Family Matters: The Complete Second Season
As the Winslows weather life's inevitable ups and downs, they continually prove that what matters most is family in this heartwarming comedy.
Only the most die-hard '90s TV nostalgians will remember (or care) that one of that decade's most popular shows was a spinoff. The middle-class African-American Winslow clan, who were settled so comfortably in the Chicago suburbs, sprang from ABC's sister hit Perfect Strangers
and occupied the same agreeably bland primetime landscape, practically defining its cultural era. But by a margin as tall as the Sears Tower, Family Matters
will forever be distinguished as the property of Steve Urkel, the whiny-voiced, high-water-pants-and-suspender-wearing über-nerd who lived next door. Urkel made the Winslows' life delightfully fraught with situational comedy that was the very definition of sitcom humor in the 1990s. The show is still fondly regarded by nearly everyone who tuned in and equally reviled by those who loudly tuned out its paper-thin stories of mild family discord and rapprochement. Probably the only person in the world who doesn't fall in either the love it or hate it camp is Jaleel White, the gangly young boy (and later buff mature grownup) who played Urkel for all nine seasons and will never, ever be identified as anything but. White as Urkel was introduced innocuously enough in the middle of season one, and he caused such a sensation with fans of the new show that he was added as the virtual star starting in season two. For that reason alone, this three-disc set of all 25 second-season episodes (with no bonus features whatsoever) will be a must-have for Family Matters
aficionados. Urkel not only took over the series, he became a wildly iconic pop-culture figure who endures to this day. Every episode was essentially built around the cartoonishly goofy kid, even though the series was supposed to be about the growing pains of life in the Winslow household. The rest of the cast nevertheless lent strong support, and it's a credit that they all stuck with it as foils to the shenanigans of White's creepy creation. Reginald VelJohnson and JoMarie Payton are good anchors as patient parents Carl and Harriette, with Rosetta LeNoire adding sass as Carl's mother and Telma Hopkins pepping up the background as Harriette's single live-in sister. Kellie Shanygne Williams as the teenage Laura Winslow and object of Urkel's unrequited crush is the ostensible reason he keeps hanging around. But his run-ins with the Winslows encompass a range of sitcom tomfoolery, from a showdown with the school bully to a Wild West dream sequence with Urkel as nerdy cowpoke gunning for Sheriff Winslow (Carl and Urkel being at odds seemed to be the backbone of most scripts). In addition to his broad-with-a-capital-B slapstick physicality, Urkel also brought a ringer to the TV catchphrase hall of fame. His innocently pip-squeaked "Did I do that?" can be heard at least once every episode and ranks with "Eat my shorts" (Bart Simpson), "Thank you very much" (Latka Gravas), and "Heyyyy!" (the Fonz) in the annals of TV character memes. School screwups, pubescent kids' issues, innocuous adult problems, and getting along in an unconditionally loving family were the primary plot devices that drove Family Matters
into America's consciousness. But it was Steve Urkel who drove the show to its huge ratings heights and keeps it a sentimental favorite for those who could bear him in his heyday and who can still hear the hilarity in every "Did I do that?" --Ted Fry