They seem like a real family!
Family Matters was a groundbreaking and beloved sitcom — that’s for sure. It currently holds the title of third longest-running non-animated U.S. sitcom with a predominantly African American cast. The Jeffersons was the highest ranked until Tyler Perry’s House of Payne came along, but the lovable ’90s show is number one in many hearts around the world.
In this age of reboots like Fuller House, Roseanne, and Will & Grace, everyone was wondering whether the Winslow’s will return to the small screen. Well, fans are in luck… kind of. While we don’t know if this show will get a full-on reboot yet, Entertainment Weekly got the whole gang together to talk about their time on the show, and we loved seeing them together again.
A New Show
Family Matters premiered on September 22, 1989 on ABC while the network was on the prowl for their own African American prime-time sitcom to rival The Cosby Show on NBC and The Jeffersons on CBS. Producer William Bickley said, “Family Matters came about because the network wanted a show about a black family. Bob Boyett and Tom Miller turned to Michael Warren and myself and said, ‘Hey, let’s do a black family [show].’”
ABC already had Perfect Strangers about a pair of odd-couple cousins living together in Chicago. Their elevator operator was a wise-cracking black woman named Harriette Winslow who was played by Jo Marie Payton. William Bickley and Michael Warren talked to Jo Marie about having her character spun-off into a new show, and she was obviously thrilled.
They even had an actor to play her husband in mind — they wanted to cast Reginald VelJohnson who had just worked on Die Hard. Reginald recalled, “The producers saw me and asked me to come in and do an audition. It was there all along; I just felt it.”
How It Began
The Winslows appeared in one episode of Perfect Strangers to convince ABC to give their pitch a pilot episode. Family Matters premiered to fair ratings, and the show was given one season. The original cast included Carl and Harriette, their three children (Eddie, Laura, and Judy), Carl’s mother Estelle, and Hariette’s widowed sister Rachel with her infant son Ritchie. The first episodes went well, but it was the introduction of one character midway into that season that made the show stand out against the competition.
Nerdy, next-door neighbor Steve Urkel (played by Jaleel White) was brought on for one episode where he was asked by Carl to take Laura to the dance. Viewers were enthralled by the spastic teen boy, and he was brought on as a regular cast member soon after. William Bickley said, “Turns out that hideous character turned out to be the most wonderful character that we ever invented.”
Over the course of nine seasons showing typical sitcom shenanigans, real life issues, and tons of Urkel, Family Matters finally came to an end, but you can watch every single endearing episode of the series on Hulu beginning on September 29.
Watch the Documentary
The cast was brought together by Entertainment Weekly for a reunion just in time for the big Hulu release. Needless to say, they were all ecstatic to be in each other’s company again.
“I haven’t seen these guys, but to see them now the way they are is wonderful. It’s like heartwarming; it makes me cry,” Reginald VelJohnson exclaimed. His television wife Jo Marie Payton concurred. “For us to be all together again, I believe it’s God’s plan. And I believe he kept us safe and alive for a reason. So I’m excited to see everybody together. Of course, I love them all,” the actress said.
You can watch the entire interview on Entertainment Weekly’s Facebook. Tell us what your favorite part of Family Matters was in the comments and SHARE this story!