Case Number 23391: Small Claims Court


Warner Bros. // 1990 // 581 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // February 26th, 2012

The Charge

"Did I do that?" -Steve Urkel, every seven seconds

The Case

When it comes down to the wire, only one thing is for sure...Family Matters. Genial police officer Carl Winslow (Reginald VelJohnson, Die Hard) and his wife Harriette (Jo Marie Payton) have their hands full as they try to keep their children and his mother (Rosetta LeNoire) in check. Complicating matters is the meddling involvement of Steve Urkel (Jaleel White), a nerdy young boy with the hots for one of the Winslow's daughters and a penchant for making a mess of everything and everyone he comes into contact with. Through misadventures and misunderstandings, the Winslow clan continues to find out that family is the most important thing around.

The following episodes are included on the three disc set of Family Matters: The Complete Second Season:

* "Rachel's Place"
* "Torn Between Two Lovers"
* "Marriage 101"
* "Flashpants"
* "The Crash Course"
* "Boxcar Blues"
* "Dog Day Halloween"
* "Cousin Urkel"
* "Dedicated to the One I Love"
* "The Science Project"
* "Requiem for an Urkel"
* "Fast Eddie Winslow"
* "Have Yourself a Merry Winslow Christmas"
* "Ice Station Winslow"
* "Son"
* "Do the Right Thing"
* "High Hopes"
* "Life of the Party"
* "Busted"
* "Fight the Good Fight"
* "Taking Credit"
* "Finding the Words"
* "Skip to the Lieu"
* "The Good, the Bad and the Urkel"
* "I Should Have Done Something"

Television in the 1990s was often terribly mediocre, especially the block of sitcoms that dominated ABC's "TGIF" set. The shows were family friendly comedies that were popular with viewers but critically panned atrocities. Such shows as Just the Ten of Us, Step by Step and Full House (what some consider to be the nadir of '90s TV) tickled America's funny bone while clogging up its boob tube toilet with jokes so toxically bad you had to use a hazmat suit to pick them up.

Family Matters fit in perfectly with the aforementioned sitcoms. Originally a spin-off of Perfect Strangers (something I didn't even realize until writing this review), Family Matters revolved around the Winslow family, but not really; the true breakout star was Jaleel White as Steve Urkel, the epitome of the word "nerd." White's Urkel was thrust so heavily front and center that he overshadowed every other character by half a dozen miles (or the length of eight million pairs of suspenders; however you want to gauge it). I won't say that White was not a commanding presence; White gyrating on the dance floor or flopping around like a dying fish for laughs is an impressive feat for any actor who has left his dignity on the front stoop of the television studio. The problem is a little bit of Urkel goes a long, looooooooong way and almost every single episode centers around Steve and his unending shenanigans. I'm surprised that the producers didn't change the show's title from Family Matters to Urkel Matters.

Every other character here is small potatoes in comparison to Steve Urkel. Reginald VelJohnson plays the blustering, bug-eyed Carl about as well as one would expect with the scripts he's been given (many jokes revolve around how out of shape he is and the fact that Urkel drives him batty). Jo Marie Payton's Harriette is an abrasive force of a woman who comes off as a football player in a wig; she's a bit too much of a heavyweight in the show. The child actors (Jaimee Foxworth, Kellie Shanygne Williams, Darius McCray, Bryton McClure) run through a gambit of about three emotions: witty, adorable and dumb as a box of rocks. The best character on the show is Rosetta LeNoire as "Mother" Winslow because, let's be honest, sassy grandmothers are always fun to watch. Most of what I wrote doesn't really matter because, make no mistake about it, this is "The Steve Urkel Show" all the way.

The Winslow's adventures are often of the banal kind. School issues are dealt with. Dating misunderstandings happen. Kids screw up and within twenty five minutes are newly embraced by their stern but loving parental units. The opening episode shows Carl's sister-in-law (Thelma Hopkins) deciding to open a new restaurant after -- you guessed it! -- Steve Urkel burns the original building down. The show then spends most of its time on Steve Urkel's misunderstandings (he thinks an older lady has the hots for him, he bungles a fishing trip, etc.) and his pining for Laura Winslow (Kellie Shanygne Williams). Also, did I mention they use Steve Urkel a lot? Just wanted to make sure you understood that before you sat down to revisit the Winslow clan.

Oddly, what was once a trifle and annoying sitcom has now become a silly throwback to what feels like a bygone era. I have to admit that I found this show as comforting as a bowl of Fruity Pebbles on a Saturday morning. By no means is Family Matters great, good or even mildly passable television; it's a dumbly written, moronically produced show that features paper thin characters, clichéd storylines and a theme song that will burn into your memory for the rest of your days. Yet the wave of nostalgia that washed over me as I sat through the show was almost cathartic; it's the kind of feeling only those who grew up on the show will experience. Much like the equally idiotic Saved by the Bell, Family Matters is a car wreck that you just can't help watching.

Each episode of Family Matters: The Complete Second Season is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.33:1 full frame. The transfers appear sharper than anticipated. For a show now over twenty years old, the image looks far crisper than I'd expected. Each soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital Stereo in English. This is an excessively front heavy mix, so don't expect your sound system to get much of a workout. English subtitles are available on the set.

In a shocking turn of events, Family Matters: The Complete Second Season does not include any extra features.

The Verdict

Family Matters: The Complete Second Season is innocuous family entertainment that is appropriate for preteens and those who want to turn their brains into a thick, gelatin-like substance.

Review content copyright © 2012 Patrick Naugle; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2016 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Judgment: 65

Perp Profile
Studio: Warner Bros.
Video Formats:
* Full Frame

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)

* English (SDH)

Running Time: 581 Minutes
Release Year: 1990
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks
* None

* IMDb