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Series / Family Matters

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No, it wasn't called "The Urkel Show".note 

"Did I do thaaaat?"

Family Matters is a sitcom that aired from 1989 to 1998. A spin-off of Perfect Strangers, it served as one of the anchors of ABC's TGIF block before moving to CBS in 1997 along with its sister series, Step by Step. It's notable for being one of the most successful shows that features a predominantly African American cast.

The show is about the Winslows, a working class family in Chicago. Midway through Season 1, 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 his character became very popular. This was a pleasant surprise for the producers, who quickly signed up White to return as a regular.

Steve's wackiness and prominence got to the point where he became the go-to example of an Extraverted Nerd. As the show went on, Steve came to dominate it, and more and more episodes revolved around him and his wacky sci-fi inventions.


The Winslows 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, was phased out because she didn't have much interaction with him.note 

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


This show provides examples of:

  • 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.
  • Aesop Amnesia:
    • Many of the earlier episodes would have at least one character learning to be nicer to Steve, only to forget it in the very next episode. This would be 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.
      • He got into trouble twice for getting into minor accidents without having a valid driver's license.
      • At least three other times, he got into trouble for gambling.
    • 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 "Money Out the Window", Eddie and his friends get in trouble with a Loan Shark, so he sends a giant Scary Black Man named Bones to intimidate them. Bones does just that while also being surprisingly polite about it. In fact, he even befriends Steve over their shared love of polka.
  • Ageless Birthday Episode: Several episodes are devoted to Carl's birthday with no mention of his age.
  • All Just a Dream:
    • "Bugged" plays with this in a very interesting manner: a scene transitions 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, happens. Suddenly, the scene shimmers out, revealing itself to be nothing more than a fantasy.
    • 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: In one episode, Eddie even refuses to introduce his male friends (other than Steve) to Greta because "they're all players."
  • Alliterative Name:
    • Penny Peyser, Laura's original best friend.
    • Nick Neidermeyer.
  • Alpha Bitch: Cassie Lynn Nubbles, a girl in high school who tries to blackmail Steve and Laura. As Steve put it, she's "the poster child for useless people".
  • 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.
  • Back-to-Back Badasses: Twice with Bruce Lee Clones (literal ones).
  • Bad Date: And to think the date in "The Big Fix" is supposed to be a "non-date". Steve and Laura goes to a fine restaurant, but (naturally) everything that can go wrong, does go wrong as Steve tries too hard. And what does go wrong, short of accidentally setting the place on fire? He asks for bad violin music to serenade Laura, he gobbles down frog legs, he causes a waiter to trip and create a domino effect of accidents, and he asks for his chauffeur to take a photo of the two "enjoying" their date. Needless to say, Laura can't wait to go home.
  • 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.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For:
    • This happens to Laura in "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Urkel" 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 alters the past in order to make himself rich. This is after he complains about paying the bills earlier in the episode.
  • Beautiful All Along: Aunt Oona from Altoona. It helps that Donna Summer portrayed her.
  • 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 
  • Bird-Poop Gag: When Carl sees Steve holding a bird whistle, he's skeptical about its effectiveness in attracting birds. At Steve's encouragement, Carl tries it out. Several seconds later, a flock of birds fly above them and leaves a massive amount of droppings in their wake. Steve and Carl are unharmed because Steve holds an open umbrella over the both of them, but Carl's car, which is parked outside, isn't so lucky:
    Steve: Look what you did.
  • 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 has 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 Good, the Bad and the Urkel", everybody is 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 "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.
  • 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. Avery is then introduced to the studio audience and the viewers at home.
  • The Bride with a Past: Captain Savage's fiancée. It turns out he knew about her 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: In "Whose Kid Is It Anyway?", Waldo takes Richie trick-or-treating, 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 are in college, this makes almost no sense.
  • Burger Fool: Mighty Weenie is this, complete with low pay and embarrassing uniform.
  • But for Me, It Was Tuesday: A heroic example occurs in "Number One With a Bullet" 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?
  • 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.
  • 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:
    • "Aunt Oona" has a variant of this: Waldo and Eddie drive a snowmobile into the living room.
  • Cassandra Truth: Happens a few times with Steve:
    • 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.
    • In "Surely You Joust", Carl and Eddie are installing a satellite dish on the 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.
  • Cast the Expert: invoked 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.
  • Casting Gag: Two separate episodes featured actors from Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers. In "Teachers Pet", Walter Emmanuel Jones portrays one of the students who gives Steve a hard time while he's trying teach a class, which causes Steve to turn into Stefan Urquelle. "Karate Kids" features Jason David Frank as a member of a local gang terrorizing a park and Steve transforms himself, along with 3J and Richie, into Bruce Lee Clones in order to fend them off.
  • Cat Fight:
    • Narrowly averted by Steve jumping in between Myra and Laura fighting over him in "Hell Toupee":
    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. "Whose Man Is It Anyway?" has the two even duking it out in a boxing ring.
  • Catchphrase:
    • Daniel Wallace's "That'd be me."
    • "(Myra) is one sick puppy."
  • Celebrity Star: Plenty. Notably examples includes Johnny Gill, Larry Johnson, Donna Summer, and The Bushwhackers.
  • Chemistry Can Do Anything: As seen with Steve's transformation chamber.
  • Childhood Friend Romance: Steve and Laura are engaged in the final season.
  • Christmas Episode: An unusually high-ratio count: seven, over a nine-year run.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Several minor characters disappeared with no onscreen explanation. This includes Laura's best friend Penny after Season 1 and Eddie's sleazy best friend Rodney after Season 2.
  • Class Reunion: "The Big Reunion" 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.
  • Cock Fight: Richie vs. 3J in "Le Jour d'amour". Richie wins.
  • 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.
  • College Is "High School, Part 2":
    • 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.
    • Played straight when Laura, Eddie and Steve attend IOU.
  • Conveniently Timed Attack from Behind: In "Number One With a Bullet", Steve attacks a would-be assailant with a metal bedpan during a hospital stay.
  • 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 Guy: Fletcher, Estelle's husband. He's just as active as she is.
  • Covered in Gunge:
    • Carl has ended up covered in flour, soap and artificial snow, always due to some Urkel-related mishap.
    • Laura has been covered in everything from mashed potatoes to milkshakes to pie stuffing, again due to various Steve-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 shoehorned 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. Additionally, Valerie Jones, the actress who played Judy Winslow in the pilot, is also featured on the cover, instead of Jaimee Foxworth, who played Judy from the second episode onwards.
  • CPR: Clean, Pretty, Reliable: In "Saved by the Urkel", Carl gets electrocuted, leading to him being saved by Steve. Textbook Hollywood CPR ensues, but he doesn't forget a mouth barrier.
  • Crossover:
    • The Full House episode "Stephanie Gets Framed" deals with one of DJ's friends complaining that her irritating cousin from Chicago is coming to San Francisco to visit: that cousin turns 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:
      • In "The Dance", Steve arrives to help Mark with a science project. He then helps Al deal with the pain of being dumped. Furthermore, the Family Matters episode "Brain Over Brawn" originally ended with Steve breaking through the Winslows' roof, as a result of his malfunctioning jet-pack, 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 Star Is Born", loading a clapperboard in a movie for some reason.
    • Steve makes some quick, non-speaking cameo appearances in the short-lived sitcom Meego, which was another Miller/Boyett show that debuted when this show moved to CBS.
  • Cross-Referenced Titles: Season 3's "Boom!" and Season 7's "Chick-a-Boom." The former involves a treadmill bomb, while the latter involves an explosive compound being mistaken for pepper.
  • Cutting the Electronic Leash: A pre-cell phone version occurs in "The Show Must Go On" where Lt. Murtaugh gives Carl a beeper. Carl stomps on it when Murtaugh beeps him during Laura's school play over yet another frivolous issue.
  • D.I.Y. Disaster: "Mr. Badwrench" centers 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.
  • Dance Sensation: The Urkel Dance. In its appearance, Steve gets almost everybody to participate, leading them to do "The Urkel".
  • Darker and Edgier: "The Gun" features one of the characters getting shot.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Everyone takes turns at this, but actually Steve managed to outdo them all.
  • "Dear John" Letter: When Waldo goes off to culinary school, he writes such a letter to Maxine, but it's sloppy work even for him.
  • 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. This is lampshaded repeatedly in "3J in the House."
  • Derailing Love Interests: Myra has always been a Clingy Jealous Girl, especially where Steve is concerned. But during the breakup arc in the last season, she goes off the deep end: she breaks up with Steve, but it's a ploy to get him to beg her to take him back. Then, when he refuses to continue the relationship, she sues him for "Alienation of Affection" and even gets Johnnie Cochrane as her lawyer. Oh, and she installs a spy cam in his glasses so she can 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: "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Urkel" 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.
  • Dom Com: The series is about a working class family in Chicago.
  • 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.
  • Dysfunctional Family: In "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. Miss Conners is deeply concerned about Eddie's home life and Steve, wanting to cheer her 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 her 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 Miss Conners 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 Miss Conners 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 are living in an apartment. This was likely a carryover from Perfect Strangers, where they lived in the same building as Balki and Larry. 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-Steve episodes were later re-edited with pre-credit gags involving him for syndication.
    • In the 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: 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.
  • Eureka Moment: In "Short Story", Rachel decides to write a short story that is based on her family when Laura tells her that she should write one about them.
  • Exiled to the Couch: In "Son", Carl and Eddie get into a fight over Eddie losing Carl's screwdriver. As a result, 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!
  • Family Theme Naming: Robert, Rachel, and Richie Crawford.
  • First Girl Wins: In the end, Laura eventually does 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.
  • 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.
  • 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-Steve 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.
  • Gender Flip: "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Urkel" has Laura's guardian angel subjecting her to a Dream Sequence where she becomes Laura Urkel, Steve's Distaff Counterpart. Steve himself becomes Steve Winslow, essentially a male Laura.
  • 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.
  • Green-Eyed Monster:
    • In "Presumed Urkel", Dexter Thornhill reveals that he framed Steve because he was jealous that the latter is better than him.
    • 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.
  • Hard-Work Montage: Used during the construction of Rachel's Place.
  • 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 6's "My Uncle the Hero" has a brief hostage situation, where — as Carl's 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's quickly able to defuse the situation and nobody gets hurt.
  • Hypocritical Humor: In "Beauty and the Beast", 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: In "I Should Have Done Something," Carl blames himself for a hostage situation that went tragically wrong, even though he and his fellow officers followed procedure to a T. What happened was that a drug-crazed man robbed a convenience store and took an elderly man hostage, but just as it appeared Carl had successfully negotiated with the suspect to free his hostage, the young man shot 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.
  • Iconic Sequel Character:
    • Averted with Steve himself, who actually debuted midway through Season 1.
    • This is played straight with characters like Waldo and Myra, who were introduced in Seasons 2 and 4, respectively.
  • 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 jet-pack glitched and rocketed him into the next state).
  • Interrogation Flashback: In "Words Hurt", Steve is put under a sleep-induced hypnosis so he can tell the Winslows why he's been sleepwalking and attacking Carl the past few nights, and a flashback plays as he tells them.
  • 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.
  • 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. In "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, the annoying neighbor in the later seasons.
  • Just Eat Gilligan: Any one of the Winslows 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 "Fight the Good Fight", 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.
    • In "The Gun", 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.
  • Later Installment Weirdness: While this is true concerning the later seasons, Season 8 in particular really highlights how much the show had changed:
    • Carl hilariously acknowledges this in "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.
    • "A Pirate's Life for Me" 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.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Steve sets out to reinvent himself and his image after Family Matters moves to CBS.
  • Lie Detector: Steve uses one on Carl in "Words Hurt".
  • Lights Off, Somebody Dies: "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 dies, cutting the number of suspects down to the culprit: Laura.
  • Logical Fallacies: In "Choir Trouble", Steve joins the Winslows' 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-Runner Tech Marches On: The Winslows upgrade to a cordless phone in Season 5.
  • Long-Runners: The show aired for nine seasons.
  • Lost Wedding Ring: Down the master bathroom sink.
  • The Magic Poker Equation: Used twice in "A Pair of Ladies".
  • Manipulative Editing:
    • Almost got Carl convicted in a later episode.
    • Subverted in "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:
    • In "Steak-Out", Carl's put on an undercover sting with an attractive female coworker. He can't tell Harriette because he's undercover, but she gets wind of his late night meetings with the other woman and becomes jealous.
    • In "Till Death Do Us Apartment", Eddie brings two girls back to the apartment he shares with Waldo. Maxine shows up and, thinking that Waldo's cheating on her, breaks up with him. Luckily, the girls are so moved by Waldo's sorrow, and so disgusted by Eddie's actions, that they explain everything to Maxine.
  • Möbius Neighborhood: Steve's the only neighbor that the Winslows mention for about five years, until Nick moves into the house on the opposite side.
  • 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 "Chick-a-Boom," Steve's 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, it's 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: invoked Buddy Goodrich. Onscreen, Goodrich 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 his never-ending clumsiness. The Winslows' never-ending exasperation with him breaking things is expanded upon 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, Mean, and In-Between:
    • In Eddie's trio of friends, Waldo is nice (Kindhearted Simpleton), Weasel is mean (an irresponsible schemer), and Eddie is in-between (well-meaning but sometimes selfish).
    • Out of the girls, though they aren't seen as a trio very often, Maxine is nice (usually friendly and easygoing), Myra is mean (Clingy Jealous Girl who often antagonizes Laura), and Laura is in-between (a reasonable but sarcastic girl).
  • Nice Shoes: "The Gun" centers around Laura and Maxine's friend Josie getting a pair of super cool high top 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 "Midterm Crisis", when Eddie and Steve accidentally eat Waldo's gourmat cake for his midterm, they try to cover up the situation by baking the same cake, but end 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.
  • Noodle Incident: Apparently, breaking out in a weird purple rash and everything tasting like mustard for two weeks has something to do with polyester chafing Carl's thighs as revealed in "Brain Over Brawn".
  • Not Me This Time:
    • In "Presumed Urkel", Steve's 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.
    • 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!"
  • Not What It Looks Like:
    • In a non-romantic example, one of Eddie's teachers, Miss Conners, gets slammed with this in "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad House". 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 Harriette 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).
    • Steve has a couple of moments of this where Myra thinks he's making out with or hitting on Laura.
  • 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 Season 1 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.
  • Pro Wrestling Episode: "Psycho Twins," featuring the Bushwhackers as themselves. It was later inducted by WrestleCrap.
  • 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 "Pulling Teeth", 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.
  • Re-Cut: The syndicated version replaced several of Season 1'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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 cop.
  • Rival Turned Evil: Dexter Thornhill was so sick of being beaten by Steve in the annual school science fair every year that he framed Steve for blowing up the school chemistry lab.
  • Robot Girl: Laurabot's built after Urkelbot's shut down and reprogrammed.
  • Running Gag:
    • Any situation involving one of Steve's 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 Winslows' living room floor from a ruptured appendix.
  • 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 "Sitting Pretty", 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 "My Uncle the Hero" where he's trying to throw Myra a surprise 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 
  • 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's introduced, his inventions introduce a number of sci-fi plots to the setting.
  • Shout-Out:
    • In "The Science Project", 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.
  • 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 "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:
    • 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.
  • Stalking Is Funny If It Is Female After Male: Inverted. Steve's stalking Laura is presented as funny and sympathetic... although that's only because Steve is a little coward who wouldn't - or couldn't - hurt a fly. Myra's stalking of Steve, on the other hand, is considered creepy, especially in the final season where she's portrayed as an Ax-Crazy villain.
  • 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 "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Urkel", 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's 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: "Who's Afraid of the Big Black Book?" has Carl being passed up for the position of captain of his precinct, which he was a lock to get, in favor of Commissioner Geiss' 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 Commissioner Geiss.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial:
    Eddie: There's nothing wrong with the car!
  • Sweet Polly Oliver: After not being taken seriously at a used car lot, Laura returns as "Larry."
  • Tempting Fate:
    • When one of the Winslows, usually Carl, comments on what a peaceful, quiet day it is, it almost immediately results in Steve bursting through the door.
    • 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 isn't 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 motel in "It Didn't Happen One Night". During the whole ordeal, Steve takes crap from Laura until he finally snaps and unloads on her:
    Steve: "No! I will not sleep in the bathtub. You're gonna sleep in the bathtub!"
  • 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:
    • Rodney, Eddie's friend in the first two seasons.
    • Nick Niedermeyer, the annoying neighbor.
  • 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.
  • Transformation Ray: Steve's transformation chamber.
  • The Triple: In "Mr. Badwrench", Harriette asks the kids what they want for breakfast:
    Eddie: Pancakes!
    Laura: French toast!
    Judy: How about pizza?
    Harriette: How about this? We're having eggs, and you got two choices: scrambled or raw.
    Kids: [deadpan] Scrambled.
  • Two Lines, No Waiting: In "Making the Team", Steve and Laura joins Vanderbilt High's basketball team and cheerleading squad, respectively. A Friday night is the first real performance for both.
  • Two Scenes, One Dialogue: In "Pulling Teeth", this is how Waldo's interest in Maxine and how their first date went is revealed.
  • Umbrellas Are Lightning Rods: In "Struck by Lightning", Steve gets struck by lightning three times, one incident of which implies the lightning hit his umbrella.
  • 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:
    • There is another episode about taking credit from others, but it's easily forgotten because everyone involved in the framing device eventually disappeared.
    • In "Le Jour d'amour", Steve hosts three shorts that's split into stories about First Love, True Love, and Lasting Love.
  • Waxing Lyrical:
    • At least twice, the kids use lines from Bobby Brown's "It's My Prerogative" in Season 1.
    • Myra does this with a Stevie Wonder song.
  • Wham Episode:
    • In "Fight the Good Fight", Laura's locker is defaced and she's harassed for starting a petition to add Black History to the regular school curriculum.
    • "Born to be Mild" has a street gang named the Dragons who come into Rachel's Place and causes trouble. When Rachel, Harriette, Laura and Eddie stand up to them and tell them to leave, they refuse and try 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.
    • "Life of the Party" deals with the dangers of getting drunk. There's a rooftop party, Willie spikes the punch, causing Steve to get drunk and fall off the roof. He catches himself on a ledge, and Rachel has to tightrope walk a clothesline to rescue him.
    • "Like a Virgin", Eddie's teased for being a virgin and eventually had to confront his friends for it.
    • In "Good Cop, Bad Cop", Eddie gets stopped and roughed up by a pair of cops because he's a black kid in a white neighborhood, and has to deal with the after effects of discrimination.
    • "The Gun" deals with guns and has a friend of Laura and Maxine's getting offscreen shot in the shoulder. They even have a special segment after the episode where the actors talk about how dangerous guns are.
  • Wham Shot:
    • In the above mentioned episode "Fight the Good Fight", 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 "False Arrest", 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 "Who's Afraid of the Big Black Book?", Commissioner Geiss 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 Geiss congratulates the precinct on a job well done, Carl easily could have taken the credit for himself or get revenge, but instead acts maturely and tells Geiss that 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: In "Boom!", 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.
  • Write What You Know: invoked In "Short Story", Rachel writes a short story that is based on her family.
  • Yes, Virginia: Twice, and Richie was never the unbeliever.
  • You Wouldn't Hit a Guy with Glasses?: Many ruffians did just that with the bespectacled Steve. However, the one time it isn't done for laughs is a frighteningly close encounter way back in Season 1. "In a Jam" sees a bully, "Bull" Watson, intimidating Steve and constantly threatening him with serious injury if he doesn'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.
  • 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.


Example of: