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Family Matters
Family Matters

Family Matters is an American television sitcom that originated on ABC from September 22, 1989 to May 9, 1997, before moving to CBS from September 19, 1997 to July 17, 1998. A spin-off of Perfect Strangers, the series revolves around the Winslow family, a middle-class African American family living in Chicago, Illinois.[4] Midway through the first season, the show introduced the Winslows' nerdy neighbor Steve Urkel (Jaleel White), who quickly became its breakout character and eventually the show's main character.[5] Having run for nine seasons, Family Matters became the second longest-running non-animated U.S. sitcom with a predominantly African-American cast, behind only The Jeffersons (11). Having aired 215 episodes, Family Matters is ranked third, behind only Tyler Perry's House of Payne (254), and The Jeffersons (253).

History


The series originally focused on the character of police officer Carl Winslow and his family: wife Harriette, son Eddie, elder daughter Laura, and younger daughter Judy (who appeared until the character was written out in season four).[6] In the pilot episode, "The Mama Who Came to Dinner," the family had also opened their home to Carl's street-wise mother, Estelle (Rosetta LeNoire), usually known as "Mother Winslow." Prior to the start of the series, Harriette's sister, Rachel Crawford and her infant son, Richie, had moved into the Winslow household after the death of Rachel's husband. The Winslows' nerdy teenage next-door neighbor, Steve Urkel (Jaleel White), was introduced midway through the first season in the episode "Laura’s First Date" and quickly became the focus of the show.[7] The popular sitcom was a mainstay of ABC's TGIF lineup from 1989 until 1997, at which point it became part of the CBS Block Party lineup for its final season. Family Matters was produced by Bickley-Warren Productions (1991–1998) and Miller-Boyett Productions, in association with Lorimar Television (1989–1993) and later Warner Bros. Television (1993–1998). As the show progressed, episodes began to center increasingly on Steve Urkel, and other original characters also played by White, including Steve's suave alter-ego, Stefan Urquelle, and his female cousin, Myrtle Urkel.

In early 1997, CBS picked up Family Matters and Step by Step in a $40 million deal to acquire the rights to the programs from ABC.[8] ABC then promised to pay Miller-Boyett Productions $1.5 million per episode for a ninth and tenth season of Family Matters. However, tensions had risen between Miller-Boyett Productions and ABC's corporate parent, The Walt Disney Company (which had bought the network in 1995 as part of its merger with ABC's then-parent Capital Cities/ABC, Inc.). Miller-Boyett thought that it would not be a big player on ABC after the network's recent purchase by Disney. In turn, Miller-Boyett Productions agreed to a $40 million offer from CBS for a 22-episode season for both Family Matters and Step By Step (along with a new production from the company, Meego). CBS scheduled Family Matters along with Meego and Step By Step as a part of its new Friday lineup branded as the CBS Block Party and scheduled the family-oriented block against ABC's TGIF lineup, where the two series originated. Although Jo Marie Payton was reluctant to continue and wanted to leave, feeling the show had jumped the shark years prior, she agreed to stay for the first half of the season to keep continuity and, partway through, her part was recast with Judyann Elder.[9]

Family Matters, while it continued to lose viewership compared to previous years, was initially a modest success on CBS, beating the show that replaced it, You Wish. Meego, however, was a ratings failure and was canceled after six weeks. Near the end of the ninth season, the cast was informed that a tenth and final season was planned, so scripts and plot synopses were written for the show. After the holiday special season, CBS replaced Meego with Kids Say the Darndest Things, and with that show's child-centered focus, it was placed in Family Matters's 8/7c time slot, with Family Matters pushed an hour later and paired with Step by Step. The ratings for Family Matters fell even further in this later slot, and the entire Block Party except for Kids Say... was canceled in spring 1998, with the remaining episodes burned off in the summer.

Cast


Episodes


Production notes


Family Matters was created by William Bickley and Michael Warren (who also wrote for, and were producers of parent series Perfect Strangers) and developed by Thomas L. Miller and Robert L. Boyett (who also served as producers on Perfect Strangers), all four also served as executive producers of the series. The series was produced by Miller-Boyett Productions, in association with Lorimar Television who co-produced the show until 1993, when Warner Bros. Television absorbed Lorimar (a sister company under the co-ownership of Time Warner). Starting with season three, the series was also produced by Bickley-Warren Productions. The series was filmed in front of a live studio audience; the Lorimar-produced episodes were shot at Lorimar Studios (later Sony Pictures Studios) in Culver City, California, while the Warner Bros.-produced episodes were filmed at Warner Bros. Studios in nearby Burbank. Family Matters aired from 1989 to 1998, along with Seinfeld.

The show's original theme was Louis Armstrong's "What a Wonderful World"; it was scrapped after the fifth episode of season one ("Straight A's"), though it was heard only in the pilot episode in syndicated reruns. The second theme, "As Days Go By," written by Jesse Frederick, Bennett Salvay and Scott Roeme and performed by Frederick, was the theme for the majority of the series until 1995; it was last used in the season seven episode "Fa La La La Laagghh," the only episode during the final three seasons to feature it (this was heard in season one episodes in ABC Family and syndicated airings). A longer version of "As Days Go By" was used during the first three seasons, though in syndicated reruns the short version is heard (in ABC Family airings, the long theme was used for all of the episodes during the first three seasons).

Family Matters is set in the same "TV universe" as several other TV shows related to ABC's TGIF or CBS' Block Party. Before Family Matters, Harriette Winslow was originally the elevator operator at the Chicago Chronicle newspaper office in the third and fourth seasons of Perfect Strangers. Family Matters was a spin-off series given to this character in 1989. Characters from Family Matters appeared on other shows including Full House, Boy Meets World, Step by Step and Meego.

Syndication


In September 1993, Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution began distributing Family Matters for broadcast in off-network syndication; most television stations stopped carrying the show by around 2002, though some stations in larger markets such as WTOG in Tampa, Florida continued to air Family Matters until as recently as 2005 and WPIX as 2007. In 1995, reruns of the series began airing on TBS Superstation, where it ran until 2003. From 1997 to 2003, reruns of the series aired on WGN America. In 2003, ABC Family picked up the series and aired it for five years until February 29, 2008. From 2004 to 2006, UPN aired the show for 2 years. BET aired reruns briefly in December 2009 and began airing the series on a regular basis on March 1, 2013. MTV2 also began airing reruns on September 7, 2013. The show aired on Nick at Nite from June 29, 2008 to December 31, 2012. ABC Family and Nick at Nite airings cut the tag scenes at the end of all episodes, despite the fact that many episodes during the series have tag scenes during the closing credits. In 2015, the series now airs on a Viacom owned cable network BET Her. In Canada, the series also aired on CTV and CBC for reruns.

On September 29, 2017, Family Matters became available for streaming on Hulu along with fellow Warner Bros. TV productions Full House, Hangin' with Mr. Cooper, Perfect Strangers and Step by Step in addition to Disney-ABC TV productions Boy Meets World, Dinosaurs and Home Improvement.[11] In the UK it aired on Sky One whilst Perfect Strangers aired on BBC One

Home media


Warner Home Video has released the first four seasons of Family Matters on DVD in Region 1[12][13][14] while the remaining five seasons were released by the Warner Archive Collection.[15][16][17][18][19] On February 4, 2014, Warner Home Video released season 4 on DVD, but consumers complained when it was found that the season 4 set contained syndication edits rather than the original broadcast masters. Warner Bros. responded to the complaints, offered a replacement program to receive corrected discs and reissuing the set with corrected broadcast copies on April 4, 2014. All episodes are the original broadcast form, except for the episode "Number One With a Bullet", disc 1, episode 6. The entire series is also available for digital download on Amazon.com and the iTunes Store, all but season 6 remastered in both SD and HD.[20]

Awards, nominations and other reception


WatchMojo.com rated Family Matters as the #8 African American TV show. Steve Urkel was rated as the #2 most annoying TV character and as the #4 TV neighbor. His catchphrase Did I do that? was rated as the #10 sitcom catchphrase.

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