Steve Urkel

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Steve Urkel
Family Matters character
2005 0308 urkel.jpg
Jaleel White as Steve Urkel
First appearanceRachel's First Date (only in syndicated episodes),
Laura's First Date (in first run episodes)
Last appearanceLost in Space (Part 2)
Created byThomas L. Miller
Robert L. Boyett
William Bickley
Michael Warren
Portrayed byJaleel White
Information
Nickname(s)Urk Man
Jerkel (by various school bullies, including Jimmy)
Urkie (by 3J)
Uncle Steve (by Richie)
Stevie (by Myra)
Stefan Urquelle (alter ego)
GenderMale
OccupationStudent, inventor, scientist
FamilyHerb Urkel (father; revealed in "Man's Best Friend")
Diane "Roberta" Urkel (mother; revealed in "Man's Best Friend" & "Hot Wheels")
RelativesMyrtle May Urkel (cousin)
"Big Daddy" Urkel (uncle)
Cecil Urkel (uncle)
Cornelius Eugene "Original Gangsta Dawg" Urkel (cousin)
Julie Urkel (cousin)
Oona Urkel (aunt)
Omar Urkel (uncle)
Ernie Urkel (uncle)
Stefan Urquelle (clone, originally alter-ego)
Muriel Urkel (aunt)
Cleotus Urkel (cousin)
Dirk Urkel (cousin)
 
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Steve Urkel
Family Matters character
2005 0308 urkel.jpg
Jaleel White as Steve Urkel
First appearanceRachel's First Date (only in syndicated episodes),
Laura's First Date (in first run episodes)
Last appearanceLost in Space (Part 2)
Created byThomas L. Miller
Robert L. Boyett
William Bickley
Michael Warren
Portrayed byJaleel White
Information
Nickname(s)Urk Man
Jerkel (by various school bullies, including Jimmy)
Urkie (by 3J)
Uncle Steve (by Richie)
Stevie (by Myra)
Stefan Urquelle (alter ego)
GenderMale
OccupationStudent, inventor, scientist
FamilyHerb Urkel (father; revealed in "Man's Best Friend")
Diane "Roberta" Urkel (mother; revealed in "Man's Best Friend" & "Hot Wheels")
RelativesMyrtle May Urkel (cousin)
"Big Daddy" Urkel (uncle)
Cecil Urkel (uncle)
Cornelius Eugene "Original Gangsta Dawg" Urkel (cousin)
Julie Urkel (cousin)
Oona Urkel (aunt)
Omar Urkel (uncle)
Ernie Urkel (uncle)
Stefan Urquelle (clone, originally alter-ego)
Muriel Urkel (aunt)
Cleotus Urkel (cousin)
Dirk Urkel (cousin)

Steven Quincy Urkel, generally known as Steve Urkel or simply Urkel, is a fictional character on the ABC/CBS sitcom Family Matters, portrayed by Jaleel White.[1] Originally slated to have been a one-time only character on the show, he soon became its most popular character and main protagonist.[2][3][4][5]

Steve is the epitome of a geek/nerd, with large, thick eyeglasses, "high-water" or "flood" pants held up by suspenders, multi-colored cardigan sweaters, and a high-pitched voice.[6] He professes unrequited love for neighbor Laura Winslow, perpetually annoys her father, Carl, and tries to befriend her brother, Eddie. Amongst the rest of the family, Harriette, Rachel, and "Mother" Estelle Winslow are more accepting and caring of Urkel.

Throughout the series' run, Steve is 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.[7] He becomes known for several catchphrases uttered after some humorous misfortune occurs, including "I've fallen and I can't get up!" after he accidentally got drunk in one episode and fell off 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). Additionally, he frequently insinuates "You love me, don't you?" and "I'm wearing you down baby, I'm wearing you down" to Laura Winslow, the usual object of his affection.

Character development[edit]

Steve Urkel first appeared on the 12th episode of the first season, "Laura's First Date", as a nerdy young boy who took Laura Winslow out on a date, where he appeared as being madly in love with her. But, in an example of unrequited love, Laura did not return these feelings because of Steve's nerdy, infuriating personality. Although intended to only appear once, White's portrayal was very popular for his humorous, geeky antics. After appearing on other episodes, he joined the main cast.[8] All throughout the course of the series, Steve maintains his extreme infatuation with Laura and regularly invites himself over for unwanted visits to her house, much to the annoyance of the Winslows. Among Steve's other famed character traits include his exceptional scientific skills, crafting devices that would be impossible to construct in reality, his absurdly destructive clumsiness, and his kind heart.

Steve is commonly known and respected by other characters for his kindness to others, his never-ending love and loyalty for those he holds dear, and, alongside with Harriette, his position as a voice of reason and source of wisdom for the often bickering members of the Winslow family, all of which are the redeeming qualities for his generally unwelcome or tolerated presence. He always cares for and means well for other people, but is often the misunderstood victim of the Winslows' anger and rejection, especially of Carl, Eddie and Laura, who all struggle to see through his clumsiness and annoying behavior and to understand and appreciate him for his positive traits.

Although he is often portrayed positively for being a kind and virtuous person compared to other repentant characters, Steve is not a flawless character. While he is indeed kind and seemingly means well for others, Steve tends to be needy, overbearing, and often demonstrates very poor empathy, understanding, and consideration of other people's feelings, especially when they feel negatively towards him (whether those feelings are justifiable or not). He shows little regard or respect for Laura's choice to not reciprocate Steve's affections. And one example of Steve's lack of consideration for others is when he accidentally caused Carl and Eddie to fall off of their roof, only to demand an apology from Carl for unintentionally landing on top of Steve, and even going so far as to fight back when Carl subsequently banished him from the Winslow house. Steve's random awareness of his own overbearing presence is addressed multiple times throughout the series, yet even when he is aware of the agony he causes to others, his overbearing need for attention is easily greater than his largely weak desire to correct his own flaws for the comfort of other people.

Steve is actually quite selfish. He lives very strictly the way he is most comfortable, and unintentionally forces people around him to tolerate him or adapt around his lifestyle. And because his feelings are too sensitive to rejection by the people he loves most, the Winslows are very hesitant to leave him heartbroken. Although easily prone to having his feelings hurt, he remains rarely ever concerned about why people get so angry at him. This makes him almost effectively immune to guilt, regret, and any chance to learn from his mistakes, the way the Winslows do.

Nonetheless, Steve is kind, bears no hatred for anyone, and is extremely loyal to the Winslow family, whom he is always ready to be there for. He would always be ready to forgive the Winslows when they take advantage of him, behave coldly towards him, harshly reject him and then learn that they hurt his feelings. Steve loves the Winslows like they were his real family, and whether through kindness, persistence or force, he works tirelessly to become as much a part of their lives as a genuine family member.

Interestingly, Steve does have somewhat of a spiritual side despite his vast knowledge in science, such as his belief in Santa Claus. When asked how someone who knows so much of how the physical world works believes in mythology, Steve's response was "I do not analyze miracles".

Name[edit]

Family Matters co-creator Michael Warren named the character after his friend, writer and director Steve Erkel. Due to the show and the character's great popularity during the early 1990s, Erkel encountered difficulties using his own name; he received many prank phone calls from "Laura" asking for "Steve", and businesses found his name suspicious. Warren stated that had he known that the character would reappear for years he would not have named him after his friend.[8]

Family[edit]

The Urkels are very intelligent people; Steve and his parents, Herb and Diane, were known to do the Sunday crossword puzzles in pen in about 20 minutes. In fact, Steve himself was known for considering his teachers and school officials as equals, calling them by their given names instead of Mr., Mrs., or Ms. He is also fluent in Japanese and Korean, has studied French in high school, and would sometimes speak Japanese to Principal Shimata, Vanderbilt High School's Japanese-American principal.

However, on many occasions, it is said or referenced that Steve's parents have nothing but total contempt for him, and do their best to avoid him at all times. For example, when he was born his parents tried to push him back in, and his parents do not own a car because he was born in one. In the Season 3 episode, "Choir Trouble", Steve says that his dad questioned him for going to church with the Winslows and becoming a born-again Christian, implying that his parents are atheists. He also once mentioned that his parents do not feed him every day. This perhaps explains why he spends his time at the Winslows and not at his own home. However, when Steve had a new persona, Stefan, in Season 5's episode "Dr. Urkel and Mr. Cool", they started to show their love for him and introduced him to his relatives. It may be assumed that his parents, although nerds, are very shallow people and prefer Stefan's company rather than Steve's.

The viewers see that Steve has at least four relatives who do care about him. 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 has a good relationship with his "Aunt Oona from Altoona" (notably played by Donna Summer). She also visits Steve in two episodes and is a mother figure to him aside Estelle. He also mentions his Uncle Cecil throughout the series, so it implies that Uncle Cecil cares for Steve, who has a police record. His cousin, Myrtle is very close to him and treats him like her brother. Other relatives included Myrtle's father "Big Daddy" (played by Reginald VelJohnson in a dual role) who did not think Eddie was a good choice for his daughter except when bribed with cash. It was mentioned in Season 2 that Big Daddy and the other relatives (excluding Oona, Cecil, Ernie and Myrtle) pay Steve a lot of money not to visit them. However, they tolerated him after he got a makeover and was less clumsy. Steve has a gangster cousin from Detroit named Cornelius Eugene Urkel (also played by White) who went by the moniker "Original Gangsta Dawg". He doesn't have a good relationship with him and tries to avoid him at all costs. This is because whenever he comes to visit, Cornelius wants money from him. Steve also has another cousin named Julie, that's D.J. Tanner's friend and lives in San Francisco (as seen on an episode of "Full House" where Steve Urkel made a guest appearance). In his first episode, "Laura's First Date", Steve's father is mentioned in the line: "Did I mention my dad knows Wayne Newton?" It was also once mentioned that his uncle Ernie owns a hearse.

In 1995, his parents moved to Russia without Steve, because he did not want to go, apparently abandoning him. Steve was then allowed to live with the Winslows; however, in a 1997 episode, a subplot has Steve visiting his parents.

In addition to his parents, his family also included his cousin, Myrtle Urkel, whose innocent infatuation with Laura's brother, Eddie, was equal to Steve's for Laura. However, Eddie never grew to like Myrtle unlike Laura who did grow to like Steve (thanks in some part to Myra demanding his undivided attention to her). At the end, when Myrtle realized that she is acting like a prostitute (due to shopping and a makeover with Laura and Maxine), she abandoned him, to pursue some other man. That was the last time Myrtle appeared.

The Urkel family, along with Steve, have very good luck in gambling; Eddie once damaged Carl's car and needed $800 to pay for the damage without Carl noticing, but he couldn't afford it. Steve offered to help Eddie by using his abilities at an illegal casino. Eddie was glad with Steve's mathematical abilities in this manner, as Urkel managed to win them $32,000, only to have the gambling den be raided by the police. Eddie is made to face the music in front of Carl, who before the tirade said that Steve is facing appropriate punishment from Mr. Urkel.

Steve once had an older female pen-pal who was in prison. He stopped writing her when she got out of jail because tried to seduce Carl, because she thought that Carl was Steve. After a big misunderstanding, she was brought back to prison.

Stefan Urquelle[edit]

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 (as well as avoiding developing rashes in "personal areas"). He changed into Stefan several times — even while dating Myra — but some circumstance caused him to change back into Steve each time. During these sporadic appearances, his narcissism seemed to improve and Laura fell deeply in love with him. In the Season 6 two-parter episode, "To Be or Not To Be," Steve was stuck as Stefan for a while, after Myra had tampered with the transformation chamber. Unbeknownst to her, Stefan had invited Carl to use his transformation chamber to cure his farsightedness over insecurity about wearing glasses, since Stefan did not need glasses. Only when he starts the chamber and realizing her mistake, Myra frantically tells Stefan to stop the chamber because she tampered with it and reset the dial to nerd, rather than suave. Stefan attempts to stop it, but the transformation chamber is broken and created "Carl Urkel". He had to help fix the chamber while Myra explains herself to him. However, it took a week for Stefan to fix the chamber because his scientific genius from his time as Steve was in Carl. After fixing the chamber and getting Carl back to normal, Stefan decides to return to being Steve for the time being.

The transformation chamber had other uses for Steve besides Stefan, but similar unpredictable results, such as when Urkel attempted to fuse his DNA with Albert Einstein, he accidentally got the DNA and personality of Elvis Presley. He used the chamber and DNA to become a martial arts master, Bruce Lee, to deal with bad guys since he knows that Stefan isn't enough.

Late in the sixth season, Steve transformed into Stefan as part of an inventor's competition at Walt Disney World; 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. While just about everyone liked Stefan, Myra disliked him immensely, believing he was a joke and knows that her "Steviekins" was perfect already.

In the seventh season finale "Send in the Clones", Steve created a cloning machine and wound up cloning himself. Myra was initially excited, but eventually realized that two Steves were just too much. To clear up the situation, Laura proposed that one of the Steves be permanently turned into Stefan, so that she and Myra can both be with the one they love.

The permanent Stefan made several more appearances throughout the series, pursuing a career as a model, and proposed to Laura again before the series finale. After weighing her choices in the flashback episode "Pop Goes the Question," Laura chose Steve over Stefan. Stefan departed and was never seen again.

Relationships[edit]

Steve had been in love with Laura since the 7th grade. However, she did not always reciprocate the feelings that he had for her and would date other guys more to her taste. Unlike Greta's successful warding of Myrtle, Laura's would-be boyfriends would often bully Steve, but it always ends with him warding them off, especially when he knows most of them would end up hurting her in the end and refused to allow them to take advantage of her. Steve has shown that, unlike Myrtle, he does respect Laura's personal space. However, she has shown appreciation for Steve when he selflessly risked himself to not only protect her, but also has saved her father's life. In season 9, he finally gets himself a makeover in time for Laura's auction, and, though it wasn't a success, her feelings for him finally changed, and they are engaged to be married.

Steve had a short and brief relationship with Susie in season 2, but their relationship ended when he introduced her to the president of the chess club. In Season 3, he also had Vonda Mahoney interested in him after he tutored her for a class. Fearing that she wants to make herself "easy" for Eddie to date, Steve teaches her the dangers of it and helps her have love and self-respect for herself. Although Vonda felt better about herself, this didn't settle in well with Eddie who wanted to pound Steve for it.

In Season 4's "A Thought In The Dark", Steve was set up and introduced to Ted's cousin, Myra Monkhouse (played by Michelle Thomas) so Laura could have some space from his infatuation. Although he was initially attracted to Myra because of her intelligence and sweet personality, he was soon disgusted by her jealous and possessive nature by the end of "Buds 'N Buns". This was explored in both seasons 5 and 9, when Steve finally saw what life was like in Laura's shoes when he pursued her relentlessly. Though in love with him, Myra was also frustrated with Steve and asked him why he even loves Laura. When he agree to date her for a while in season 6's "Paradise Bluffs", she did somewhat revert to the sweet, intelligent girl he was originally attracted to. By Season 9, he grows apart from her when Laura started returning her feelings for him. In "Breaking Up Is Hard To Do", during their date at Amore, it became clear to Steve that Myra hated his makeover and demanded that he return to the sexy nerd she loved so much. When he refused, she broke up with him first, although it later turned out to be a ploy so she could get him to renounce his love for Laura and stay with her. When that failed, Myra resorted to stalking and spying on him with illegal surveillance gear in her room with a spy cam attached to his glasses. In "Crazy For You" she teamed up with Stefan to stop Steve and Laura's date. Although initially successful, Laura still wanted to date him and Myra vowed never to stop stalking him until he took her back. In "Crazier For You", Steve has learned that she was stalking him with illegal spy gear and confronted her about it. He orders Myra to stop stalking him and renounce her love for him because he will never take her back and reaffirms his love for Laura. She refused and got Laura falsely arrested for stealing her watch. However, Steve was able to drop the charges when he exposed Myra for stalking him with illegal spy gear and the police pursued criminal charges against her. When she learned of his engagement to Laura, she continued to carry the torch even when he went into space.

Ratings effect[edit]

In syndication Steve is in the pre-credits introductory scene of "Rachel's First Date", but his first appearance in first-run episodes is in the 1989 episode "Laura's First Date", where Carl and Eddie separately set up dates for Laura for a dance or party (both terms used), 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. Prior to Urkel, the show was on the brink of cancellation due to low ratings. After Urkel was introduced, 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 the Winslows' front door while the 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[edit]

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,[9]" after which she said, "Hey MC Hammer, try and touch that!"[10]

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's likeness.

Appearances on other shows[edit]

Other appearances[edit]

In the fall of 2010 at Westside Middle School in Memphis, Tennessee, the policy on handling sagging pants is for students to pull them up or get "Urkeled", a reference to the character. In this practice, teachers would forcibly pull their pants up and attach them there using zip ties. Students would also have their photo taken and posted on a board in the hallway, for all of their classmates to see. In an interview with WMC-TV, Principal Bobby White stated that the general idea is to fight pop culture with pop culture.[11] One teacher at the school claimed to have "Urkeled" up to 80 students per week, although after five weeks the number dropped to 18.[12]

Merchandise[edit]

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 Urkel pullstring doll. There was also a T-shirt line that was created in 2002, but was discontinued shortly after its inception; at that point, Steve Urkel was a decade past his prime.[13]

Reception[edit]

In 1999, TV Guide ranked Urkel number 27 on its 50 Greatest TV Characters of All Time list.[14] In 2004, he was listed in Bravo's 100 Greatest TV Characters.[15]

The combination of Steve's uncool persona and black racial identity won the nation's hearts and was partly due to White’s own comedic genius. However Urkel's appeal also originates from a blend of popular American fascinations: opposing the myth of biological determinism, and continuing the Horatio Alger myth; Urkel, in this case, must pull himself up the social status rungs of youth subculture.[16]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Carter, Bill (1997-02-05). "Steve Urkel Is a Hit Notes - Did He Do That? - Review". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-01-23. 
  2. ^ Horowitz, Joy (1991-04-17). "Snookums! Steve Urkel Is a Hit". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-08-20. 
  3. ^ Zoglin, Richard (1998-05-18). "Television: Another Teary Farewell". Time. Retrieved 2010-08-21. 
  4. ^ "Is Uncool Urkel the '90s Answer to the Fonz?". The Los Angeles Times. 1991-01-04. Retrieved 2010-08-22. 
  5. ^ "Will the Real Steve Please Stand Up?". The Los Angeles Times. 1992-02-04. Retrieved 2010-08-22. 
  6. ^ Bellafante, Ginia (1996-12-09). "Revenge of The Nerd". Time. Retrieved 2010-08-21. 
  7. ^ "TELEVISION: YES, URKEL STILL LIVES". Time. 1991-04-01. Retrieved 2010-08-21. 
  8. ^ a b Pool, Bob (1992-02-04). "Will the Real Steve Please Stand Up?". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved May 26, 2012. 
  9. ^ Do The Urkel(.com) - The Website
  10. ^ The House of Diabolique vs. Bea Arthur & Urkel
  11. ^ Bruce, Becky (December 7, 2010). "Threat of 'Urkel' solves sagging pants problem". KSL.com. Retrieved December 8, 2010. 
  12. ^ "Students get 'Urkeled' for baggy pants". ABC2. December 7, 2010. Retrieved December 8, 2010. 
  13. ^ "Family Matters: 1989-1998". People. 2000-06-26. Retrieved 2011-08-15. 
  14. ^ TV Guide Guide to TV. Barnes and noble. 2004. p. 651. ISBN 0-7607-5634-1. 
  15. ^ "Bravo > 100 Greatest TV Characters". Bravo. Archived from the original on July 16, 2007. Retrieved November 11, 2006. 
  16. ^ Eglash, Ron (Summer 2002). "Race, Sex, and Nerds: From Black Geeks to Asian American Hipsters". Project Muse 20 (2): 49–64.