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Family Matters is a long-running American sitcom revolving around the Winslow family, a middle-class African-American family living in Chicago; the series ran for nine seasons (eight on ABC and one on CBS). The series is a spin-off of Perfect Strangers. 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. The series had a total of 12 main characters, with some characters which were portrayed by multiple actors.
JoMarie Payton originally appeared on Perfect Strangers in 1987 in the recurring role of Harriette Winslow, the elevator operator for the Chicago Chronicle. Reginald VelJohnson later made one appearance on Perfect Strangers in the 1988 episode "Crimebusters" as Carl Winslow, policeman and husband of Harriette Winslow. Due to large popularity of Payton's character with audiences, the character was spun off to its own show, Family Matters. While Payton, VelJohnson, and Telma Hopkins (as Harriette's widowed sister Rachel) were initially the stars of the show, with the focus being around the Winslow family, Jaleel White was introduced as nerdy neighbor Steve Urkel during the middle of the first season in the episode "Laura's First Date"; Urkel, the lovesick pursuer of Laura Winslow (portrayed by Kellie Shanygne Williams), quickly became a popular breakout character with audiences.
Shortly after the introduction of White as Steve Urkel, Shawn Harrison was cast in the role of Waldo Faldo, initially as sidekick to a bully portrayed by Larenz Tate that terrorized everyone and Urkel. When Tate and Harrison were offered the chance to return to the show on a recurring basis, only Harrison took up the offer. As a result, his character was re-written to be the best friend of Eddie Winslow (portrayed by Darius McCrary). Harrison eventually joined the main cast in the 1992–1993 season. Soon after, Michelle Thomas was cast in the role of Myra Monkhouse, love interest and later girlfriend of Steve Urkel. Initially cast on a recurring basis, Thomas joined the main cast as a regular in the 1994–1995 season. In the 1996–1997 season, Orlando Brown was later added to the cast as Jerry Jamal "3J" Jameson, a troubled youth being mentored by Steve who becomes the foster child of the Winslows.
The series featured 12 main characters with their actors appearing during the opening credits.
Carl Otis Winslow, who originally appeared in the Perfect Strangers episode "Crimebusters" alongside his wife Harriette, is the son of Estelle Winslow, brother-in-law of Rachel Crawford, and the biological father of Eddie, Laura, and Judy Winslow, uncle of Richie Crawford and adoptive father of "3J" Jameson. He mentioned in the season one episode "The Mama Who Came to Dinner" as having a brother named Calvin, and in another episode from that same season, "Mr. Badwrench", a brother named Frank. His initials spell "COW", and he is often teased because of this. He holds his position as "King of the Castle" (a self-proclaimed "Big Kahuna") very seriously; however, he is easy to admit defeat to Harriette when involved in typical marital disputes.
Carl is constantly annoyed by his pesky neighbor, Steve Urkel, who has a very high level of respect for Carl, and affectionately calls him "Big Guy". Although Steve is relentlessly annoying, and has cost the Winslow family large amounts of time and money from his own clumsy demeanor, he has shown he's more mature than Eddie is in accepting responsibility. Carl is often there to back Steve up, and help him out in times of distress. Although he continues to be exasperated and irritated by his antics, over the progression of the show's run, Carl develops a fondness for Steve that surprises even himself.
Carl is an officer for the Chicago Police Department. He takes his job seriously, and it is often suggested that he is very good at what he does, despite the fact that his boss, Lt. Murtaugh, is very incompetent. Fitting into the cop stereotype, he has an avid love for doughnuts and other junk food. This plays into the fact that he is overweight, and in several stories throughout the series, Carl's physical health plays a role (in the season 4 episode "Driving Carl Crazy", he is revealed to have high blood pressure, which got dangerous because he tried to dodge dieting). Carl starts the series as a police sergeant; he is later promoted to lieutenant in season 5's "That's What Friends Are For," and eventually captain in season 9's "Who's Afraid of the Big Black Book?". Carl is also the only character to appear in every single episode of the series.
Harriette is Carl's wife, Rachel's big sister, biological mother of Eddie, Laura, and Judy, aunt of Richie, and adoptive mother of 3J and the daughter of Jimmy Baines and Darlene Baines. Harriette is a very conservative and strong-willed woman. She holds her role in society as a mother and working woman with high regard. Harriette is very reluctant to tell people what they want to hear, as she is very frank and upfront about her feelings. She is very constructive in her demeanor and attitude. She first appeared in Perfect Strangers as a "elevator operator" for the Chicago Chronicle, before being laid off and later rehired as Director of Security in the season one episode "Two-Income Family" and then fired from the Chronicle in the season five episode "A Matter of Principle" for refusing to reduce her security staff during a budget crisis. She was later employed by Ferguson's Department Store beginning with the season six episode "The Looney Bin," initially as a service clerk, then later promoted to Head of Sales in the season nine episode "Out With the Old". Harriette would often gently speak her catchphrase, "Carl".
Eddie is a casual NBA, NFL fan, and jock. He is the only son, and oldest child, of Carl and Harriette Winslow until they adopt 3J Jameson in season eight. During the early years of the series, he was a high school student with stereotypical traits of a high school slacker (e.g., poor grades and irresponsible behavior); in the first season, however, he was depicted more as being academically challenged. Being something of a rebel and hedonist, Eddie frequently had a stormy relationship with his father, especially concerning Carl's strict rules, but also because of Eddie's immature attitude and penchant for breaking rules. He despises being treated like a kid and greatly desires to be treated like an adult, which, to him, means being free of rules and authority of parents, but he has very little desire to be as responsible as adults should be.
It was shown a few times that Eddie was prone to gambling and refused to go to Carl for help. These times got him into more trouble than not, especially when he had to deal with a pool hustler in season two's "Fast Eddie Winslow," illegally gambling at an underground casino in the season two episode "Busted", and a tough bookie (Bubba Smith) in the season five episode "Money Out the Window". However, at the same time, he has shown he was willing to go to his father for help, such as when he was ripped off by Weasel's friend when he sold him a stolen stereo in season four's "Hot Stuff", and got racially profiled by two white cops when cited for a traffic violation that he did not commit in season five's "Good Cop, Bad Cop".
During the first two seasons, he was friends with classmate Rodney Beckett. From the third season onwards, Eddie's best friends were Waldo Faldo and Steve Urkel. He also on occasion, would hang out with "Weasel". Initially, his relationship with Steve – who considered Eddie his "best bud", and often affectionately called him "Eddo" – was little more than out of pity (because Steve was an unpopular nerd). Eddie remained loyal to Steve, and he eventually accepted him as a true friend.
Eddie has shown to have dated a large number of girls throughout the series, with very few of them appearing more than once as his girlfriend. Sometimes he would even have relationships with more than one girl at the same time. Even Steve has remembered the names of many of Eddie's girlfriends, but cannot keep track of the name of a current girlfriend. When he met a current one and attempted to guess her name, Steve foolishly blurted out many names, likely the names of Eddie's past girlfriends, which leads to Eddie chasing after the nerd. However, Eddie has shown that he is not beyond desiring true love and pursuing an honest and serious relationship. His most enduring, successful, and ultimately final relationship is with Greta McClure. His relationship with Greta developed throughout the series and faced many obstacles, most notably in the forms of Myrtle Urkel, and Greta's father Dave McClure (owner of Eddie's employer Mighty Weenie).
Eddie has two main adversaries on the show. The first was his former boss, Dave McClure, who did not approve of Eddie dating his daughter and tried to keep them apart in three episodes (including "My Bodyguard" and "Walking My Baby Back Home" in season seven). As of the series finale, Eddie and Greta are still dating and are living together in an apartment, Mr. McClure having disowned her. Eddie's second main adversary is Myrtle Urkel, the cousin of Steve Urkel and a rich Southern belle whose infatuation with Eddie mirrored Steve's infatuation to Laura. However, unlike Steve, Myrtle never respected Eddie's personal space and kept pursuing him much to his extreme terror. She waited until season seven (beginning with the episode "She's Back") to try and win his love, but he was dating Greta at the time. Unlike Laura's would-be boyfriends when it came to Steve, Greta was more successful in warding Myrtle off. Undaunted, Myrtle made her last push to win Eddie's heart by getting a makeover, but he was still not impressed. She soon relinquished her love for him in season nine's "Don't Make Me Over," and set her sights on other guys.
Eddie has shown to have matured and become more responsible and hardworking throughout the series. Though he started as a poor student, he got accepted into college. He worked at a Mighty Weenie restaurant and became its manager. But when his academic challenges restarted in college, Eddie switched his focus to become a police officer like his father. Eddie enrolled at the police academy in the season nine episode "Breaking Up Is Hard to Do," eventually getting hired by the Chicago Police Department as a rookie officer at the end of the series in "Lost in Space (Part 1)".
Laura is the oldest daughter of Harriette and Carl Winslow, and the object of Steve Urkel's affections. In school, Laura was essentially the ideal girl; beautiful, popular, and received very good grades. Unlike her brother, who was a slacker and more into sports, Laura was very independent and focused with her education, and was even distraught when her straight-A streak was broken by a mere B+. She often tried to do everything to succeed by herself, which was not always the right choice. She tried to start a babysitting business when she was a child, sneaked out of the house to burn herself out studying for a test despite her parents' insistence to rest, and worked a graveyard shift to save money to buy a car. She eventually got accepted to Harvard University in season seven's "Twinkle Toes Faldo," but decided to decline the offer because her parents could not afford the tuition, though she told them it was because she could not live so far from home.
Laura began as quite vain, often in pursuit of popular good-looking boys, being dismissive towards Steve, and showing little respect for her academically challenged older brother. She was not always a good judge of character, as a majority of her would-be boyfriends were antagonists in their appearances. She had many boyfriends who would bully Steve and who would cheat on her, but would ultimately end with Steve warding them off. Laura generally had little patience for Steve's antics, but her seeming dislike of him only seemed to egg him on further. She eventually grew wiser and demonstrated better judgement. She has shown appreciation to Steve when he selflessly helped her and the Winslows out when they needed him. Laura eventually learned to love Steve. They became a couple in the ninth season episode "Trading Places" and later engaged to be married in the third to last episode, "Pop Goes the Question". The original plot for the series finale was to be Laura and Steve's wedding, but it never materialized due to the show's cancellation.
Estelle is the mother of Carl Winslow and his four brothers, Harriette's mother-in-law and grandmother of Eddie, Laura, and Judy Winslow. Estelle is a very wise woman and always very defensive of her grandchildren. Estelle moves into her son's household at the start of the series. She (unlike all of the other Winslows) was a friend of Steve Urkel for the entire series and loved him like a grandson. She loved when Steve came to the Winslow house and instead of trying to make him leave, she wanted him to stay. Steve always affectionately called her "Estelle, my Belle," which she loved. Estelle is street-wise and keeps up to date with the latest pop culture and trends, much to the surprise of her family. In later seasons (beginning with season two's "Requiem for an Urkel"), she begins a relationship with Fletcher Thomas, which Carl disapproves of initially before eventually accepting the relationship. The two later got married at the Winslow home in season four's "Mama's Wedding". Estelle would often say her catchphrase "way to go, Carl," usually to Carl when he did something wrong that she did not like.
Judy is the younger daughter, and youngest child, of Carl and Harriette Winslow. Her middle name is unknown (Laura's middle name is Lee and Eddie's middle names are James and Arthur). She is nine years old as the series begins, and remains in the series until she is twelve. It is suggested that she enjoys a close relationship with her sister Laura. She attended elementary school, and later middle school (in sixth grade). During the series' fifth season (in "Mama's Wedding"), the character disappeared from the series altogether, with no explanation given. Her existence in the show from that point on was retconned to make it seem as though she never existed. Series co-creator and executive producer William Bickley said she was cut due to a "budget consideration." However, Judy later makes a guest appearance in the season six episode "Sink or Swim".
Played by Jaleel White.
Steve Urkel is a stereotypical nerd, with large, thick eyeglasses, "high-water" pants held up by suspenders, a high-pitch nasal-tone voice, and a snorting laugh. He first appeared in the season one episode "Laura's First Date", and was also known for his massive crush on Laura Winslow, whose affections he was constantly attempting to win. He became known for his signature "Urkel Dance", a novelty dance that he frequently performed.
While highly intelligent, he was also quite accident-prone (spawning his catchphrase, "did I do that?"), and was socially awkward. He has also created numerous inventions that were otherwise considered impossible. One of those inventions involved a machine which turned him into his alter-ego, Stefan Urquelle, who was first introduced in the season five episode Dr. Urkel and Mr. Cool.
Rachel was Harriette's attractive and widowed younger sister. She moved in with the Winslows shortly after her husband, Robert, died. She is the mother of Richard "Richie" Crawford and the daughter of Jimmy Baines, who appeared in the season two episode "Finding the Words" to reconcile with her and Harriette, after he walked out on them when they were little. A budding singer, she is also a writer and an entrepreneur, opening Rachel's Place (a hangout for teenagers, much in the vein of Arnold's from Happy Days) in the season two episode "Rachel's Place," which replaced Leroy's, a similar hamburger joint that Urkel had accidentally burned down while working there. Rachel is seen throughout the first four seasons; after a year's absence (due to Telma Hopkins leaving the show full-time to star in the short-lived sitcom Getting By), she made occasional appearances during the rest of the show's run. Rachel considered herself more beautiful than Harriette. Rachel's trademark during the early seasons were her hats. Her final appearance was in the Christmas-themed episode "Deck the Malls" from the ninth season.
Richard "Richie" Crawford was the only son of Robert and Rachel Crawford; Robert dies before Richie was born, which in part prompts Rachel's move into the Winslow household. There, Carl effectively fills the "father" role left vacant by Robert's death. Richie is almost a year old in the show's first season, and was age-advanced to 3-years-old in beginning with the season two premiere "Rachel's Place". He is a typical mischievous child, and even idolizes Steve; in fact, due to the nerd's constant visits and unrelenting crush on Laura, Richie calls him "Uncle Steve". In later episodes, Richie becomes the friend to a young orphan named 3J (whom the Winslows eventually adopt). His final appearance in the series was in the Christmas-themed episode "Deck the Malls" from the ninth season.
3J – a nickname referring to his real name Jerry Jamal Jameson – was a young orphan whom Carl and Harriette adopted in the season eight episode "3J in the House". He was introduced as Urkel's "Little Brother" (in the season seven episode "My Big Brother," which pays homage to the Big Brothers/Big Sisters of America program), and later becomes friends with Richie. His street-wise, smart-mouthed demeanor is a cover for his loneliness and desire to have a stable, permanent family; his birth mother had given him up for adoption shortly after he was born, and frequently moved around. He was living with his aunt for a time until he was placed in a children's shelter, when she could no longer afford to keep him. The Winslows, seeing that he needed love, decide to adopt him. It is revealed in the episode "Whose Man is it Anyway?," that his mother is a waitress and Carl took him there (not realising the connection) for lunch and that one day she would like to reunite with him, but until then, Carl promises to take care of him.
Myra Monkhouse was introduced midway through the fourth season in "A Thought in the Dark" as a possible girlfriend for Steve. She was the cousin of Laura's then-boyfriend, Ted Curran, who set up the date to get nerdy Steve out of his way. Myra was originally intended to be a one-time character (as Steve had been envisioned as when he was introduced in season one), but ultimately became a recurring character in the series. Although Ted was dropped from the show after the season four episode "Heart Strings" and ultimately never referred to again, Myra would become a regular character throughout the rest of the series starting in season six.
Myra is an attractive girl who is attracted to nerdy boys and polka music. She has a very perky and persistent personality. In the season five episode "A Matter of Principle," Myra transferred to Vanderbilt High School to be closer to whom she affectionately calls her "Stevie-kins". Steve is also attracted to Myra, but he never grew to love her over the course of the show. He only agrees to date her, on the condition that his friendship with Laura remain intact. This frequently causes Myra to feel in competition with Laura for Steve's affections; Laura would often try to correct the misunderstanding, but Myra would only become more convinced that Laura was after Steve. However, since Laura does not really show any attraction for Steve, Myra is willing to accept a truce, although the Laura-Myra relationship remains testy and adversarial, even in the most banal, non-Urkel situations.
After Steve decided to go steady with Myra in the season six episode "Paradise Bluff," Myra's character calmed and developed and she began to fit together more comfortably with the rest of the main characters. She became less persistent and less aggressive in clinging onto Steve, and Steve became more comfortable and welcoming with her. She became more friendly towards Laura, and formed a trio of sorts with her and Steve (with herself in between, of course). She is also grouped together with Laura and Maxine.
In the ninth season, Steve and Myra grow apart. In "Breaking Up Is Hard To Do" from that season, she hated his makeover (which he did in that season's premiere episode "Out with the Old," in an attempt to become less grating to other people) and demanded him to change back to the nerd she loved so much. When Steve refused, Myra broke up with him right away. However, it only turned out to be a ploy and she only pretended to break up with him in order to get him to renounce his love for Laura and stay with her. That failed and Steve decides to start a real relationship with Laura. However, Myra never fully accepted the idea of their relationship being officially over. From here, Myra's character regressed and devolved to an antagonistic role, competing with Laura for Steve's affections and pursuing Steve relentlessly, similarly to her early appearance. When Steve asks Laura on a date and Laura accepts in "Crazy for You," she grows furious at her loss. Myra pairs up with Stefan Urquelle (Jaleel White) and both set out to win them back. Although both were successful in stopping it in the following episode "Crazier For You," Stefan soon felt guilty of trying to break Steve and Laura up and decides to leave them alone. However, Myra continues to try multiple times, including spying on Steve, until he learned the truth and ordered her to renounce her love for him. She refused and he had Myra arrested by the end of that episode when he exposed her for stalking him with illegal spy gear in her room to the police. At the time of the show's series finale "Lost in Space," Steve and Laura were officially engaged to be married. When Myra learned about their engagement, she was furious and continued to carry the torch for him as he drifted off into outer space. It is unknown what happened to her after that.
For most of the time that Waldo was featured on the show, he was a friend of Eddie Winslow (the son of the show's main characters, Carl and Harriette Winslow) and the Winslows' quintessential nerdy neighbor, Steve Urkel. When he was introduced in the season two episode "Requiem for an Urkel," he started off as Willie Fuffner's friend, but though he generally had no ill intent and was not quite the bully that Willie was, he still nonetheless ignorantly followed Willie's lead. The two got arrested for bringing alcohol to a party in "Life of the Party," and Waldo presumably ended their friendship afterwards. His character was rewritten as a good guy and to serve as a friend of Eddie's. Like Steve Urkel (the show's most famous character), Waldo was an outlandish, almost surrealistic person. While Steve was the resident nerd, Waldo was the resident idiot. Waldo eventually reached a point in his lack of intelligence to where he even manages to annoy Steve. In the season three episode "Food, Lies and Videotape," Waldo was discovered to be an excellent chef. It is later revealed that Waldo did not learn how to walk, until he was 10. He dated Laura's best friend Maxine for many seasons (beginning with the season four episode "Pulling Teeth") until breaking up with her in season eight's "Love Triangle" after he left for culinary school. He is also mentioned to have a sister named Quesadilla Waldo says when asked why his sister was given that name that it was because she was born at a Taco Bell, and his parents weighed over naming her either Quesadilla or Burrito Grande ("And that's a stupid name!" as he quipped regarding the latter).
Waldo's most famous trait was his dimwittedness and his uncanny ability to misinterpret a simple question, comment, or directive. His catchphrases include: "cool", "no prob, Bob!", and "sup". Waldo has also shown that he has a sense of morality in three key episodes. In season three's "A Test of Friendship," he calls Eddie out for wanting to cheat on their chemistry test and tells him that he should have known the consequences. In season seven's "Talk's Cheap," Waldo revealed he was the one who called a daytime talk show that Eddie, Steve, Myra, Laura, Myrtle and Stefan appear as guests on in that episode and brought everyone back to their senses with Stefan's help. In "Tips For A Better Life," he refused to let Eddie move into his house after he hurt his feelings by insulting him while he was drunk. Waldo mentions that anyone who drinks and insults friends is no friend of his.
|This section may be written from a fan's point of view, rather than a neutral point of view. (February 2013)|
Recurring characters include: