This week we take a look at one of black TV’s unsung #CultureClassics, the 90’s family sitcom, Family Matters.
Family Matters was a TV comedy that launched on ABC. It was a major component of ABC’s iconic TGIF block of shows and ran from 1989 to 1998. The series revolved around the Winslow family, a middle-class African American family living in Chicago. It featured their day-to-day family life and all the good, bad, and funny that entails.
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 mysteriously and randomly written out in season four) and Carl’s street-wise mother, Estelle. Midway through the first season, the show introduced the Winslows’ nerdy neighbor Steve Urkel played by Jaleel White. Urkel quickly became its breakout character and eventually the show’s main character spawning merchandise and catch phrases still used in The Culture today while turning White into a 90’s pop culture icon.
The show covered a wide variety of topics from the usual comedic teen dating and school struggles to serious issues like drugs, racism, and even the struggles of being a black police officer. Through it all, the main focus was on family and even though it could be a little bit (ok a lot) corny, the positive portrayal of a black family in the suburbs was a welcomed site for it’s millions of viewers of color.
And having such a long run (9 seasons), Family Matters made history as it became the second longest-running non-animated U.S. sitcom with a predominantly African-American cast. It only trails The Jeffersons and it’s 11 seasons. Having aired 215 episodes, Family Matters is also ranked third all-time, behind Tyler Perry’s House of Payne (254), and The Jeffersons (253).
And the show lives on via syndication and streams on Hulu. So right this very second, somewhere in the world someone is having a wholesome laugh and singing “As the days go by”…
#FunFact – The show was actually a spin-off of the then hit show Perfect Strangers. Officer Winslow made his TV debut as a guest star setting the ball rolling for the eventual Family Matters series.
If you enjoyed that look at a throwback TV classic. Check out more of our #CultureClassics:
Written by creator for The Culture @TalentedMrFord