Series / Family Matters
No, it wasn't called "The Urkel Show".note 

"Did I do thaaaat?"

Family Matters is one of the quintessential sitcoms of the 1990s. It started as a spin-off of Perfect Strangers on ABC (as one of the anchors to the newly-formed TGIF block) with background character Harriette Winslow and her husband Carl, a policeman. The show is about their picturesque working-class family. Carl's mother Estelle moved in with them in the first episode, and that is essentially how the show began.

Compared to the later seasons, it seemed rather quaint.

Midway through the first season, the annoying neighbor and Hollywood Nerd Steve Urkel was introduced, intended as a one-shot character revolving around Carl finding a tame guy to take his daughter Laura to a dance. Actor Jaleel White hit the role so enthusiastically that some college students in the studio audience started chanting "Urkel" repeatedly. This was a pleasant surprise to the producers (the show was on the brink of cancellation due to poor ratings, so anything that might draw an audience was welcomed), who quickly signed up White to return as a regular.

His wackiness and prominence got to the point where Steve was the go-to example of an extraverted nerd. As it went on, Steve came to dominate the show, and more and more episodes revolved around him and his wacky sci-fi inventions.

The Winslow family members came to be defined by their relationship with Steve: Carl became the father figure, as Steve's own parents were implied to be neglectful at best, the oldest son Eddie was his best friend, Laura was his unrequited love interest, Estelle always recognized his good heart, Richie saw him as an honorary uncle, and Harriette kept Carl from killing him. In fact, the youngest daughter, Judy Winslow, was phased out to a life of porn (after adulthood, of course) because she didn't have much interaction with him. note 

It's notable in being the most successful sitcom aside from The Cosby Show and The Jeffersons to focus on African American characters, as well as not make race an overwhelming topic. It's also like the one millionth time Reginald VelJohnson was cast as a policeman, after Die Hard, Turner & Hooch and Ghostbusters.

Sometimes described as a spiritual successor of Happy Days, the two shows have many superficial similarities.note 

The show ended after nine seasons in 1998, having moved to CBS for its last season along with sister series Step by Step.

This show provides examples of:

  • Abhorrent Admirer:
    • This more or less became the show's setup when Steve was introduced. Unlike most versions of this, he and Laura do eventually end up together in the final season of the show.
    • Played with with Steve's female but otherwise physically identical Southern Belle cousin Myrtle, who harbored an equally unreturned crush on Eddie.
    • In the earlier seasons of the show, Carl's boss Lieutenant Murtaugh is this to Rachel.
  • Above the Influence: In "Eau de Love", Steve accidentally gets splashed with his own aphrodisiac and has to fight off the aggressive advances from the normally hostile Laura. In the end, after he puts on the antidote, she doesn't seem to remember what happened, and the situation reverts to status quo.
  • Abusive Parents:
    • Steve's never seen parents are this normally for laughs. Examples include trying to push him back into the womb, not owning a car because he was born in one, neglecting to feed him, making him pay rent even as a child, and finally moving to Russia without him.
    • Of course, with his parents gone, Steve moved in with the Winslows, whom he liked better, by his own admission:
    "Big Guy, I love you like a father, and my father like... a neighbor."
    • And who can forget the time that Steve had to stay with the Winslows while his parents went on their second honeymoon. He almost casually mentions that they went on separate honeymoons. So as to not repeat the horrible accident they had on their first. Him.
    • Yet another example includes Steve mentioning his parents putting trick candles on his birthday cakes. Not the kind that won't blow out, but rather, the kind that blow up.
  • Acrofatic: Carl, who is a cop.
  • Aesop Amnesia: Several examples:
    • Many of the earlier episodes would have at least one character learning to be nicer to Steve (particularly after he would stick up for them or, in the case of Laura, expose a potential boyfriend with an unsavory agenda), then promptly forget it the very next episode. This was downplayed and eventually forgotten by the later seasons.note 
    • During the series' early years, Eddie was especially prone to this. He threatened to move out at least twice (and did so on one of those occasions) after conflicting with Carl over house rules; and at least twice got into trouble for getting into minor accidents ... without having a valid driver's license (both times to raise his value to girlfriend, Jolene). At least three other times, he got into trouble for gambling ... one time landing himself and Steve in jail (when the police busted an illegal casino) and at least twice when he ran into people who threatened to beat him (or Steve, or them both) to death if they didn't pay their debts.
    • In the gambling instance, it took Eddie's fourth time in losing money to realize that gambling was not the way to recoup losses (he and Waldo had been stuck with a bill for several hundred dollars after a con man promised them an opportunity to meet the Chicago Bulls, and Eddie goes to his father for assistance; Carl ultimately arrested the con men in his role as a police officer).
    • Throughout the series, Laura would constantly date these no good jerkasses who were clearly taking advantage of her. The corresponding episodes would always end with her learning a lesson about being more discerning of men, only for her to promptly forget it soon after.
  • Affably Evil: In one episode, Eddie and his friends got in trouble with a Loan Shark, so he sent a Giant Mook Scary Black Man named Bones to intimidate them. Bones did just that... while also being surprisingly polite about it — in fact, he even befriended Steve over their shared love of polka!
  • Ageless Birthday Episode: Several episodes were devoted to Carl's birthday with no mention of his age.
  • Alliterative Name:
    • Jerry Jamal Jameson (3J).
    • Myra Monkhouse.
    • Nick Neidermeyer.
    • Penny Peyser (Laura's original best friend).
    • Related, Waldo Geraldo Faldo is a rhyming name.
  • All Just a Dream: Several episodes.
    • The season seven episode "Bugged" plays with this in a very interesting manner: a scene would be transitioned to in a normal fashion, and something that's been clearly on a character's mind throughout the episode (such as Myra hideously overreacting to Steve fantasizing about another woman) would happen. Suddenly, the scene would shimmer out, revealing itself to be nothing more than a fantasy.
    • Happens again in "Stevil." The whole episode turns out to be just a dream. It even winds up being a dream within a dream of sorts, with Steve "waking up" and Eddie attempting to perform brain surgery on him with a cake mixer. Steve finally wakes up for real, and is scolded by Eddie for behaving so oddly during holidays.
  • All Men Are Perverts:
    • Played surprisingly straight for a kid-friendly sitcom. Nearly every school-age male on the show cheats on and/or demands sex from women (specifically, Laura and Maxine).
    • In one episode, Eddie even refuses to introduce his male friends (other than Steve) to Greta because "they're all players." Really makes you wonder what kinds of people Eddie hangs out with (which is particularly odd since he's supposed to be a "good kid").
    • Even Steve's feelings for Laura borders on obsession. There's a scene where it's revealed that his locker combination numbers correspond to her measurements. It's incredibly creepy wondering how he figured that out, not to mention that he must think about it every time he opens his locker.
  • Alpha Bitch: Cassie Lynn Nubbles, a girl in high school who tried to blackmail Steve and Laura. As Steve put it, she was "the poster child for useless people".
  • Annoying Laugh: Steve's snorting laugh he always did. "Ah heh-heh-heh *snort**snort*!"
  • The Artifact: Ironically, Harriette. The show was designed as a spinoff to focus on her family life, but after Steve became the undisputed main character, more and more members of the Winslow family got phased out. Unlike Laura, Eddie, and Carl, Harriette lacked any dynamic and comedic relationship with Steve leaving her as the odd man out.
  • Ascended Extra: Weasel. Like Waldo, he was originally a crony of another character (in this case, he was one of Ted's friends) before he was retooled into being Eddie, Steve, and Waldo's friend after his initial appearance in "Rumor Has It..." Unlike Waldo, however, he wasn't promoted to opening titles and instead was a recurring character in Seasons 4 and 5.
  • Assumed Win: After the high school science lab blows up in "Presumed Urkel," Laura tells Harriette that a student trial is planned for Steve, adding that other students are planning a party to celebrate Steve's anticipated expulsion.
  • Astral Finale: The final episode has Steve going up to the NASA space station.
  • Ax-Crazy: Myra in the final season.
  • Back-to-Back Badasses: Twice with Bruce Lee Clones (literal ones).
  • Bad Date: And to think the date in "The Big Fix" was supposed to be a "non-date"! Urkel and Laura going to a fine restaurant, but (naturally) everything that could go wrong does as Urkel tries too hard to make this night out with longtime crush Laura a success. And what did go wrong, short of accidentally setting the place on fire? He asked for bad violin music to serenade Laura, he gobbled down frog legs (and snorted and giggled the whole way), he caused a waiter to trip and create a domino-series of accidents ... and he asked for his chauffeur to take a photo of the two "enjoying" their date. Needless to say, Laura couldn't wait to go home and burn the photo ... but Word of God is she kept it all those years and it is one of her and Urkel's most prized mementos.
  • Bad Job, Worse Uniform: The Mighty Weenie's hat. Carl gets a part time job there during Season 4.
  • Badass Family: The Winslows, Steve and 3J included. Carl, who has taken down crooks and has verbally defended his family (and Steve) several times and helped to defuse a bomb. This is understandable because he's a cop. But then there's Steve, Richie and 3J (as Bruce Lee Clones) defeating a street gang, Estelle judo throwing a crook, Rachel tightrope walking on a clothesline several stories in the air (in heels) to save a drunk Steve from plummeting to his death and Harriette telling off her boss.
  • Beautiful All Along:
    • Steve's "Stefan Urquelle" persona shows us that all he has to do to be attractive is get some contacts, flattering clothes, and stand up straight. Toning down the voice and not breaking stuff all the time didn't hurt either.
    • Late in the series, Steve starts a vigorous self-improvement regime that tones down some of his Hollywood Nerd traits into more flattering Geek chic ones while remaining true to himself.
    • Aunt Oona from Altoona. It helps that Donna Summer portrayed her.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For:
    • This happens to Laura when her guardian angel grants her wish for Steve to know what it's like to be her.
    • In "Father Time", Carl learns this the hard way when he altered the past to make himself rich. This was after he complained about paying the bills earlier in the episode.
  • Beta Couple: Waldo and Maxine, Eddie and Laura's respective best friends, eventually begin dating.
  • Betty and Veronica: Steve Urkel ends up in a love triangle with Laura and Myra, which can be interpreted in two ways. Either you can see Myra as the Betty (she's a fellow nerd, who loves him no matter what) and Laura as the Veronica (she's the popular and shallow girl, who will not date him until he gives himself a make-over), or you can see Laura as the Betty (she's a more normal and less seductive Girl Next Door, who has been Steve's "big love" since Kindergarten) and Myra as the Veronica (she's a more sexually aggressive new-comer, who is there to mess with Steve's emotions). But anyhow, Steve chooses Laura in the end.
  • Big Brother Instinct: After Ted spreads rumors about sleeping with Laura, Eddie is certainly not amused. He ends up forcing Ted to confess the truth to the whole school.
  • Big "OMG!":
    • Harriette has this reaction when Carl calls home to announce that Rachel's Place has been attacked.
    • Steve says this when Carl gives him a sterling silver pen as a Christmas present.note 
  • Black and Nerdy: Take a guess.
  • Book Dumb: Eddie. When Steve was asked to tutor Eddie to pass a math exam, he was absolutely shocked at how bad he is when gauging his current knowledge of the subject:
    Steve: Okay, first question, what do you get when you multiply a negative by a negative?
    Eddie: ... A... really big negative?
    Steve: (Beat) Uh oh. Okay, next question. Two times X equals six. What is the value of X?
    Eddie: Oh I know that one! It's either a number or a letter!
    Steve: (Dumbfounded) Whoa... (looks in his folder) I don't believe this! This has never happened before!
    Eddie: I did good, huh?
    Steve: You didn't even make it onto the chart!
  • Borrowed Catch Phrase:
    • Carl and Laura have both asked "Did I do that?" when they were the ones that caused the damage instead of Steve. School janitor Alfred Looney asked Steve "Did you do that?" when he thought that Steve blew up the school chemistry lab.
    • In a case of Swapped Roles, Stefan once had this exchange with Carl Urkel:
    Stefan: Go home, Carl! Go home, go home, go home!
    Carl Urkel: I don't have to take this! I'm going home!
    • Carl once said "Shh, not while he's pouring", to keep someone from disturbing Steve during a lab experiment.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall:
    • In the Western all just a dream episode, the characters are constantly looking for the source of the incidental music, which continues outside of the dream at the end of the episode.
    • At the end of the episode "Midterm Crisis", after getting into a small food fight, Steve, Eddie, and Waldo decides to go after "them" instead (referring to the viewers watching at home). They then throw eggs at the camera.
    • At the end of another episode, the Winslows are spring cleaning, and Steve brings a humongous vacuum cleaner. Once he turns it on, it sucks in the entire scene (literally), leaving Steve in front of a black background with the Winslows shouting from inside the vacuum.
  • Breakout Character:
    • Steve. Originally meant to be a one-shot character in Season 1's "Laura's First Date", he was popular enough to become a recurring character for the rest of the season, and then part of the main cast, starting with Season 2. Eventually, he got more focus than the Winslow family did.
    • The show is a study in the handling of breakout characters. The show itself was a spinoff of Perfect Strangers where Harriette and Carl were the breakout characters. In addition to Steve, Waldo and Myra were a lesser examples as they got fleshed considerably due to their popularity.
  • Brick Joke:
    • In "Driving Carl Crazy", Laura and Eddie makes fun of Steve's Isetta, referring to it as a clown car. During the end credits, the cast comes out of the Isetta like it's a clown car.
    • In "Scenes from a Mall", Richie wins a bet with Little G, with the latter saying that Carl does look like the father on Fresh Prince. During the end credits, this scene is expanded, with James Avery making an unexpected cameo appearance. This causes Reginald VelJohnson to break character and introduce Avery to the studio audience and the viewers at home.
  • The Bride with a Past: Carl's boss's woman. It turns out he knew about his fiancée's past.
  • Broken Aesop: Steve changes from a Be Yourself paragon to a Transformation Ray abuser. Unlike most examples, he gets better after he manages to clone himself. Rather than transforming into Stefan, Steve opts to improve himself the old-fashioned way. Several episodes even center around him trying to change the way he talks and dresses in order to be less grating.
  • Brought Home the Wrong Kid: Waldo takes Richie trick-or-treating one Halloween, and comes home with another little boy in the same costume.
  • Bruce Lee Clone: Steve actually becomes one occasionally through the use of his transformation chamber.
  • The Bully: Really, 90% of the show's incidental characters are this - or, at least, those who are related to Eddie, Steve and Laura. By the time all three characters were in college, this made almost no sense.
  • But for Me, It Was Tuesday: A heroic example occurs when a man is threatening to shoot Carl:
    Carl: Wait a minute, wait a minute! At least tell me who you are, and why you're doing this!
    Criminal: You busted my brother, Ralphie!
    Carl:...Would that be Ralphie the pimp, Ralphie the loan shark or Ralphie the snitch?
  • Burger Fool: "Mighty Weenie" is this, complete with low pay and embarassing uniform.
  • Butt-Monkey: Steve (obviously), Carl and, during the first couple seasons, Eddie.
  • Calling Card: A gang called the Dragons tags Rachel's Place.
  • Camping Episode: A Camping We Will Go has Steve tag along with Carl, Eddie, and Waldo on a camping trip, despite Carl's claims that he knows everything about camping and Steve will only mess up his methods. Sure enough, Steve surveys the campsite to watch for geysers, knows how to keep his food safe from bears, and even how to cook steak over a campfire, all while Carl falls behind and fails at everything since he actually knows very little, In the end, when his tent is destroyed by a geyser, he is forced to thanks Steve for his help and admit that Steve was the real expert.
  • Can't Live With Them, Can't Live Without Them: Anytime Steve focuses his attention on another girl, Laura shows shades of this to various degrees. She eventually falls in love with and agrees to marry him.
  • Car Meets House: Eddie fails his driving test, but takes a girl out for a ride anyway. He ends up driving the car into the house.
    • A later episode has a variant of this: Waldo and Eddie drive a snowmobile into the living room.
  • Cassandra Truth: Happens a few times with Steve:
    • In "Surely You Joust", Carl and Eddie are installing a satellite dish on the Winslow roof. Steve tries to warn Carl that the wood screws he's using aren't strong enough to hold the dish in place, and advises him to use masonry screws instead. Carl scoffs at the idea, but Steve is proven painfully right when he, Carl and Eddie fall off the roof after the dish breaks loose.
    • In "Saved by the Urkel", Steve tries to warn Carl that the lamp he's fixing isn't safe and that he could get electrocuted. Again, Carl blows him off, and promptly gets electrocuted when he plugs the lamp in.
    • In "A Camping We Will Go" Steve tells Carl, Eddie, and Waldo not to set their tent on a particular spot of the campground because it is right on a geyser. Steve is proven right when the geyser erupts destroying their tent.
    • In "Jailhouse Blues", Steve repeatedly tries to warn Eddie not to go for a joyride in a stolen car with his cousin Clarence. Eddie ignores his warning, and Clarence forces Steve to come with them so he won't rat them out. The next shot consists of all of them lining up for mug shots.
  • Cast the Expert: Invoked in-universe. In "A Ham Is Born", Carl moonlights as a security guard at a movie studio where a police drama is being filmed. The movie director is annoyed at Carl's opinion of a film scene until Carl mentions his 20-year experience as a Chicago police officer. After Carl demonstrates the actual procedure for arresting criminals, the impressed director decides to cast Carl as the new lead of the film. Ultimately, Carl quits his career as a film star because he, as a married man, refuses to kiss the leading actress, even if it was only part of the script.
  • Catchphrase:
    • Steve's ubiquitous "Did I do that?"
    • "Look what you did."
    • "But last week you said 'drop dead, nerd boy'."
    • "I'm wearing you down, baby! I'm wearing you DOOOOOOWWWWWWNNNNNN!"
    • "You love me, don't you?"
    • "Shhhhhhh. Not while I'm [whatever Steve's current activity is]."
    • "Go home, Steve!" "But..." "Go home, go home, go home!" "I don't have to take this. I'm going home."
    • "Well, at least no one was hurt." "Not yet..."
    • "Got any cheese?"
    • "Way to go, Carl!"
    • "(Myra) is one sick puppy."
    • "OH, WOULD YOU (come on/hurry up/get on with it/etc.)?"
    • Daniel Wallace's "That'd be me."
  • Cat Fight:
    • Narrowly averted by Steve jumping in between Myra and Laura fighting over him.
    Steve: Girls! Girls! There's no need to fight over me! (Beat) Although it is my dream come true.
    • Myrtle and Greta's (Eddie's girlfriend in the last few seasons) meetings usually result in these. One episode had the two even duking it out in a boxing ring.
  • Celebrity Star: Plenty.
  • Character Development: Carl goes from police Sergeant to Lieutenant to Captain. Harriette goes from elevator operator to department store clerk to head of security. Waldo is a butt monkey until heading off to culinary school. Eddie the underachiever spends the final season working as a cop, even evoking a mama bear moment from Harriette at the end of the series.
  • Characterization Marches On: Waldo was originally a crony of one of Eddie's classmates, Willie, who was the school bully. One of his earliest appearances was the episode "Life of the Party" where he was the one handing out alcohol from his trenchcoat. He wasn't exactly the honest and innocent person he was later known for, but there were traces of it. After this episode, he was reimagined as one of both Eddie and Steve's best friends (which got him a title credit) and Maxine's boyfriend. Adding to this, he and Willie were arrested for illegally serving alcohol at a party (which nearly got Steve killed). Waldo, dumb as he was, was most likely smart enough to distance himself from Willie afterwards.
  • Chemistry Can Do Anything: Is seen with Steve's transmogrification device.
  • Chicago: The Winslows follow the Bears and the Bulls.
  • Childhood Friend Romance
  • Christmas Episode: An unusually high-ratio count: seven, over a nine-year run.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome:
    • Judy Winslow, who simply vanished after season 4 to a "budget consideration" for the series (they mean "the actress and her parents wanted a salary raise").
    • Several minor characters disappeared with no on-screen explanation: Laura's best friend Penny after season 1, Eddie's sleazy best friend Rodney after season 2, Eddie's troublemaking friend Weasel after season 4 and 5, and Carl's boss Murtaugh who was a semi-regular for a few years and disappeared with nary a mention in 1993.
    • Rachel is a subversion. Telma Hopkins left the series as a regular after the fourth season, but made recurring appearances in Season 6 (which demonstrated that she was still at the Winslow household even if she wasn't seen). She didn't appear at all afterwards, until a final season episode stated that she had a job out of town.
  • Class Reunion: A season one episode sees Carl dieting in anticipation of his twentieth anniversary high school reunion, only to find that all his best friends from back in the day are fatter than him.
  • Clear Their Name: In "Presumed Urkel", Steve is framed for blowing up the school chemistry lab and put on trial. Laura acts as his lawyer, and not only proves that Steve is innocent but that he was framed by Dexter Thornhill, who was sick of being beaten by Steve every year in the school science fair.
  • Clingy Jealous Girl:
    • Myra and Myrtle.
    • Maxine towards Waldo. As he says to another girl, "She's a sweetie-pie, but if she saw us together she'd rip your arm off and beat me with it," all with a big smile on his face.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Waldo, at his best.
  • Cock Fight: Richie vs. 3J in a Valentine's Day episode. Richie wins.
  • College Is High School Part 2:
    • Played straight when Laura, Eddie and Steve attend IOU.
    • The students at BIT (which Steve briefly attends before transferring to IOU) are a bit more like real college students but still unrealistically blunt in the way they haze Steve at the beginning.
  • Conveniently Timed Attack from Behind: Steve attacks a would-be assailant with a (metal) bedpan during a hospital stay.
  • Cold Turkeys Are Everywhere: Reaches a cruel level in "The Big Reunion," when Carl goes on a diet. Carl is still waiting to be served his meal of vegetables while the rest of the family enjoys a lasagna dinner. The next day, during a turn on an exercise bike, he sees two food commercials and a commercial for a film called "My Dinner with Andre." At this point, Laura and Judy walk in with a cupcake. Laura neglectfully leaves it in the living room, then doubles back to get it before Carl can.
  • Cool and Unusual Punishment: Carl devises a couple of these for Eddie:
    • When Eddie takes the family car out after failing his driving test and smashes it through the front of the house, Carl grounds him for a month, forbids him from taking his driving test for another two months after that and forces him to do work at anything Carl or Harriette might decide to pay for the damage.
    • When Eddie gets arrested after joyriding in a stolen car, Carl signs him up for the Meals on Wheels program. Eddie will have to spend every Saturday for the next year participating.
    • When Eddie and Waldo accidentally drive Waldo's snowmobile through the kitchen and into the living room, Carl grounds Eddie until he can repay Carl the $800 it cost to fix the damage.
  • Cool Old Lady: Mother Winslow.
  • Cool Old Guy: Her eventual husband, Fletcher, to a lesser extent. Though he does own a Harley.
  • Cousin Oliver: 3J.
  • Covered in Gunge: Carl has ended up covered in flour, soap and artificial snow, always due to some Urkel-related mishap.
    • Laura has also been covered in everything from mashed potatoes to milkshakes to pie stuffing, again due to various Urkel-related mishaps.
  • Covers Always Lie:
    • The DVD cover for Season 1. While Steve overshadowing everyone else is accurate of the series as a whole, this was not the case in Season 1: he only has a prominent role in a handful of episodes, and was shoe-horned into a few new cold opens for syndication in order to create the illusion that he was always a part of the show. About half the episodes in the set are entirely Steve-free.
    • Valerie Jones, the actress who played Judy Winslow in the pilot, is featured on the DVD cover for Season 1, instead of Jaimee Foxworth, who played Judy from the second episode onwards (until her disappearance in 1993, anyway).
  • CPR: Clean, Pretty, Reliable: In one episode, Carl got electrocuted, leading to him being saved by Steve. Textbook Hollywood CPR ensues, but he doesn't forget a mouth barrier.
  • Crossover:
    • An episode of Full House dealt with one of DJ's friends complaining that her irritating cousin from Chicago was coming to San Francisco to visit: that cousin turned out to be none other than Steve, who proceeds to wreak as much havoc in the Tanner household as he usually does with the Winslows.
    • Step by Step:
      • Steve arrives to help Mark with a science project and also helps Al confront her fear about wearing glasses.
      • Originally, the episode "Brains Over Brawn" ended with Steve breaking through the Winslows' roof, as a result of his malfunctioning jetpack, and crash landing in Port Washington, Wisconsin, the setting of Step by Step, in a near-seamless transition between the two shows.note  However, since they no longer air together, the syndicated version of the episode instead has Steve flying over Chicago.
      • Steve make a random cameo in a 1997 episode, loading a clapperboard in a movie (for some reason).
    • Steve makes some quick, non-speaking cameo appearances in the short-lived sitcom Meego.note 
  • Cross-Referenced Titles: Season three's "Boom!" and season seven's "Chick a Boom." The former involves a treadmill bomb; the latter involves an explosive compound being mistaken for pepper.
  • Cutting the Electronic Leash: A pre-cell phone version occurs in an episode where Lt. Murtaugh gives Carl a pager. Carl stomps on it when Murtaugh beeps him during Laura's school play over yet another frivolous issue.
  • Dance Sensation: The Urkel Dance. In its appearance, Steve gets almost everybody to participate, leading them to do "The Urkel".
  • Darker and Edgier: The Season 6 episode "The Gun".
  • Deadpan Snarker: Everyone takes turns at this, but actually Steve managed to outdo them all.
  • "Dear John" Letter: In season seven, once Waldo has gone off to culinary school, he writes such a letter to Maxine, but it's sloppy work even for him.
  • December–December Romance: Fletcher and Estelle.
  • Demoted to Extra: Aunt Rachel. She left the show as a regular, but made occasional appearances afterwards.
  • Denser and Wackier: Until Steve turned science into magic, this was just a mundane sitcom.
  • Department of Child Disservices: 3J doesn't have much stability in his life until mentored by Steve and fostered by the Winslows. Lampshaded repeatedly in "3J in the House."
  • Derailing Love Interests: Poor Myra had always been crazy, especially where Steve was concerned. But during the breakup arc in the last season, she went off the deep end: she broke up with Steve, but it was a ploy to get him to beg her to take him back. Then, when he refused to continue the relationship, she sued him for "Alienation of Affection" and even got Johnnie Cochrane as her lawyer. Oh, and she installed a spy cam in his glasses so she could watch him through a monitor in her bedroom.
  • Dinner with the Boss: Played With when Harriette's boss, Nick, is invited to play poker with Carl and his friends.
  • Disappeared Dad: Shortly before the series' began, Robert Crawford dies, leaving Rachel to raise Richie alone. That is, until she is invited to stay with her sister, Harriette, and her family.
  • Distaff Counterpart: The 4th season's Christmas episode has a frustrated Laura wishing that Steve could experience what he puts her through. Her guardian angel grants her wish by turning Steve into Steve Winslow and turning Laura into Laura Urkel, a female version of Steve. The perspective flip shows her what life is like for Steve, and she becomes much nicer to him after that. A more subtle version also occurs with Carl and Harriette. Typically, Carl is the one to suffer from Steve's mishaps and Harriette has to restrain him from chasing Steve. In this episode, Harriette is the one who ends up suffering from Laura Urkel's clumsiness and Carl is the one who has to restrain her from chasing Laura.
  • The Ditz: Eddie's buddy Waldo. Sometimes you have to wonder just how he made to high school.
  • Ditzy Genius: Steven Q. Urkel.
  • D.I.Y. Disaster: One episode centered around a do it yourself home bathroom repair idea. Naturally, the toilet flusher ends up turning on the shower, the sink ends up turning on the bathtub, the bathtub ends up turning on the sink, etc.
  • Dogged Nice Guy: Steve.
  • Dom Com
  • Don't Try This at Home: In "Teacher's Pet", after a bunch of pencils drop from the ceiling and hits Robbins, Stefan looks at the camera and says, "kids, don't try this at home."
  • Double-Meaning Title: The show's title can be translated as "Family Is Important" or "Regarding Issues Concerning Family". Most episodes deal heavily with one meaning or both.
  • Drop-In Character: Steve.
  • Dumbass Has a Point: In a Halloween episode, Eddie lets Waldo take Richie trick or treating. Waldo manages to take home the wrong kid and Eddie lambastes him for it:
    Eddie: This is the dumbest thing you have ever done!
    Waldo: You left a little kid with me and you calling me dumb?
  • Dumbass Teenage Son: Eddie, particularly in Season 1. When Waldo was introduced in Season 2 and became the resident idiot, Eddie became a little less of an airhead.
  • Dysfunctional Family: In the 1993 episode "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad House," Eddie learns that claiming to be from a dysfunctional family when you're not is nothing to joke about. Eddie does so after he's faced with a multi-game suspension from the basketball team after pulling a "last straw" classroom prank. The teacher is deeply concerned about Eddie's home life and Steve, wanting to cheer the teacher up, suggests that she visit the family at home to see what's going on and why this student is acting out; both the Winslows and Eddie are not identified in the teacher's lament to Steve. Because the house is in total disarray — after Harriette followed through with a threat to "go on strike" to protest the others for not helping out with the chores and so forth — things look mighty bad when the teacher visits (and observes in secret), and she bursts in when Carl complains to Harriette that he couldn't find his old clothes to go out on a drug bust ("You know I like to wear my plaid shirt when I go out to buy drugs!"). Carl eventually is able to figure out what Eddie had told the teacher and clears things up. Needless to say, he isn't happy with his son.
  • Early Installment Weirdness:
    • The pilot seems to imply that the Winslows were living in an apartment.note  All episodes after that have them in a house instead.
    • Steve wasn't introduced until the second half of Season 1. Not particularly weird by itself, but some pre-Urkel episodes were later re-edited with pre-credit gags involving Steve for syndication.
    • As noted, in early episodes, Eddie is written to be comically dimwitted.
  • Establishing Shot: Miller - Boyett loved to use these, and made a habit of it.
  • Estranged Soap Family: Aunt Rachel leaves the show, but somehow her son Richie stays around, which means that his mother is still around somewhere. She is apparently unable to make it to a number of important events.
  • Exiled to the Couch: In the episode where Carl and Eddie got into a fight (over Eddie losing Carl's screwdriver), Eddie decides to move out. Harriette tries to get Carl to talk to Eddie, but he stubbornly refused:
    Carl: Harriette, I have spoken!
    Harriette: (bows before Carl) Whatever you say, King Carl, but if Prince Edward leaves this kingdom, you will be sleeping on the royal couch!
  • Extraverted Nerd: Steve, also the former trope namer.
  • Family Theme Naming: Robert, Rachel, and Richie Crawford.
  • First Girl Wins: In the end, Laura eventually did warm up to Steve. The end of the series has the two engaged and had the show ran one more season, would've saw them wed.
  • Flanderization: Of Steve, and really the entire show. In particular, he went from being a bright but mundane high school nerd to a full mad scientist who can wrap the laws of physics around his little finger.
  • Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling: Eddie and Laura.
  • For Want of a Nail: Carl does this in "Father Time" when he leaves a note for his past self, telling him to invest in Microsoft, Disney, and Holiday Barbie. It works when he returns to the present, discovering that he is the richest man in the world. Unfortunately for Carl, he learns that this had disastrous consequences when he arrives at his new home.
  • Frat Bro: Eddie is encouraged by one to join the Beta Chi fraternity, which is supposedly the "coolest fraternity in all of IOU." Of course, the guy is a complete Jerkass, so how his fraternity became so popular is a mystery.
  • Freudian Excuse: Steve's attachment to the Winslows (especially Carl) stems from his parents rather frigid treatment of their own son, eventually all but abandoning him for an extended research project. The Winslows act as a stable surrogate family for him.
  • Full-Name Basis:
    • Waldo.
    • Waldo Faldo?
      • Waldo Geraldo Faldo.
  • Game Show Appearance:
    • When Carl and Steve have a quarrel that can't be resolved by normal means, they take their case to American Gladiators.
    • Eddie made two game show appearances of his own.
  • Garage Sale: The set-up in the plot of the series' last pre-Urkel episode, "The Quilt." An heirloom quilt gets mixed in with other merchandise at the sale, and when a museum curator offers Laura top dollar (several hundred dollars) for the quilt — uncaring of what it means to the family — Laura wilts under pressure and makes the sale. It is only after Estelle (the grandmother) does little to hide her disappointment that Laura realizes she made a huge mistake and has to get the quilt back any way she can. Only thing is, negotiating with this stubborn, uncaring curator well-experienced in her field is a difficult if not impossible proposition ... but somehow, Laura succeeds.
  • Genius Ditz: Waldo is revealed to be a prodigy when it comes to cooking and tap dancing.
  • Genki Girl: Myra.
  • Genre Shift: Steve's inventions were often so amazing, and began appearing with so much frequency, that the show could have quite reasonably been considered a sci-fi/comedy rather than a simple Dom Com during the last few seasons.
  • Get Out: Carl says this to Steve multiple times.
  • The Ghost: Steve's parents are never seen in person.
  • Goofy Print Underwear: Usually Steve's, who had been pantsed, had his clothes (aside from his boxers) blown away by a large fan, and actually had the majority of his clothes disintegrated by a lightning strike.
  • Hard-Work Montage: Used during the construction of Rachel's Place.
  • Halfway Plot Switch
  • Hidden Depths: Waldo is generally an idiot, but he displays an amazing cooking talent in his first class. Also, when approached about cheating on a test, he refuses - saying, "I may get Fs, but by God, I earn them!"
  • Higher Education Is for Women: This was played straight within the Winslow family. Laura was a straight A student and was on her way to become a lawyer. Eddie was never good in school, and even though he spent a couple of years in college, he would drop out to become a policeman instead. Steve, however, is an aversion, as he too had always had been a straight A student and was excelling in college.
  • Hollywood Law: After Steve gets together with Laura, Myra threatens to sue her for alienation of affections, hiring Johnnie Cochrane to represent her. This argument has the following problems: At the time of the series, alienation of affections was only an actionable tort (meaning you are allowed to sue someone for it) in six states (Illinois not being one of them). Additionally, to make a case for alienation of affections, Myra would have to be married to Steve, and Laura would have to woo him away from their otherwise intact marriage. In this case, Steve and Myra were dating, not married; Myra dumped Steve (for reasons that had nothing to do with Laura), and Steve and Laura got together only after the breakup, not beforehand. Not only would Cochran's involvement not change any of this, but, being an experienced attorney, there is no way he would be stupid enough to touch such a case. In addition to the above, there is a thing called Civil Rule 11, which states that if a lawyer knowingly argues a frivolous case, he is liable to punishment by the courts.
  • Hostage Situation: At least three episodes:
    • Season 2's "Dog Day Halloween," where Steve (dressed up as Superman for Halloween) fantasizes about saving Laura, as both of them are among the hostages during a bank robbery.
    • Season 2's "I Should Have Done Something," where the hostage situation is referred to, having taken place a year earlier, but is described in detail: a mentally deranged, drugged-out individual had robbed a convenience store and taken an elderly customer hostage; the police arrive and seemingly talked the criminal into surrendering, but just a split second before he is actually arrested, the suspect shoots and kills his hostage. The focus then is on Carl mourning the hostage's death and dwelling on the fact that if he could had done things differently, the hostage would likely still be alive.
    • Season 7's "My Uncle the Hero" had a brief hostage situation, where — as Carl is giving a (predictably) boring tour of the police station to nephew Richie's class — a rookie officer momentarily takes his eyes off an arrestee; the arrestee then grabs one of the kids and makes his demands. Carl is quickly able to defuse the situation and nobody is hurt.
  • Hypocritical Humor: In one episode, Harriette recruits the girls for a beauty contest and they initially refuse because of the thought of there being a bathing suit competition but join when they're assured there isn't one or anything like it. Come the actual contest, Maxine wears a pretty skanky outfit during the talent showcase.
  • I Let Gwen Stacy Die: The Season 2 episode "I Should Have Done Something," where Carl blames himself for a hostage situation gone tragically wrong, even though he and his fellow officers followed procedure to a T. What had happened was that a drug-crazed man robbed a convenience store and took an elderly man hostage, but just as it appears Carl has successfully negotiated with the suspect to free his hostage, the young man shoots the hostage in the head, killing him instantly. Carl finally gets closure when he meets with the hostage's widow at a cemetery, and learns that no one (except for the robber) is responsible.
  • Implausible Deniability: Steve combined this with a Catch-Phrase: "Did I do that?"
  • Insane Troll Logic: Pretty much Waldo's go-to thought process.
    • Weasel gets the guys to go in on betting on football with his "foolproof" method. After every one of his bets goes badly, he explains his process:
    Weasel: We bet on the teams whose cities have the ugliest women!
    Steve: I'm going to hate myself for asking this...but why?
    Weasel: Wouldn't you be meaner if you came from a city full of ugly women?
    Steve: I was right. I hate myself.
  • Intercontinuity Crossover: Steve made appearances on both Full House and Step by Step. In the latter case, it was tied directly into what Steve had been doing in his own show (his jetpack glitched and rocketed him into the next state).
  • It Is Pronounced Tro PAY: The pronunciation of the last name of the school janitor, Alfred Looney. The other cast members (except for Steve after Mr. Looney's initial appearance) generally pronounce his name the way it looks like it's meant to be said, whereupon he will correct them by saying, "That's Loo-NAY. It's French!" Could double as his Catch-Phrase, which Carl angrily lampshades in "The Looney Bin" about the fifth time Mr. Looney says it.
  • I Was Quite a Looker: Estelle, as revealed during a photo show-and-tell for Eddie's class.
  • Jerkass:
    • Most of the Winslow family act like this toward Steve in every episode, regardless of how he helped them out in the previous episode.
    • Steve even acts like this sometimes. During the episode "Hell Toupee", he outright tells Myra that "As soon as I get a feeling that Laura wants me, I'm done with you."
    • Lots of minor characters such as Carl's boss Lt. Murtaugh, Rodney (Eddie's best friend in the first two seasons), alpha bitch Cassie Lynn, many of Laura's love interests, and Nick Neidermeyer, the annoying neighbor in the later seasons.
  • Jerkass Façade: In "Revenge of the Nerd", it is revealed that the reason why Nick acts like a jerk is because he jealous of Carl because the latter has a family, while he is divorced.
  • Just Eat Gilligan: Any one of the Winslow family could have taken out a Hollywood Restraining Order or pressed several charges against Steve for multiple counts of stalking, harassment and property damage at minimum. This is also made more egregious considering that Carl is a cop.
  • Karma Houdini:
    • Steve's bullies would often get away with what they did to him. And the audience would often even laugh at his misery, like when someone hung him by his suspenders from a hook on the wall.
    • In an episode when Laura tries to get more Black History in school, someone not only leaves her a note saying that she should "go back to Africa", but also writes a racial slur on her locker door. As far as we know, the person who did this was never caught.
    • And in another episode, a gang of girl thugs not only steal Laura's jacket by tearing it off her body and beating her, but they also actually shoot another girl because she refused to give them her new shoes. We never see these girls get any punishment.
  • Kid-anova: 3J.
  • The Klutz: Steve.
  • Later Installment Weirdness:
    • The Season 8 episode, "A Pirate's Life for Me". It really highlighted how much the show had changed. It involves a time machine sending the characters back in time to a pirate ship in the 1700s. Words cannot describe how surreal it is watching Carl, Laura, and Maxine fighting a group of pirates.
    • Carl hilariously acknowledges this in the episode "Father Time", going through a litany of Steve's previous inventions and concluding that a time machine is "no big deal" at this point. In the same episode, when asked where he got the plutonium to make his time machine's nuclear batteries, Steve casually replies, "RadioShack." Carl is unfazed.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Steve sets out to reinvent himself and his image after Family Matters moves to CBS.
  • Lethally Stupid: Steve again.
  • Lie Detector: Steve uses one on Carl in "Words Hurt".
  • Lights Off, Somebody Dies: The episode "Farewell, My Laura" features Steve (as Johnny Danger) cornering all the suspects in the murder of supper club owner Rachel and accusing each of the other characters. As soon as he accuses the character in question; the lights go out and the accused is a corpse, cutting the number of suspects down to the culprit: Laura.
  • Logical Fallacies: In the episode "Choir Trouble", Steve joins the Winslow family's church. He reports that his father doesn't approve, because "You can't see or feel God." Steve supposedly counters with: "I can't see or feel an atom, but I know it exist." Estelle tells him that's what it means to have faith (despite the fact an atom is visible under certain microscopes). If you want to be technical, you can feel atoms too. It just takes a lot of them grouped together before you can.
  • Long-Runners: 9 seasons, for better or worse, definitely due to Steve.
  • Long-Runner Tech Marches On: The Winslows upgrade to a cordless phone in Season 5.
  • Lost Wedding Ring: Down the master bathroom sink. The entire plot is, For Want of a Nail, A Recycled Script from Full House.
  • Loves My Alter Ego: Laura loved and fawned over Stefan, and was visibly disappointed when Steve returned.
  • The Magic Poker Equation: Used twice in "A Pair of Ladies".
  • Malaproper: Waldo.
    "If you cut me, do I not sneeze?"
    "Wake up and smell Juan Valdez!"
  • Manipulative Editing:
    • Almost got Carl convicted in a later episode.
    • Subverted in the episode "The Jury" when Carl and Steve have to serve on the same jury. Steve uses his computer to prove the defendant's innocence by exposing the manipulative editing of the main evidence against him.
  • Mistaken for Cheating:
    • Carl was put on an undercover sting with an attractive female co-worker. He couldn't tell Harriette because he was undercover, but she got wind of his late night meetings with the other woman and...
    • Eddie once brought 2 girls back to the apartment he was sharing with Waldo. Maxine showed up and, thinking that Waldo was cheating on her, broke up with him. Luckily, the girls were so moved by Waldo's sorrow (and so disgusted by Eddie's actions), that they explained everything to Maxine.
  • Möbius Neighborhood: Steve is the only neighbor that the Winslows mention for about five years, until Nick Neidemeyer moves into the house on the opposite side.
  • More Hypnotizable Than He Thinks: Steve claims he can't be hypnotized, but a hypnotist entrances him just by dropping the watch in front of his eyes.
  • Motive Rant: Dexter Thornhill gives one of these after being exposed for framing Steve for blowing up the school chemistry lab.
  • Mundane Fantastic: Steve's sci-fi inventions in the otherwise realistic setting of Family Matters.
  • Muscles Are Meaningless: Not intentional, but Jaleel White became a well built, athletic adult later in the show's run. Steve was supposed to be toothpick-thin with almost no masculine strength, so it wasn't always convincing. This is pretty much the reason why the Bruce Lee Clone episodes were written. White was an athletic and well-built young man (and huge Bruce Lee fan).
  • Musical Trigger: In the episode "Chick-A-Boom," Steve is involved in arranging a dinner party for Commissioner Geiss, and an explosive powder he invented is mistaken for pepper. It's primed to detonate when "Roll Out the Barrel" is played at the party.
  • My Friends... and Zoidberg: Carl does in "Father Time" when he says he the richest man in the world because he has a beautiful wife, great kids, and Steve.
  • Mythology Gag: In the earlier seasons' intro, the Winslows would be seen bicycling over a bridge- the same one seen in the opening credits of Perfect Strangers for most of that show's run (specifically the Irv Kupcinet Bridge).
  • Neck Lift: After racking up a bill for broken dishes, Steve complains to his employer, Leroy.
    Leroy: (Picks up Steve) I should fire you, Urkel, but I'm in a good mood, so I'm gonna cut you some slack.
  • Nice Character, Mean Actor: The Buddy Goodrich character. On screen, Goodrich (possibly a Bill Cosby Captain Ersatz) is a loving father. Offscreen, he's a manipulative jerk who hassles Carl (who's only there to get him to move his car out of a handicapped spot), reveals he's only at a charity event for the money, shoves (and later tries to punch) Carl, twists the event to look like the victim to the press, then threatens to have his assistant commit perjury and finally attempts to bribe Carl with a job as a "technical assistant" for his show.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!:
    • Seen in virtually every episode, especially the early Steve years, thanks to the nerd's never-ending clumsiness. The Winslows' never-ending exasperation with Steve breaking things was expanded on in several episodes, most notably:
    • In "Words Hurt," Steve is so traumatized by Carl's rant over a busted model ship that he repeatedly raps Carl over the head with a rolled-up newspaper. Furthermore, Steve is in such a state of shock that he refuses to explain why to a concerned Harriette; a hypnotist gets to the truth.
    • "What's Up Doc?": A flashback-filled episode from Season 6, featuring numerous "how Steve breaks things" incidents. Harriette once again comes to Steve's rescue by reminding the family of all the times he has helped them resolve various crisis.
    • "Life in the Fast Lane," a Season 7 episode where Steve breaking things almost didn't have a "ha-ha" ending. He had gone into a stupor when he accidentally mistakes Laura's diet pills for his own Vitamin C supplements, and while in the garage, barely avoids seriously injuring himself when some large boxes come crashing down (in one of the typical for the series chain reaction accidents).
  • Nice Shoes: One episode centers around Laura and Maxine's friend Josie getting a pair of super cool hightop sneakers that are all the rage among teenagers. Then she gets shot by another kid who steals her shoes. She got better, but damn...
  • Nobody's That Dumb: In the Season 6 episode "Midterm Crisis", when Eddie and Steve accidentally eat Waldo's gourmat cake for his mid-term, they try to cover up the situation by baking the same cake for his mid-term but ended up blowing up the oven. When Waldo arrives, they both come clean and Waldo gets upset by them and tells them off.
    Waldo: Hold the pickles. This isn't over till the fat lady takes a bath. I know what you guys are thinking. That you can walk all over me because you think I'm dumb. Well, I have feelings, too. If you cut me, do I not cough? If you hit me, do I not sneeze? And if you call me names, do I not eat?
    Steve: Oh, my God. I actually understood that.
  • Noir Episode: Season 3's season finale; "Farewell, My Laura", focuses on a screenplay written by Steve featuring him as a private eye named Johnny Danger.
  • Not Me This Time:
    • In "My Bodyguard," Steve becomes the target of a grocery store robber. He and Myra seek Carl's help, and Steve explains that he thinks the robber is stalking him because he saw someone looking in his bedroom window. Carl and Harriette turn and stare at Myra, who says, "I don't do that anymore!"
    • And then there was "Presumed Urkel", when Steve is Wrongly Accused of blowing up the school chemistry lab and put on trial. The prosecutor calls Carl to testify about all the damage Steve has done to the Winslows' property. When Laura cross-examines Carl as Steve's defense lawyer, she gets Carl to mention that Steve always admitted he was responsible for the damage. When she asks him why Steve insists that he's innocent this time, Carl says that it's because Steve clearly didn't do it.
  • Not What It Looks Like: Steve had a couple of moments of this where Myra thought he was making out with or hitting on Laura. In a non-romantic example, one of Eddie's teachers gets slammed with this. Led to believe Eddie's home is dysfunctional, she pays an investigative visit. She founds the house a complete mess and the kids living on junk food (because Hariette is on strike), Carl going out to score drugs (for an undercover sting) and Mother Winslow going out to buy men (at a charity auction).
  • Obnoxious In-Laws: Played straight initially, then inverted. In the pilot, Mother Winslow, while not doing it on purpose, manages to alienate Harriette through complaints about her cooking, as well as Rachel, and even the kids with other jabs. She also causes friction between Eddie and Carl by giving Eddie permission to go to a party that Carl told him that couldn't go to earlier. After the pilot, she better as she gets along well with Harriette, including sticking up for her at times. If anything, she directs more of her sarcasm towards Carl, including making jabs at his weight and his ineptitude as a handyman.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Subverted then played straight in Weasel's case. Rumor Has It..." is the only time Weasel is referred to by his real name, Alex.
  • Orwellian Editor: Even though Steve was first introduced in episode 12, the show's producers filmed new cold opens for episodes 4, 7, 8, and 10 with him in them, in order to create the illusion that he was a part of the show from the very beginning; these cold opens are the ones that are shown in syndication. The first season DVD restored the original cold opens in three out of four cases; the fourth (for episode 4, "Rachel's First Date") appears to be lost to history.
  • Oven Logic: Laura tries to cut the baking time in half for a home-ec cake by doubling the oven temperature. Hilarity Ensues.
  • Phrase-Catcher: "Go home, Steve!", usually followed by "I don't have to take this. I'm going home."
  • Persona Non Grata: Steve
  • Pro Wrestling Episode: "Psycho Twins," featuring the Bushwhackers as themselves. It was later inducted by WrestleCrap.
  • Promotion to Opening Titles:
    • Steve in Season 2, Waldo in Season 4, Myra in Season 6 and 3J in Season 8.
    • Hey! It's a pattern!
    • Surprisingly, Laura's friend Maxine is an exception, despite appearing in 59 episodes (more than Myra, actually), from Season 2 to Season 9.
  • Properly Paranoid: Whenever someone badgers Carl into standing up to Captain Savage (or just telling him some bad news), expect Carl's fears about Savage's reaction to be completely justified. One instance even ends with Carl being punished so unfairly, he ultimately goes Laughing Mad and gives Harriette a "The Reason You Suck" Speech for making him go against his gut and prove himself right.
  • Puddle-Covering Chivalry: In one episode, Waldo goes on a date with Maxine. When he's telling about the date to Eddie later, he mentions that he placed his jacket on a puddle so she could cross... then picked up the jacket and placed it on her. When he realized what he'd done, he sat in the puddle so they would match.
  • Put on a Bus: Rachel after season 4. Estelle, Richie and Waldo after season 7. All but Waldo appeared in the last season, with Waldo being mentioned a couple times.
  • Proud to Be a Geek: Steve.
  • Psycho Ex-Girlfriend: Myra in the last season.
  • Rank Up: Carl begins the series with the rank of Police Sergeant (just like his character in Die Hard, released the year before). He is twice promoted over the show's nearly decade-long run, first to Lieutenant and then to Captain.
  • Reality Ensues: In "Breaking Up Is Hard to Do", Myra, disgusted with the way Steve has changed over the years, breaks up with him, expecting him to change so that she will take him back. Unfortunately for her, dumping Steve gets him to take a good long look at his life and realize that he has outgrown the person he used to be — and consequently, outgrown his relationship with Myra. He ends up with Laura, who has developed feelings for him, and Myra's subsequent jealous antics end up alienating Steve even further.
  • Really Gets Around: Vonda Mahoney had this reputation. She offered to be Steve when he helped her pass her algebra exam. Ultimately, Steve found out that the reason why she did this was because she wanted to popular. He convinced her that she no longer had to do this, much to Eddie's chagrin.
  • Recurring Character: Maxine.
  • Re-Cut: The syndicated version replaced several of the first season's cold openings to include Steve. Since the creators weren't expecting him to become the massively popular character he turned out to be, they decided that introducing him in small portions during reruns was a good way to help more naturally integrate him into the cast, as opposed to him suddenly showing up in every episode out of the blue after his debut appearance, with zero indication by the Winslows that they even knew he existed until then.
  • Rejection Affection: Steve spends the entire run aggressively trying to win Laura's affections even though she is repulsed by him. His perseverance pays off in the end. One possible reason why the story arc of Steve's continued pursuit of Laura was continued long after she turned him down had to do with his overall popularity and ratings draw. Had he been a one-off character (like he was originally intended to be), he'd have been arrested or in the very least slapped with a restraining order. Plus, by the end of the show's run, geek was starting to be considered chic. In-Universe, he's gotten a steady girlfriend and changed his image to be less geeky, and Laura finally took notice.
  • Rhymes on a Dime: Waldo Geraldo Faldo.
  • Ridiculous Exchange Rates: Waldo is in the fictional Banana Republic of Santo Porto when he's Wrongly Accused of theft and arrested. Carl, Eddie and Steve come down to try and get him out of jail, but Carl balks at paying the huge bail. The guys try to break Waldo out of jail, and Hilarity Ensues until the police chief catches them in the act. He immediately threatens to arrest all of the guys unless they pay a fine on top of Waldo's bail. As it turns out, the huge sum the police chief demands is in Santo Porto dollars, which comes out to about $30 in American currency. Carl cheerfully hands over the money, and the police chief lets them all go.
    Carl: Keep the change!
  • Ridiculously Human Robot: Steve creates Urkelbot, which soon develops a mind of its own and wants Laura for itself. After that situation, he later become a Robocop.
  • Rival Turned Evil: Dexter Thornhill was so sick of being beaten by Steve in the annual school science fair every year that he framed Urkel for blowing up the school chemistry lab.
  • Robot Girl: Laurabot was built after Urkelbot was shut down and reprogrammed.
  • Running Gag:
    • Any situation involving one of the Catch Phrases.
    • Any mention of Steve's parents and their loathing of him.
    • Carl going berserk and chasing Steve after the latter's antics pushes him too far.
    • The over the top food fights.
  • Ruptured Appendix: In "Number One With A Bullet" Steve collapses on the Winslow's living room floor from a ruptured appendix.
  • Sassy Black Woman: Most women on the show took turns at this, especially Harriette and Laura. Mother Winslow is an odd example of this seeing as how she's usually sweet and kind except when she's trying to prove a point, of course.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Twice in one episode, when the Winslow kids are asked for help, they leave the kitchen in rapid succession:
    Laura: Homework! (runs upstairs)
    Judy: Homework! (follows Laura)
    Eddie: Rodney's! (exits the back door)
    • In another episode Laura and Judy are running a babysitting service. When all of their babysitters back out Laura decides to have them babysit the kids:
    Laura: I know it's just you and me Judy, but it's only fifteen kids. We can handle it!
    Judy: WE?! I'm outta here! (gets up to leave, only to be pushed back down by Laura)
  • Second Place Is for Losers: This is why Dexter Thornhill framed Steve for blowing up the school chemistry lab.
  • Self-Deprecation: One of Steve's more interesting quirks is that most of his inventions don't work: some catastrophic event makes them go haywire. It also makes things worse than what they are. He actually makes reference to this in one episode where he's trying to throw Myra a birthday party, and he invents a mechanical cake that he's supposed to jump out of. He tells Laura it's "one of my inventions that actually works!"note 
  • Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: Waldo and Eddie. Steve and Eddie can count too.
  • Sentimental Music Cue: While Family Matters did not employ this as much as the trope namer did, it should be noted that the two shows shared a production company, as well several staff members.
  • The Series Has Left Reality: After Steve is introduced, his inventions introduce a number of sci-fi plots to the setting.
  • Sexier Alter Ego: Steve has a machine that turns him into a sexier version of himself who's smooth and a ladies man without a hint of nerdiness.
  • Shout-Out:
    • In one episode, Steve creates a self-aware nuke, which has a video screen with an AI version of himself on it in front of pretty much the same background as Max Headroom. The AI Steve even does the Max Headroom-type stuttering.
    • Steve has a pen pal by the name of Cory Matthews.note 
    • The space uniform Myra wears in one of her last appearances is also the uniform of the Visitors in V (also a Warner Bros. production, so it may be a case of Prop Recycling).
  • Show Stopper: Steve.
  • Shown Their Work: When Steve saves Carl with CPR, he mentions having taken a CPR class and hopes he remembers what to do. He does everything exactly right. First, he checks for breathing and heartbeat. Next, he tells Waldo to get him the first aid kit and Eddie to call 911. Then he uses the breath guard and does two breaths followed by fifteen chest compressions.
  • Sick Episode: Steve winds up in the hospital with Appendicitis in Season 4's Number One With A Bullet leaving a happy Carl to excite over the fact that Steve will need to spend three days in the hospital and away from him. Later on Carl winds up having to share a room with Steve after a confrontation with a criminal has left him with an injury.
  • Slapstick Knows No Gender: Multiple examples:
    • Laura has been hit with pies, covered in milkshakes and splattered with mashed potatoes.
    • Myrtle and Eddie's girlfriend Greta have a slapstick boxing match and also get into a Cat Fight at Myrtle's wedding to Eddie.
    • Myrtle cheats during a beauty pageant, subjecting Laura, Myra and Greta to various indignities.
  • Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome: Richie went from an infant in the first season to a four year old at the start of the second.
  • Southern Belle: Steve's cousin, Myrtle, tries to present herself as this. Unfortunately, she's the only one who actually believes it.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Steve to Laura, Myrtle to Eddie, and Myra to Steve. The first two are played for laughs, with a mixture of Dogged Nice Guy for Steve. Myra, however, is as creepy as they come. At one point, Steve finds out that she's painted a portrait of him. He notices that the background has his computer and other details of his bedroom that, to his knowledge, Myra has never been in. And most disturbing of all:
    Steve: "That's me ... As naked as a jaybird."
    Stefan "Have you ever seen Fatal Attraction? Rent it. I think it was about you.
  • Standard Snippet: Expect "Strangers in the Night" to be played over romantic dance scenes.
  • Strange Minds Think Alike: What happens when the Winslows find out that Steve's parents are moving to Russia:
    Eddie and Waldo: (hopefully) Are you going, too?
    Harriette and Carl: (hopefully) Is Steve going, too?
  • Swapped Roles: In one Christmas episode, Laura tells Steve that she wants him out of her life and wishes that he knew how it was like to be her. Her wish is granted by her guardian angel and Steve and Laura switch places. Steve become a part of the Winslow family as a normal kid with a normal voice, while Laura becomes an extraverted nerd and pursues for Steve's affections. This time around, it is Steve who tells Laura that he wants her out of his life and even coldly slams the door in her face after she tells him that she'll still love him. Carl and Harriette swap roles in this episode too. Normally, Carl is the one who suffers from Steve's mishaps and Harriette stops him from chasing Steve. In the alternate scenario, Harriette is the one who suffers from Laura's mishaps and Carl is the one who has to stop her from chasing Laura. Laura even addresses her as "Big Gal", in contrast to Steve usually calling Carl "Big Guy".
    • Another example occurred when Steve was in his Stefan persona and Carl had been 'Urkelized' after Myra sabotaged the transformation chamber. Stefan ends up being the one annoyed by Carl, and ends up trading roles with Carl when he yells at Carl to go home. Carl replies that he doesn't have to take this, and he's going home.
  • Sweet and Sour Grapes: One episode sees Carl being passed up for the position of Captain of his precinct (which he was a lock to get) in favor of the Police Commissioner's nephew. Instead of complaining or refusing to do his job, Carl takes the situation in stride and keeps doing the best possible work he can, which earns him the Captain's admiration. At the end of the episode, the new Captain tells his uncle that Carl was the driving force behind the cops averting a gang war; he resigns his position and gives it to Carl instead, which means he got what he wanted, along with the respect of the Police Commissioner.
  • Sweet Polly Oliver: After not being taken seriously at a used car lot, Laura returns as "Larry."
  • Supreme Chef: Waldo after he discovers his talent for cooking.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial
    Eddie: There's nothing wrong with the car!
  • Tempting Fate: When Myra threatens to sue Steve for "Alienation of Affection", he declares that she'd need "the best lawyer in America" to win. Myra opens the door and lets in her attorney: Johnnie Cochran.
  • Theme Tune: "As Days Go By". It was not used in the final three seasons. The pilot used "What a Wonderful World" by Louis Armstrong.
  • There Is Only One Bed: Involving Steve and Laura in a hotel. During the whole ordeal, Steve takes crap from Laura until he finally snaps and unloads on her.
  • They Call Me Mister Tibbs: Lieutenant Mutaugh insists that his first name is Lieutenant. He goes on to say, completely deadpan, that, whenever he attains a new rank with the police, he legally changes his name to match his rank (e.g. Sergeant, Lieutenant, Captain).
  • Time Travel: Steve invents a time machine and uses it in two episodes during Season 8: "Father Time" and "A Pirate's Life For Me".
  • Title-Only Opening: The final three seasons.
  • Token White:
    • Lieutenant (later Captain) Murtaugh.
    • Nick Niedermeyer, the annoying neighbor.
    • The first, back in the pre-Steve days, was Eddie's friend Rodney.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Happened every time Steve went into his transformation chamber to gain the personality, fighting skills and even the accent and hairstyle of Bruce Lee.
  • Tranquil Fury: When Carl yells and shouts, it's usually at Steve for comically destroying his house. However, when he is calm while angry, run. Especially if someone hurts his kids, including Steve.
  • Transformation Ray
  • The Triple: In one episode, Harriette asks the kids what they want for breakfast.
    Eddie: Pancakes!
    Laura: French toast!
    Judy: How 'bout pizza?
    Harriette: How 'bout this? We're having eggs, and you got two choices: scrambled or raw.
    Kids: [deadpan] Scrambled.
  • Two Lines, No Waiting: The best example is season 3's "Making the Team", when Steve and Laura join Vanderbilt High's basketball team and cheerleading squad, respectively. A Friday night is the first real performance for both.
  • Two Scenes, One Dialogue: This is how we (and Eddie and Laura) find out about Waldo's interest in Maxine, and how their first date went.
    All: Well, good night! (everyone hangs up in unison)
  • Umbrellas Are Lightning Rods: Steve got hit by lightning three times in one episode, one incident of which implied the lightning hit his umbrella.
  • Unfortunate Name: Actually unfortunate initials in the case of one Carl Otis Winslow.
  • Unrequited Love Switcheroo: Steve and Laura.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: Steve invents a time machine, and Carl witnesses him testing it. Carl is completely unfazed by it:
    Steve: Holy Jumping Jehosaphat! Do you know what this device is, Carl?
    Carl: A swatch-watch for a nerd?
    Steve: No! It's my latest invention! You're looking at the world's first time machine!
    Carl: So?
    Steve:...So? Well, aren't you impressed?
    Carl: Steve, you have invented a transformation chamber, a cloning device and a teleportation pad that took us all the way to Paris. Frankly, a measly time machine is no big deal.
  • Vignette Episode:
    • Steve hosts a Valentine's Day episode that is split into stories about First Love, True Love, and Lasting Love.
    • There is another episode about taking credit from others, but it's easily forgotten because everyone involved in the framing device eventually disappeared.
  • Waxing Lyrical: At least twice, the kids use lines from Bobby Brown's "It's My Prerogative" in Season 1. Later, Myra does the same with a Stevie Wonder song.
  • Wham Episode:
    • Although the show rarely dealt with racism, there was an episode where Eddie got stopped and roughed up by a pair of cops because he was a black kid in a white neighborhood, and had to deal with the after effects of discrimination.
    • There was also the episode where Laura's locker was defaced and she was harassed for starting a petition to add Black History to the regular school curriculum.
    • And the time Eddie was teased for being a virgin and eventually had to confront his friends for it.
    • Another episode dealt with guns and had a friend of Laura and Maxine's getting shot in the shoulder (offscreen). They even had a special segment after the episode where the actors talk about how dangerous guns were.
    • Another episode had a street gang named the Dragons who come into Rachel's Place and causes trouble. When Rachel, Harriette, Laura and Eddie stood up to them and tells them to leave, they refuse and tries to vandalize the place only for Carl to arrive in time to stop them and force them to leave. That very night the family finds out that the Dragons broke into the restaurant after closing time and heavily vandalized the place. If things weren't already bad enough, a bruised and bloodied Eddie staggers into the restaurant.
    • One episode dealt with the dangers of getting drunk. There was a rooftop party, someone spiked the punch, Steve got drunk and fell off the roof. He caught himself on a ledge, and Rachel had to tightrope walk a clothesline to rescue him.
  • Wham Shot:
    • In the above mentioned episode concerning racism, Laura receives a racist note that reads, "If you want Black History, go back to Africa", followed by a shot of the word "nigger" spray painted on her locker. In most airings of the episode, the shot is omitted.
    • In "Farewell, My Laura", one scene shows Rachel's 1940s counterpart suspiciously staring off into the distance. After Johnny Danger tries getting her attention, she lifelessly slumps into the table, revealing a knife in her back.
  • What an Idiot!: In-Universe. After Eddie is ripped off for $500 at a lounge and Waldo blurts the truth to Carl, Carl leaves the house muttering, "That's a stupid boy" to himself.
  • What You Are in the Dark: In one episode, Carl arrests Buddy Goodrich, the star of a popular TV show, for parking in a handicapped spot and then assaulting him when he (politely) told the actor to relocate his car. To cover up the bad press, Goodrich plans to have his assistant lie about the incident. He then tries to buy Carl off with a bribe by saying he'll hire him as a "technical consultant" on the show. Goodrich is a Villain with Good Publicity, so everyone already doubts Carl, and the two men, plus the assistant, are the only ones who know what really happened. It would be easy for Carl to accept the bribe and make the incident disappear...but instead, he remarks "I can't shave with my eyes closed," explaining that he wouldn't be able to look at himself in the mirror if he took the money.
    • In another episode, the Police Commissioner promotes his nephew, rather than Carl, to the position of Captain, despite Carl having more experience. The two men actually get along well, but when a major gang fight is in danger of breaking out, the Captain turns to Carl for help. Carl agrees and devises a plan which the Captain authorizes, averting disaster. Both men then get one of these moments: when the Commissioner congratulates the precinct on a job well done, Carl could easily claim the credit for himself or get revenge, but instead acts maturely and tells the Commissioner it was all the Captain's idea. Similarly, the Captain could accept Carl's praise and make himself look like a hero, but instead immediately admits the truth about what happened, telling his uncle that he appreciates the gesture but knows that Carl is a much better choice for the job.
  • Why Are You Looking at Me Like That?: Harriette recruiting Carl to play a Mall Santa in "Deck the Malls."
  • Wire Dilemma: Carl finds himself on a treadmill that will detonate without a runner. It speeds up, and Lt. Murtaugh enters. The two switch out long enough for Carl to catch his breath, and, on a whim, Carl settles for the yellow wire. It is also a funny and awesome moment.
  • Wolverine Publicity: Steve. The ubiquity was, and still is, amazing.
  • Yandere: Or her name isn't Myra Boutros Boutros Monkhouse.
  • Yes, Virginia: Twice, and Richie was never the unbeliever.
  • You're Not My Father: Played with; Carl expresses concern that Fletcher can't care for his mom the way his that his dad did. They are able to make peace before the wedding.
  • You Wouldn't Hit a Guy with Glasses?: Many ruffians did just that with the bespectacled Steve. However, the one time it was not done for laughs was a frighteningly close encounter way back in the first season. "In a Jam" sees a bully, "Bull" Watson, intimidating Steve and constantly threatening him with serious injury if he didn't give him his lunch money. When Steve tells Bull he's not giving in any more, Bull takes a napkin dispenser, crushes it with one hand and implies that's going to happen to Steve if he refuses again. When Steve stands his ground again the next day, Bull grabs Steve, cocks his fist and is about to punch Steve in the face. However, this is averted when Eddie shows up in time to defend Steve and stop Bull.