22 CBS September 19, 1997 July 17, 1998

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 (who also served as producers on Perfect Strangers), all four also served as executive producers of the series. 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 co-ownership of Time Warner). Starting with season three, the series was also produced by Bickley-Warren Productions. The series was filmed in front of a live studio audience; the Lorimar-produced episodes were shot at Lorimar Studios (later Sony Pictures Studios) in Culver City, California, while the Warner Bros.-produced episodes were filmed at Warner Bros. Studios in nearby Burbank.

Themed song and opening credits[]

The show's original theme was Louis Armstrong's "What a Wonderful World"; it was scrapped after the fifth episode of season one ("Straight A's"), though it was heard only 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, was the theme for the majority of the series until 1995; it was last used in the season seven episode "Fa La La La Laagghh," the only episode during the final three seasons to feature it (this was heard in season one episodes in ABC Family and syndicated airings). A longer version of "As Days Go By" was used during the first three seasons, though in syndicated reruns the short version is heard (in ABC Family airings, the long theme was used for all of the episodes during the first three seasons).


On September 28, 2017, eight of the Family Matters cast members reunited in Los Angeles for their 18th anniversary. Publicists for Jaimee Foxworth and Orlando Brown said that they "weren't able to attend, given their work schedules."


Despite the show's popularity, critical acclaim by viewers, and cult following, critics' reviews for Family Matters were by most accounts mediocre, particularly in its early years but became more positive in later years. The first season holds an aggregate score of 31/100 ("Generally unfavorable reviews") on Metacritic. In Slate, Willa Paskin referred to the series as "a hackneyed and saccharine family sitcom". Isaac Feldberg opined that it was "archetypally average, hiding behind a ubiquitous laugh track and obnoxiously on-the-nose life lessons."


Family Matters is set in the same "TV universe" as several other TV shows related to Syndication's TGIF or Syndication' Block Party:

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 season 4 Full House episode "Stephanie Gets Framed," Urkel helps Stephanie Tanner (Jodie Sweetin) deal with her anxiety after she finds out she has to wear eyeglasses because her vision is fading.

Step by Step[]

In the original Syndication 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, Wisconsin, 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.

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 Philadelphia. The two never actually appeared together on either show. (In the spin-off Girl Meets World, VelJohnson made a cameo appearance as "James," a NYPD officer.)


In this short-lived series, Steve makes a non-speaking cameo appearance in the second episode "Love and Money" where he angrily retrieves a television set stolen by Meego. He then appears in the third episode "The Truth About Cats and Dogs" helping out at a model car derby competition.

DVD Release[]

Warner Home Video has released the first four seasons of Family Matters on DVD in Region 1 while the remaining five seasons were released by the Warner Archive Collection. On February 4, 2014, Warner Home Video released season 4 on DVD, but consumers complained when it was found that the season 4 set contained syndication edits rather than the original broadcast masters. Warner Bros. responded to the complaints, offered a replacement program to receive corrected discs and reissuing the set with corrected broadcast copies on April 4. All episodes are the original broadcast form, except for the episode "Number One with a Bullet", disc 1, episode 6. The entire series is also available for digital download on and the iTunes Store, all but season 6 remastered in both SD and HD.

DVD Name Ep # Release Date
The Complete First Season 22 June 8, 2010
The Complete Second Season 25 February 14, 2012
The Complete Third Season 25 February 12, 2013
The Complete Fourth Season 24 February 4, 2014
The Complete Fifth Season 24 February 16, 2016
The Complete Sixth Season 25 April 12, 2016
The Complete Seventh Season 24 July 26, 2016
The Complete Eighth Season 24 September 20, 2016
The Complete Ninth Season 22 November 9, 2016
The Complete Series 215 September 26, 2023


It was rerun on WTOG (1991–1993), TBS Superstation/TBS (1995–2003, 2020–present), ABC Family (2003–2008), and UPN (2004–2006), and BET (2009–2014), Superstation WGN Chicago (now WGN America) (1997–2003); and as of April 2017, they can be seen on Centric (now BET Her in 2017) (2015–2018), and Nick at Nite (2008–2012). In Canada, the series also aired on CTV and CBC for reruns. In 2019, the series now airs on TVOne (2019–present)

Beginning on September 29, 2017, Family Matters, along with the other classic "TGIF" shows, could be streamed on Hulu.

Reruns of the series also started airing on Cartoon Network's ACME Night block on September 19, 2021.

On October 1, 2021, Family Matters began streaming on Max (formerly HBO Max) after its streaming rights expired from Hulu.


Year Award Result Category Recipient
1991 BMI Film & TV Awards Won 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
1996 Nominated Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series
1996 Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards Nominated Favorite Television Show
Favorite Television Actor
2008 TV Land Awards Nominated Favorite Character(s) Who "Went Missing" Jaimee Foxworth

See also[]

External Links[]