Hey folks, Valkor here. Back in the 1986 ABC aired a show called "Perfect Strangers" starring Mark Linn-Baker as Cousin Larry and Bronson Pinchot as Balki Bartokomous, who visited his cousin from the land of Mypos, making them an up to date odd Couple with hilarious results. Within that show sat an elevator operator for the newspaper "The Chicago Chronicle" named Harriet Winslow. She was tough, gritty, to the point and funny as all hell – definitely one of the shows finest actors. I don't know who thought it was a good idea to pull Harriet from Perfect Strangers and put her in own sitcom, but kudos because next to "The Cosby Show", "Family Matters" was not only a great series, but reinforced positivity, in an otherwise negative black community.
And now thanks to the folks at Warner Home Video, we get to enjoy the series once more starting with the Season One box set that features the Winslow family at their best. Yes Steve Urkel is there making a regular appearance about mid season, but Season one was all about the Winslow's. First up we have Carl Winslow (Reginald Vel Johnson), the father of the house and Chicago police officer. If I had to describe the character, I'd say he's more of a black Ralph Kramden (Whom later he would get his Ed Norton in the form of Steve Urkel). He's loud, pushy, but on top of it all he cared about his family and just wanted what was best for them.
Next is Harriet Winslow (Jo Marie Payton), whom I've already given a brief description of in the first paragraph. But the writers changed her up a bit from Perfect Strangers to Family Matters – lost is her trademark "baby" at the end of a sentence, specifically if she was talkin to Larry or Balki. But we gained so much more as her character fully developed into a strong wife and mother.
We move on to the three children of the Winslow's, first up is Eddie Winslow (Darius McCrary), debonair, funny, but also a bit of a doofus but definitely one of the shows strongest characters. Next is Laura Winslow (Kellie Shanygne Williams), the smart and pretty daughter, who's also the target of the affections of one Steve Urkel. Finally we have Judy Winslow (first played by Valerie Jones and then replaced by Jaimee Foxworth, but you can still see the back of Valerie's head in the opening) aka the forgotten child. Judy was delegated to the shadows as Urkel saw an uprising in his popularity. And to be honest, after a few seasons, I all but forgot the Winslow's even had a third child (she'd be dropped from the show all together in later seasons).
Next up we have Rachel (Telma Hopkins), writer and later owner of her own restaurant. She moved in with the Winslow's with her son Ritchie (played by twins but was credited under one name Joseph Julius Wright), when her husband passed away. And finally we have Estelle Winslow (Rosetta Lenoire), who also came to live with the Winslows.
Last, but certainly not least, we have Steve Urkel (Jaleel White), the annoying neighbor who's goal it is, is to win the heart of Laura Winslow. The first ep he fully appears in, Laura's First Date, is actually quite funny. In later eps, he gets more to do and also spouts his catch phrase "Did I do that?"
So what fun can we expect from this first season? Here's a few choice sample of some of my favorites the 22 eps this 3-disc set contains.
Mr. Badwrench – When Mom Winslow goes off to visit one of her sons, she makes mention that when she visits she has her own shower. This sparks an idea to install a shower in his mom's room… with disastrous and hilarious results.
Baker's Dozen – When Carl makes tarts for the family, using a secret family recipe, it becomes a big hit. So big that Rachel tells Carl he should sell them. But when their first order comes in, asking for 1,000 dozen of tarts, the family does their best to complete the order, but when things explode into an all out tart fight, can the family keep it together to finish what they s-tarted?
The Big Fix – An Urkel episode. Eddie needs help with his Algebra, so who does he turn to? That's right, Steve Urkel. But the Urk-man wants something in return… a date with Laura.
Straight A's – Eddie gets his report card and HUGE surprise, he gets all A's. But when he finds out that his friend used his computer to fake his grades, what's he gonna do and how can he tell his father, who's overjoyed with his son's new found smarts?
No extras to speak of and for a first season, I'd think someone could have gotten the cast together for a little retro into the series. But what do I think of the set?
What can I say; this is an awesome pick and a wonderful series. Family Matters is like the Cosby Show, but with a bit more spice to it. Sure Bill Cosby was the father everyone wanted, but think of Carl Winslow as the fun Uncle you were always glad to see. The series itself instilled positive values among black youths of its time, and I can include myself into the mix as I was a healthy follower of the series, up until things went off the tracks (Stefan Urquelle being separated from Steve anyone?). As it stands, the show still holds up even today, though it's about 20 years old, it still looks good and loads of fun to watch.
Why is Steve Urkel ALL OVER THE DAMN SET!! I'm actually quite pissed that he's not only on the front of the package, while the family, whom the show is all about, is set behind him, but they are also delegated to the back of the cover, while Steve gets his mug on the front, back, and on all three discs, plus the front of the insert! It's the family's first season set, why the hell couldn't they get the front of the box?? Steve doesn't become a regular until about mid-season and it doesn't becomes the Steve Urkel show until about season 4 or 5, so the Winslows should have been the forefront of this box set!! Damnit!
Did I mention Steve Urkel's face is everywhere? Jaleel, dude, huge fan of your work and I mean no disrespect, but daaaaaamn whoever thought it was a good idea to have your character on the cover and just about everywhere else on this set should be fired!
Overall Family Matters: the Complete First Season is still a great set to pick up, especially for moms and pops looking for family-friendly type shows to air to their little ones. I for one highly recommend it! And out of TOV 5 stars, I give Family Matters: the Complete First Season… 5 stars. It doesn't matter if Urkel is all over the set; the show is still worth checkin out! And the show has been Valkor tested, TOV Approved!