TV on DVD Review: Family Matters: The Complete First Season

Synopsis: Fans of ’90s sitcoms know those words mean Steve Urkel has come to call, bringing lots of geeky, goofy fun with him. A spinoff of Perfect Strangers, Family Matters began as the at-home adventures of elevator operator Harriette Winslow and her multigenerational family. But midway through the first season, Jaleel White made a one-shot appearance as neighborhood nerd Urkel. With oversized glasses, undersized body, screechy voice and indomitable self-confidence, Urkel proved irresistibly funny, turning White into an overnight sensation and a new star of the show. Join Urkel and the Winslows for the 22-episode debut season of the hit series that proclaims love matters, laughing matters, Family Matters!

Reginald VelJohnson once again returns as a cop but now in the form of Carl Winslow, patriarch of a family of three children (at least for this season—by season two, Jamiee Foxworth as daughter Judy has left and is never spoken of again) and a lovely wife, Harriette.  Harriette’s sister, Rachel (Telma Hopkins) and her baby have come to live with Carl after the death of her husband and, well, wouldn’t you know it: Carl’s mom, Rosetta LeNoire, has also moved in just for more added comedic relief.  Now, from the boxcover, the accompanying booklet, the inside cover and the pictures on the three discs, you would think that this show was actually called “The Jaleel White Show” but the actor is truly only in a handful of the 22 episodes as neighbor Steve Urkel.  While he did become the star of the show for the many years that it ran, it seems a bit tacky to put him as the main focus so early in the DVD run.

From one episode to the next the typical problem arises and is solved by some display of familial love. Perhaps Laura is having a hard time getting a date to the dance or maybe Edward wants to quit basketball, no matter the case, someone in the family has an answer. Shows like Family Matters are the very shows that Family Guy parodies in its opening sequence, the simple 90s sitcoms that preach values over the cacophonous blaring of cop procedurals and violence on the evening news. The Winslows are nowhere near the wholesome goodness of the Cleavers, but they’re far more realistic in their take on what family life is really like. Sure, neither you nor I ever perfected a tart and attempted to make a few thousand of them in our kitchen over the weekend, but that’s not the point. The Winslows represent the updated image of what an ideal family would be if you take away the certainty of jobs that never leave and children who never grow up. Times change, people age, and families get stronger and weaker all at the same time. Family Matters understood that and made it its legacy from day one.

There are no special features in this DVD collection which is too bad as I would have loved to have seen an update on the cast and have had interviews with them.  However, that is but a small complaint because I sat and watched all three discs over a period of two days and fell in love with the Winslow clan once more.

The show originally aired in 1989, as part of ABC-TV’s Friday night TGIF lineup.  It ended in 1998 after the series moved to CBS-TV.  The series ran for nine successful season and was nominated for an Emmy Award in 1996. It’s a fun show to watch!  Check it out today!

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