Everybody, do The Urkel! Here it is; the season of Family Matters that launched Steve Urkel from nerdy sitcom neighbor into a pop culture phenomenon throughout the 1990s. From the Urkel doll, breakfast cereal (Urkel-Os), and T-shirts, to his many catchphrases (“Did I do that?; “Got any cheese?”; “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!”), the character of Steve Urkel is one that we who grew up in the 90s will always remembered as a constant presence on ABC’s TGIF line-up.
The series, which is a spin-off of one of my favorite shows, Perfect Strangers, was a fairly standard family sitcom during its first season. The daily lives of the Winslows was definitely amusing to watch, but in retrospect these Urkel-less eps do feel a bit mundane and seem like standard sitcom fare.
It wasn’t until episode 12, “Laura’s First Date,” that Jaleel White was introduced to Family Matters viewers as Steven Quincy Urkel, a role that would not only make him one of the most identifiable TV characters of all time, but continue to haunt him long after the series ended in 1998. Urkel can also be see in other TGIF series including guest appearances on Full House and Step by Step.
Season two takes Urkel to new levels of nerdiness, pairing him frequently with flustered straight man Carl (Reginald VelJohnson) for plenty of comedic insanity. From being trapped together in a hot air balloon to having to deal with Urkel’s constant presence in his home, the Urkel-Carl relationship was solidified and became a long-running comic device in the second season and a staple of the series.
It is in this season that audiences were introduced to the greatest dance phenomenon since The Macarena: The Urkel. If you’re dying to see the birth of this dance on the series and don’t want to wait, it can be found in “Life of the Party,” which also gives us a lesson of the dangers of rooftop drunkenness (and you get to see Aunt Rachel walk a tightrope!).
Another notable episode is “Fight the Good Fight” with Laura determined to get a Black History class started at her school. This is one of the most memorable episodes of the series and one that I always have remembered since the first time I saw it. It’s an episode that deals with racism, intolerance, and other issues, but what really stands out is Mama Winslow’s story about her quest for a library card when she was a child. Gets me every time.
This is also the season with Urkel burning down the restaurant that would become Rachel’s Place, and the season that introduces Steve’s cousin, Myrtle Urkel (also played by Jaleel White) to the world. It would still be another three seasons until viewers were introduced to Stefan Urquelle, the cool version of Steve that would attempt to woo Laura. And then Steve clones himself (yeah, it starts to get pretty wacky later on in the series).
While Urkel does become the focal point of the series, it is also important to note the amazing and talented group of actors who play the Winslows. Reginald VelJohnson (Carl), JoMarie Payton (Harriette), Telma Hopkins (Aunt Rachel), Rosetta LeNoire (Estelle), Kellie Shanygne Williams (Laura), Darius McCrary (Eddie), and Jaimee Foxworth (Judy) all help to bring a balance to the at times over-the-top antics that only Steve Urkel can deliver.
If you’re a fan of Family Matters then get ready to toss those worn out VHS tapes and step into the world of Urkel on DVD! If you’ve never seen the series I recommend you check out one of the classic family shows of the 90s. Now, let’s all do The Urkel!
Family Matters: The Complete Second Season is available February 14, 2012 on DVD!
What is your favorite episode/character on Family Matters? Leave a comment and let us know!