Family Matters was a fixture of 90s sitcom television, but there was plenty of storylines and plot points that were abandoned and never resolved.
The mid-’90s was something of a golden period for family-centered sitcoms, with programs like Full House, Home Improvement, and Step by Step focusing on the trials and tribulations of large, rowdy broods with hapless fathers, angsty teens, and wacky neighbors. Family Matters, which aired on ABC from 1989 until 1997 (and then on CBS from ’97-’98) was centered nicely into the niche left by The Cosby Show, and just to the right of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
It focused on policeman Carl Winslow, his wife Harriette (a character from Perfect Strangers), their three children, her mother, and the irrepressible Steve Urkel. “Urkel” and his many zany catchphrases and geeky oddness became the focus of the series as time went on, allowing for more bizarre storylines like cloning and possessed puppets. Over the course of nine seasons, many of the plot points introduced were never touched on again, to varying degrees of absurdity (like completely forgetting about the third Winslow child). Perhaps certain storylines might have been resolved in Season 10, but we never got it.
WHATEVER HAPPENED TO JUDY WINSLOW?
In the first season of Family Matters, Carl and Harriette Winslow are shown to have three children; Eddie (the eldest), Laura (the middle child), and Judy (the youngest daughter). Halfway through the first season, Steve Urkel appears, and while he wasn’t supposed to be a main character, takes over much more screen time, relegating Judy to being a background character.
By season four, she’s seen walking upstairs, but we never hear her speak. By season five she’s gone altogether, with no explanation, at age 13. Harriette and Carl act as though she never existed and they only had two children, with Urkel taking her place in the household since he almost never seems to leave.
STEVE URKEL’S RELATIONSHIP WITH HIS FAMILY
Amidst all the antics and hijinks that Urkel gets up to bothering the Winslows, it’s sometimes easy to forget why he’s over at their house so much in the first place. In later seasons it’s hinted at that he doesn’t have the best relationship with his family, who he indicates actively dislike him. His parents are never seen, and we’re introduced to his cousin Myrtle Urkel who doesn’t live in the state.
At one point during the series, Steve’s parents up and move to Russia, causing the Winslows to take pity on him and move him into their household. We can imagine that was beyond difficult for Carl and Laura, but what about Steve? His feelings and reactions to being abandoned are never really explored.
URKEL’S ABILITY TO BE “COOL”
One of the most blatant running gags in Family Matters is that Steve Urkel isn’t considered “cool”. With his dorky clothes, annoyingly high pitched voice, and ability to make a bad situation ten times worse, it’s reasonable to see why Eddie, Carl, and Laura wouldn’t want him around. But there’s a few members of the Winslow Family that like Steve, and these members happen to be people unconcerned with Steve’s popularity status.
In the episode “Higher Anxiety”, while consoling Eddie about his two-timing girlfriend, Steve actually gets invited to a cool kid’s party, and later in the series, he saves his high school’s basketball team from losing by busting out some insane Michael Jordan type moves. You’d think instances like that would remind people that Steve wasn’t just a dorky loser.
HARRIETTE WINSLOW’S POLICE EXPERIENCE
An interesting fact about Family Matters is that it was actually a spin-off of Perfect Strangers, and based around the character of Harriette Winslow, an elevator operator at The Chicago Chronicle. She operated the elevator for the third and fourth seasons of the show before becoming the matriarch on its spin-off Family Matters and being fired from her job at the Chronicle.
A graduate from the Chicago Police Academy, Harriette had extensive police experience, having only quit the force because she became pregnant with Eddie. Yet soon after she was fired from the position of elevator operator, she becomes the director of security for the Chronicle. The series never explains why, with all her qualification, she didn’t get that position to begin with, rather than a much less lucrative one.
STEVE’S OTHER COUSIN
Few may remember that ’90s television was the Avengers of sit-coms, with characters regularly engaging in crossover episodes. Sabrina the Teenage Witch had a crossover with Boy Meets World, and Family Matters had a crossover with both Step by Step and Full House. In the Full House case, Steve is bothering his cousin while attending a science fair in San Francisco.
It’s not really explained how Steve is in San Francisco from Chicago, as no episode of Family Members aired that night to set it up. This cousin of his is also never mentioned again, but the only cousin that ever appears in Family Matters is the Southern belle Mrytle Urkel (also played by Jaleel White) who falls in love with Eddie.
Steve Urkel’s car is as quirky as he is, and the little Isetta is called everything from a “hunk of junk” by Eddie to a toy car that Laura would crush if Steve ever asked her to get in it. For all its mechanical faults, however, the show couldn’t seem to decide whether it was going to operate like a perilous bucket of bolts or actually drive like a smooth cruising dream machine.
For instance, in one episode he explains he paid four dollars for a sunroof he purchased used, but in another, it’s his uncle that paid him fifty dollars to take it away. In one episode it has a speedometer that only goes up to 30 mph, in another 60mph, while in another it simply has…a chalkboard. It also drove just fine in “Driving Carl Crazy” and “Hot Rods To Heck”.
STEVE AND LAURA’S WEDDING
Throughout Family Matters, Steve Urkel’s unrequited love for Laura Winslow provided some of its most comedic and heartfelt moments. Laura viewed Steve as a complete geek, and he viewed her as a goddess, who no matter what he did (even transforming himself into the epitome of “cool” to take her on a date) she would never feel the same way about him.
That is, until the last few seasons of the show, which resulted in them dating and eventually getting engaged. While this may have seemed odd to some viewers, it was a nightmare for Carl Winslow. He must have been the happiest that their storyline wasn’t taken to its eventual conclusion; marriage in Season 10. The show ended with nine seasons before this travesty could ever happen.
LAURA GETTING PREGNANT
Season 10 of Family Matters was going to be full of a lot of surprises; some expected, some definitely not. While it was clear that with the engagement of Steve and Laura in Season 9 wedding bells weren’t far off, it would have been certainly a surprise to fans to find out Laura was also pregnant soon after her nuptials. But that was definitely the plan for Season 10’s grand finale.
Perhaps it makes sense – the conclusion of one of America’s favorite sitcoms about the bonds of family ends with another little family being started. Just imagine a baby crying with the same annoying pitch of Steve Urkel’s laugh and be happy that this storyline never made it to airing.
CARL’S MYSTERIOUS BROTHER
Carl often talked about his brothers, which viewers knew as Frank, Calvin, and Daryl. He actually had four brothers, but the fourth brother mysteriously never received a name and never received a backstory. Only one brother actually appeared on the show (Frank), and only in one episode, leaving viewers to speculate as to the identities of the others.
It’s been said by producers that they weren’t that interested in exploring Carl’s family, preferring instead to keep the focus of Family Matters on his role as the breadwinner of the family, his wife (who took some umbrage with his position as lofty patriarch), and his children. Some speculate his other brother was named Walter.
THE TROUBLE WITH STEVIL
In the infamous Halloween episode “Stevil”, Steve purchases a dummy to practice ventriloquism. Two tragedies occur in the episode; Steve annoys everyone with his dummy routine, and the dummy tries to kill the entire Winslow family. Based on the Chucky franchise, the dummy comes to life and brutally murders Steve’s neighbors, though it’s later revealed this is all a dream.
A second episode, “Stevil II” included Stevil and a Carl dummy, Carlsbad, coming to life and trying to steal the souls of Steve and Carl Winslow in their dreams. A third installment, in which Stevil would try one last time for Steve’s soul was planned for Season 10, with his wife Laurotten wanting to go after Laura’s soul but it never aired.
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Family Matters Complete Series