Classic TV Shows from the 90s and Early 2000s
Family Matters is an American sitcom which originated on ABC from September 22, 1989 to May 9, 1997 and then on CBS from September 19, 1997 to July 17, 1998. A spin-off of Perfect Strangers, the series revolves around the Winslow family, a middle-class African American family living in Chicago, Illinois. 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 the show’s main character. Having run for nine seasons, Family Matters is the second longest-running non-animated U.S. sitcom with a predominantly African American cast, behind only The Jeffersons, which aired for 11 seasons from 1974-1985. In terms of the number of episodes, Family Matters is ranked third after Tyler Perry’s House of Payne (254) and The Jeffersons (253), with 215.
The series originally focused on the character of police officer Carl Winslow and his family: wife Harriette, son Eddie, elder daughter Laura and younger daughter Judy (who appeared until the character was written out in season four). In the pilot episode, “The Mama Who Came to Dinner,” the family had also opened their home to Carl’s street-wise mother, Estelle (Rosetta LeNoire), usually known as “Mother Winslow.” Prior to the start of the series, Harriette’s sister, Rachel Crawford and her infant son, Richie, had moved into the Winslow household after the death of Rachel’s husband. The Winslows’ nerdy teenage next-door neighbor, Steve Urkel (played by Jaleel White), was introduced midway through the first season in the episode “Laura’s First Date” and quickly became the focus of the show. The popular sitcom was a mainstay of ABC’s TGIF lineup from 1989 until 1997, before becoming 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). As the show progressed, episodes began to center more and more on Steve Urkel and other original characters also played by White, including Steve’s suave alter-ego Stefan Urquelle and his female cousin Myrtle Urkel.
In early 1997, CBS picked up Family Matters and Step by Step in a $40 million deal to acquire the rights to the programs 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 corporate parent, The Walt Disney Company (which had bought the network in 1995 as part of its merger with ABC’s then-parent Capital Cities/ABC, Inc.). Miller-Boyett thought that it would not be a big player on ABC after the network’s recent purchase by Disney. In turn, Miller-Boyett Productions agreed to a $40 million offer from CBS for a 22-episode season for both Family Matters and Step By Step. CBS scheduled Family Matters, along with Step By Step, as a part of its new Friday lineup branded as the “CBS Block Party” and scheduled the family-oriented block against ABC’s TGIF lineup, where the two series originated. CBS cancelled Family Matters and Step By Step after one season, along with the rest of the “Block Party” lineup. After the 9th season, the cast was told to get ready to film the tenth and final season of the show, so scripts and plot synopses were written for the show, but due to poor ratings, CBS started to demolish sets of the show to make room for newer shows. CBS also pulled the show from its regular schedule and ended up airing the series finale with little fanfare during “burn off” summer TV time in 1998.
Reginald VelJohnson as Carl Otis Winslow
Jo Marie Payton as Harriette Baines-Winslow
Rosetta LeNoire as Estelle “Mother” Winslow
Darius McCrary as Edward “Eddie” Winslow
Kellie Shanygne Williams as Laura Lee Winslow
Jaimee Foxworth as Judith “Judy” Winslow
Jaleel White as Steven “Steve” Urkle, Stefan Urquelle, & Myrtle Urkel
Telma Hopkins as Rachel Baines-Crawford
Bryton McClure as Richard “Richie” Crawford
Orlando Brown as Jerry Jamal “3J” Jamison
Michelle Thomas as Myra Monkhouse