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Series / Family Matters

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

"It's a rare condition this day and age
To read any good news on the newspaper page
Love and tradition of the grand design
Some people say is even harder to find
Well then there must be some magic clue inside these gentle walls
'Cause all I see is a tower of dreams
Real love burstin' out of every seam
As days go by...
We're gonna fill our house with happiness (The moon may cry...)
But we'll smother the blues with tenderness (As days go by...)
There's room for you and room for me
For gentle hearts and opportunities (As days go by...)
It's the bigger love of the family
The lyrics of the opening theme, "As Days Go By", sung by Jesse Frederick

Family Matters is a Dom Com that aired from 1989 to 1998. Set in Chicago, it was originally conceived as a spin-off of Perfect Strangers focusing on the deadpan snarking elevator operator Harriette Winslow and her police officer husband, Carl, and introducing the rest of their middle-class family. 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. It was also the last scripted live-action American primetime series that debuted in the 1980s to remain on the air; the only other scripted American show that debuted in the 1980s and is still in production is The Simpsons.

Midway through Season 1, the annoying neighbor and Stereotypical 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. Jaleel White hit the role so enthusiastically that his character went over massively with the live audience attending the episode's taping.note  This was a pleasant surprise for the producers, who quickly signed up White to return as a regular. By the second season, Steve (or "Urkel" as he was often referred to) had become so popular that almost every episode featured him in a prominent role.

Steve's wackiness and prominence got to the point where he became the go-to example of a Black and Nerdy Stereotypical 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: Both shows had the same production company, and were spinoffs of a popular series. Both are about a married couple with three children living in a Midwestern city. In each series, a minor character introduced as an afterthought quickly becomes wildly popular and dominates the show, one of the three original siblings mysteriously disappears and is never mentioned again, and the person for whom the show was created in the first place eventually leaves it entirely. Both had a local hangout/burger joint which burned down due to carelessness by one of the characters, only to reopen under new management. Both shows originally used an already famous song as the opening theme in the first few episodes, which is later replaced by another song created only for the show.

In 2019, White would reprise his role as Urkel in the animated series, Scooby-Doo and Guess Who?. In 2021, it was announced he would reprise the role again in an animated film, Did I Do That to the Holidays? A Steve Urkel Story. Although the project was initially shelved following the Warner Bros. Discovery merger, it would see a proper digital release in November 2023 under the title Urkel Saves Santa: The Movie!.

This show provides examples of:

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  • Aborted Arc: "Finding the Words" ends Harriette and Rachel reuniting with their long lost father Jimmy, and it's implied that he would become a major recurring character. Sadly, he never appears again after this episode.
  • 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.
  • Acquaintance Denial: Waldo is able to get Immature to perform at their prom because he is related to one of the members. His only condition is that Waldo never tell anyone that they're related. Steve is able to figure it out due to a Borrowed Catchphrase.
  • Actor Allusion:
    • In "Finding the Words", Steve briefly sings "Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree" by Tony Orlando and Dawn. Telma Hopkins (Rachel) sang backup on the original song.
    • In a case that crosses over with Celebrity Paradox, Maxine mentions owning a Punky Brewster lunchbox as a kid. Her actress, Cherie Johnson, also starred in that show.
  • 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 fighting 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 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.
    • The episode "Father of the Bride" was mostly this trope...Or Was It a Dream?.
    • 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.
    • Eddie gets married to Myrtle in "Nightmare at Urkel Oaks" after her father bribes Eddie with $10 million. He wakes up during a Cat Fight between Greta and Myrtle that he's caught in the midst of and is quite relieved to know that the whole incident was just a nightmare.
  • 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 stuck-up cheerleader in high school, who tries to blackmail Steve and Laura. As Steve put it, she's "the poster child for useless people".
  • Alternate Catchphrase Inflection: Steve usually says guiltily, "Did I do that?" after causing a mishap. In "Robo-Nerd", he makes a robot called the "Urkelbot", which locks him in a closet and makes moves on Laura. Upon hearing this, Steve charges through the door, which surprises him and he says, "Did I do that?" in astonishment.
  • Anti-Alcohol Aesop:
    • In "Life of the Party", when Laura and a friend throw a rooftop party, Willie and Waldo spike the punch, and a drunk Steve, who did not know that the punch contained alcohol, falls off the side of the building. Rachel has to rescue him while he dangles from a ledge.
    • In "Tips for a Better Life", Eddie joins a fraternity and has a bout with alcoholism. The episode shows how being an alcoholic affects the whole family by having them be annoyed at his behavior, ending with his father threatening to kick him out of the house if he continues to drink. At the end of the episode, Eddie learns that he shouldn't drink alcohol until he is old enough to be responsible.
  • Armor-Piercing Response: In "Breaking Up Is Hard to Do", Eddie is prepared to drop out of college and an argument with Carl ensues. Eddie tells Carl he wants a job where he can make a difference, where he works with people he respects and admires, and which is exciting and different every day. When Carl demands to know where Eddie expects to find such a fairy-tale job, Eddie responds, "It's your job, Dad." This is downplayed in that it doesn't win Eddie the argument, but now Carl has to take him seriously.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: In "Dog Day Halloween", when Steve daydreams about fighting the robber, he and Laura have the following exchange:
    Steve: Laura.
    Laura: What?
    Steve: I think I can take this guy.
    Laura: Are you nuts?
    Steve: I don't care. I've been pushed too far. Why, he's threatened us, ridiculed us, and he wouldn't let us get anchovies on our pizzas. A guy can only take so much.
  • 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.
  • Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: Steve annoys the hell out of the Winslows, especially Carl and Laura, mainly because he's extremely awkward and clumsy, and quite annoying. But while it appears that the Winslows can barely stand him, it's clear that despite Steve's flaws, they do love him and consider him a part of their family, even if they have a hard time showing it. This was shown more in the later seasons, especially with Carl and Laura, whose negative feelings towards Steve gradually softened after he moved in with them. This came to a head in the last season, where Steve and Laura start to date, and in the third-to-last episode Steve and Laura get engaged, and in the final episode the Winslows officially welcome Steve into the family.
  • Back-to-Back Badasses: Twice with Bruce Lee Clones (literal ones).
  • Bad Date: 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. Years later, Laura would laugh about the date and admit it was a fond memory of the man she would later marry ... a kid who thought so much of her he was determined – and tried too hard – to make it perfect.
  • Bad Job, Worse Uniform: The Mighty Weenie's hat. Carl gets a part time job there during Season 4, and when Eddie gets a promotion, he's told that he no longer needs to wear "that stupid thing" by his boss.
  • 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. Since Steve is now a normal kid and part of the Winslow family, Laura has to take Steve's place as a Stereotypical Nerd in the Urkel family.
    • 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.
  • Bested at Bowling: In "Bowl Me Over", Carl refuses to accept defeat by Harriette in a bowling match and demands a rematch. Harriette admits she let Carl win the second time.
  • 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.
  • Black and Nerdy:
    • In an alternate universe where she and Steve have Swapped Roles, Laura is the nerdy Laura Urkel.
    • When Carl was "Urkelized" due to Myra messing with the transformation chamber, Carl alternated between his normal persona and a nerdy "Carl Urkel" version.
  • Black Comedy:
    • The B plot for "Busted" kicks off when Carl accidentally dumps out the ashes of Rachel and Harriette's great aunt, mistaking her urn for a candy tin.
    • "Farewell, My Laura", Steve's murder mystery story, has the Running Gag of Johnny Danger accusing someone in the room of the murder, only for the lights to go out while the suspect gets shot offscreen. It happens to a total of six people.
      Johnny Danger: Y'know, whoever's doing this might wanna wait 'til I'm finished!
  • The Board Game: The show spawned a family board game called "Do the Urkel!", named after the eponymous dance number from "Life of the Party". It came with bowtie-shaped cards, some Steve Urkel finger puppets (which players would use to dance around the board), and plastic Urkel glasses.
  • Boring Vacation Slideshow: In one episode, Carl refuses to tell Steve where Laura is. Steve decides to "entertain" Carl by showing him a photo reel of his trip to the Wisconsin Cheese Festival. Carl finds the reel so frustratingly boring that he tells Steve where Laura is.
  • 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 science 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.
  • Brains Versus Brawn: The plot of the aptly titled "Brain Over Brawn" revolves around this, with the brainy Steve challenging the Jerk Jock Alex to a rope climbing competition. While Alex climbs the rope using his own strength, Steve is able to beat him by using his jetpack to fly to the top.
  • 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 decide 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.
    • "A Pirate's Life for Me" ends with Urkel on a pirate ship, where he blasts a cannonball into the sky and through the viewer's television screen. He then pops out from inside the TV and tries to reach for it.
  • 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, accepted it, and was offended at Carl portraying it as a bad thing.
  • 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: Many of the show's incidental characters are this - or, at least, those whose presence revolves around 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?
  • Butterfly of Doom: Carl alters his own past in "Father Time" by leaving 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.
  • 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 thank Steve for his help and admit that Steve was the real expert.
  • Car Meets House:
    • In "The Crash Course", Eddie fails his driving test, but takes Jolene 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.
  • Celebrity Star: Plenty. Notably examples includes Johnny Gill, Larry Johnson, Donna Summer, and The Bushwhackers.
  • Central Theme: The importance of family, or, to quote the opening song, "the bigger love of the family". This theme is much more prominent in the first two seasons, with many episodes involving the Winslows getting through different scenarios as a family. While it isn't as prominent in the post-Steve seasons, there are still plenty of episodes that still hold true to the message.
  • Character Catchphrase:
    • Daniel Wallace's "That'd be me."
    • "(Myra) is one sick puppy."
  • The Chase: Multiple examples, always Played for Laughs:
    • A frequent Running Gag had Carl chase Steve through the house whenever Steve's inventions or clumsiness damaged it.
    • Laura chased Steve through the house a couple of times when she suffered from his clumsiness.
    • When Eddie and Waldo tried to repair Waldo's snowmobile, they accidentally started it and sent it crashing through the house and into the living room. Carl then chased Eddie out of the house, with Harriette chasing Waldo a few moments later.
  • 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, Eddie's sleazy best friend Rodney after Season 2, Carl's boss Lt. Murtaugh after Season 4, and Eddie's other friend Weasel after Season 5.
    • Judy, the youngest daughter, disappears after Season 4.
  • 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.
  • Clown Car: The Season 4 episode "Driving Carl Crazy" introduces Steve's Isetta. The credits depict the Winslows and Steve all coming out of the Isetta one after another while wacky circus music plays.
  • 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.
  • Comically Oversized Butt: In the episode "Old and Alone," Laura has a bad dream where she ages 75 years overnight, turning into a 90-year-old spinster with grey hair, wrinkles, and an enormous rear end. It's the latter that draws the most commentary from her family, with her mother observing, "You could serve dinner for eight on that butt."
  • Content Warnings: "Stevil" has Steve warning viewers of its potentially scary content. This was a few months before the TV rating system was introduced in America.
  • Contrasting Replacement Character: Rodney and Penny, the original best friends of Eddie and Laura, respectively, couldn't stand Steve. The last time Rodney was mentioned, he was even trying to get Eddie to ditch Steve. Their more notable successors Waldo and Maxine are nicer to Steve and more willing to be friends with him, although the former only after his Heel–Face Turn.
  • 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 at 6:00am. The real kicker was that when he gave Eddie the news, it was already 1:00am on a Saturday.
    • 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 eventual second 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 makes 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.
    • Many years after the series ended, Steve would appear in Scooby-Doo and Guess Who?.
  • 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.
    • In "Whose Kid is it Anyway?", Waldo returns to the Winslow house with the wrong child after taking Richie trick or treating; in "Whose Man is it Anyway?", 3J asks for help in finding his biological parents, and Harriette and Carl decide to adopt him.
  • 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 Party Ending:
    • "Pound Foolish" ends with Donna Summer (as Aunt Oona) singing her hit song "She Works Hard For the Money" while the rest of the cast joins her for a dance party.
    • "They Shoot Urkels, Don't They?", the dance marathon episode, appropriately ends with each character grooving down the dance floor in pairs.
  • 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, especially towards people who says and/or do something stupid.
  • "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.
  • The Dentist Episode: Steve taking Richie to the dentist to calm his fears until the dentist needs to sedate the need to fill a cavity, and the gas makes him act completely wacky and cause havoc. This pure comedic segment is the B-plot of the very non-comedic main story of “Bad Cop, Good Cop,” where a frightened Eddie has been racially profiled by a racist veteran officer and his rookie partner.
  • 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.
    • "Robo-Nerd II" features Steve repairing Urkelbot to help the police catch an armed robber. Later, when Urkelbot quits policework because of the danger, Steve builds "Laurabot" as his girlfriend.
  • 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 hit Robbins, Stefan looks at the camera and says, "Kids, don't try this at home."
  • Double Don't Know: In "Whose Man Is It Anyway?", 3J asks Carl for help in finding his parents, and Carl gets ahold of his mother in short order. However, motherhood had a rough start for her; she's trying to get her life together and doesn't want 3J to know her yet. When Harriette asks Carl how they're supposed to negotiate this when 3J wants so desperately to know his mother, Carl says he just doesn't know what they're going to do.
  • 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.
  • Double Standard: Steve's always portrayed as a Dogged Nice Guy trying to win over the girl he loves. His behavior is never portrayed as anything more than annoying at its worst and ultimately pays off with them getting together. Myra and Myrtle behaving virtually the same way towards him and Eddie, respectively, is always made out to be the actions of two crazy women.
  • 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 buys Eddie's claim and becomes deeply concerned about his home life and cries on Steve's shoulder. 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 first five episodes have "What a Wonderful World" as the opening theme, instead of the show's famous theme song "As Days Go By".
    • The pilot seems to imply that the Winslows are living in an apartment. This was likely a carryover from Perfect Strangers where Harriette and Carl lived in the same building as Balki and Larry. All episodes after that makes it clear that the Winslows are living in a house.
    • In the first season, Laura was meant to be the smart but not very popular type, as seen in episodes like "Laura's First Date", in contrast to her older brother Eddie being the Book Dumb but outgoing teenager. While her intelligence remains the same, she became a popular Dude Magnet cheerleader following Steve's introduction, to create the "nerd pursues popular girl" dynamic.
    • In the early episodes, Eddie is written to be comically dimwitted.
    • Steve wasn't introduced until episode 12. Due to his popularity, the producers filmed new cold opens for episodes 4, 7, 8, and 10 with him in them, which were used for 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.
    • Since Waldo is better known nowadays as Eddie's dimwitted best friend, it's easy to forget that in his first two official appearances, he was the Mook of one of the local bullies, albeit one that was still dimwitted and not very mean. And before that, his actor, Shawn Harrison, briefly appears in the Season 1 episode "The Party" as a random guest at Eddie's party.
  • 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.
  • Fantastic Comedy: The show started as a Dom Com, but it became this as Steve's scientific inventions became more and more bizarre.
  • Fantasy Creep: The show started as a fairly standard sitcom until Steve appeared. First, Steve invented a potion that would make himself cool. Then he cloned himself. Then his clone drank a permanent version of the coolness potion. Cracked naturally had a field day.
  • 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 seen them wed.
  • Flawed Prototype:
    • Many a cold open had Steve testing these in the Winslow's house (with Carl the unwilling test subject more often than not) resulting in property damage, bodily harm, a mess, or some combination thereof.
    • The original Cool Juice that turned Steve into Stefan was this, as the resulting person was vain and shallow. Steve is shown refining the formula on-screen before trying it again.
    • The first version of Urkelbot went crazy and tried to kidnap Laura, forcing Steve to destroy him. Later, when Steve rebuilt Urkelbot, he corrected the defects in Urkelbot's microchips. Urkelbot became a police officer, helping Carl catch an armed robber, but then he became a dancer when he decided policework was too dangerous.
  • Floorfilling Song and Dance:
    • In "Life of the Party", Steve manages to liven up a party by getting everyone to dance to "The Urkel".
    • In another episode, the Winslows all did a polka dance to Steve's accordion music.
  • Foodfight!:
    • In "Baker's Dozens", Rachel, Carl, Laura, and Eddie have one after they let the pressure of completing an order of 12,000 lemon tarts finally get to them.
    • In "Hell Toupee", Laura and Myra's food fight against each other ultimately becomes a massive one in the school cafeteria once Steve inadvertently gets hit.
    • At the end of "Midterm Crisis", Steve, Eddie, and Waldo get into a small food fight.
    • "Love Triangles" really takes the cake (no pun intended) with a six-minute scene of characters attacking each other with chocolate pies. It starts off as a fight between Laura and Maxine, but Steve, Eddie, and Carl eventually get roped into the mess.
  • Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling: Book Dumb and irresponsible Eddie (Foolish) and serious and hard-working Laura (Responsible). This is often lampshaded by her parents.
  • Four-Man Band:
  • Fragile Speedster: Steve is this when he competes against Carl on American Gladiators. His thin frame makes it easy for the gladiator to win the Joust, but he's also fast enough to win the Wall event.
  • 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.
  • Funny Background Event: In "Dream Date", Steve and Laura have a heartfelt conversation on the balcony during prom night, which culminates in them sharing a Big Damn Kiss. Beforehand, however, Steve unwittingly shuts the door into a random guy's face, knocking him into another student and starting a huge fight amongst the promgoers. All of this happens in the background while Steve and Laura have their heart-to-heart.
  • 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, thanks to Waldo being cousins with the Gladiator Sabre.
    • 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.
  • Generic Cop Badges: Carl is a Sergeant, and later a Lieutenant, in the Chicago Police Department. His uniform uses generic "Police Dept." shoulder patches and a generic oval badge rather than the CPD's distinct five-pointed star.
  • 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 when he's angry at him.
    • "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Urkel" has Steve Winslow, Steve Urkel's Distaff Counterpart, saying this as well to Laura Urkel.
  • The Ghost: Steve's parents are never seen in person.
  • Girls with Moustaches: Judy’s fourth grade teacher, who the kids all call "Fuzz Lip".
  • Gleeful and Grumpy Pairing:
    • Clingy, hyperactive Steve and short-tempered Carl is the most common dynamic. Steve also serves as the Gleeful whenever he interacts with the sarcastic Laura.
    • In later seasons, Genki Girl Myra and Deadpan Snarker Laura have this dynamic on their better days, especially in the episode where they move in together. Not so much when Myra is being antagonistic towards Laura, which happens a lot.
  • Good Angel, Bad Angel: Played straight twice in "Do the Right Thing", where both Carl and Steve encounter their angels during a specific dilemma; Carl ponders on whether he should return a lost (and very valuable) bracelet or not, while Steve gets torn between tutoring his "rival" Todd properly, or screwing him over by giving him the wrong answers. In the classic fashion, the angels and devils are played by the characters' respective actors.
  • 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.
  • Gotta Have It, Gonna Steal It: "The Gun" centers around Laura having her leather jacket stolen by gang members, upon which they are arrested for their crime, but let out on bail. Later, her and Maxine's friend, Josie, gets a pair of super cool high-top sneakers that are all the rage among teenagers. Then she gets shot by those gang members when they try to steal her shoes.
  • Grandparent Favoritism: Downplayed with Estelle. While she does love and respect her son Carl, she is also quick to scold him when he goofs up royally. She also acts as a respected mentor and mediator whenever he has an issue or disagreement with one of the children, particularly Eddie or Steve, who has a deep shared respect for her as if she were his own grandmother.
  • 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-to-Light Fire: When Steve and Carl are lost in the woods when cutting down a Christmas tree, Steve has three matches in his survival kit. When Carl lights the first, Steve sneezes it out, but got the firewood lighted on the second try.
  • Halloween Episode: There are five in total: "Dog Day Halloween", "Whose Kid is it Anyway?", "Dark and Stormy Night", and the "Stevil" duology (which opened with a Content Warning from Steve due to its creepy nature).
  • Hard-Work Montage: Used during the construction of Rachel's Place.
  • Hated Item Makeover: Harriette is horrified by the "makeover" that Carl gave the living room with cheap furniture he found at a police auction, which includes a broken cameo set, a lamp with bullet holes, a carpet with a body outline on it, and a large porcelain dog. After she banishes him to the couch, he soon regrets his decision.
  • Hate Sink:
    • Willie Fuffner, one of the worst bullies on the show. In "Requiem for an Urkel", Laura refuses to go to dance with him, so Willie threatens to beat up any other guy in the school who goes to the dance with Laura, unless the guy is Steve, in order to humiliate her. When Steve confronts him for his actions, they get into a fight. It turns out Willie was hated by many other guys he had bullied before, and they all finally find the courage to stand up to him. He later appears again in "Life of the Party" to take revenge on Steve, and decides to spike Steve's drink with alcohol at a party, causing Steve to get drunk and almost falling from a building. He and his friend Waldo are later arrested.
    • Dexter Thornhill, Steve's academic rival from Season 5's "Presumed Urkel". Jealous of Steve's academic performance, having always taken second place in the science fair while Steve took first every year, and always calling him "Yuckel", he would go so far as to frame him for blowing up the school's science lab by tampering with his latest science fair project, a graffiti remover, by adding explosive chemicals into it and turning up the Bunsen burner to the maximum point in an effort to get him expelled, especially serving as prosecutor in the Vanderbilt student court, only for Laura, who represented Steve in spite of her being annoyed about his calls for love at the time, to eventually expose him in the end, upon which he himself ends up expelled and likely sent to juvie.
    • Toni Procopio, a gang member and one-time antagonist from Season 6's "The Gun". She and hard work apparently don't go together that she's willing to resort to murder (hence the name of the episode) to steal what others have earned, from a leather jacket owned by Laura to tennis shoes owned by one of Laura's close friends, namely Josie. A student at Vanderbilt High School like the Winslows and Steve, even the teachers are scared of her. She was arrested for stealing Laura's jacket, but let out on bail, upon which she threatens to shoot Laura and Steve if either of the two testify at her trial. Because she never told her parents (her father, a policeman, most especially) about Toni pulling a gun on her, Laura is considering buying a gun of her own from a classmate illegally selling them, which he had done earlier with Josie. After Toni tries to steal Josie's tennis shoes and shoots her, despite her being armed herself, we don't exactly know what happens to her afterwards; we can only assume that she and her friends were expelled from school and sent to jail for good or were likely killed due to gun violence themselves or they managed to get away with their crimes scot-free. While Carl is used to dealing with gang and gun violence on a daily basis, it doesn't really hit home until it happens to your own child.
    • Nick Neidermeyer, the next-door neighbor and Sitcom Arch-Nemesis to the Winslows. Sleazy, obnoxious, and unbearably rude towards the whole family, including Richie and 3J, Nick bears no sympathetic qualities whatsoever, which makes it all the more satisfying whenever he gets his comeuppance. The ending of "Revenge of the Nerd" finally gives him some Hidden Depths and reveals him to be Sour Outside, Sad Inside. He then completely disappears afterwards.
  • Heroic BSoD: Carl often plays poker with some of his fellow cops. When Steve joins one of their games, he loses his accordion money to Lieutenant Murtaugh. Carl gives Steve the money to buy the accordion instead, but Steve decides to keep playing until he gets back at Murtaugh. Steve nearly cleans Murtaugh out, but then Murtaugh offers up his cherished $200 watch as collateral. Steve accepts this, and when Murtaugh thinks he's won with a flush Steve reveals he has four of a kind, switching the role he had with Murtaugh when Murtaugh won his accordion money. Murtaugh is so depressed at losing his watch that he simply sits at Carl's table muttering "four tens" over and over again. Fortunately, Steve only wanted to play for fun and gives Murtaugh back his watch.
  • Heroic Bystander: Steve attempts to invoke this in "Dog Day Halloween," when he, Laura, and some other patrons are held hostage in a bank robbery. This is subverted when the dangerous robber with the gun scares him off. Carl ultimately saves the day by donning a disguise and disarming the robber with the help of a pizza box full of trick snakes. The next morning, Steve reveals that he feels like a coward; Carl reassures him that he did the best he could under the circumstances, and that trying to play hero would have caused more problems than it solved. Carl then tells Steve that he's proud of him for sticking by Laura's side during the crisis, and thanks him for inspiring the pizza box trick with a prank he'd played earlier.
  • 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 in six states, with 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 another officer and makes his demands. Carl's quickly able to defuse the situation and nobody gets hurt.
  • Hypocritical Humor:
    • At the end of "Scenes from a Mall", Steve complains about Myra to Laura. He says he doesn't know what to do with Myra because she won't take "no" for an answer and is obsessed with him. Then in the same scene, he starts asking Laura out multiple times, and keeps insisting, despite Laura saying "No!" every time.
    • 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:
    • Subverted 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.
  • Identically Named Group: In the episode "The Big Reunion", it's revealed that Carl was part of a high school band named The Darnells. The other three band members were all named Darnell, only Carl was the Odd Name Out.
  • Ignorant About Fire: In "Rachel's Place", Steve is clumsy enough to set Leroy's on fire. He had foolishly tried to put out a grease fire with water, only to realize too late why that is never a good idea.
  • I Have No Son!: When Steve sleepwalks into Carl and Harriette's bedroom and smacks Carl with a newspaper in the episode "Words Hurt", the Winslows hire a psychiatrist to figure out why he's doing it. It turns out that Steve heard Carl rant about how he hated him for wrecking his model ship. Harriette and Rachel both give Carl the cold shoulder, and Estelle tells Carl she's going to take another look at his birth certificate to see if he's really her son.
  • Implausible Deniability: Steve combined this with a catchphrase: "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.
  • 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), Weasel (another friend of Eddie's), 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.
  • Kangaroo Court: "Presumed Urkel" is this in a nutshell, with Laura as Steve's defense attorney, Principal Shimata as the judge, and Waldo, comically, as the bailiff.
  • 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. All in all, we don't really know what happened to them afterwards.
  • 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.
  • Left the Background Music On:
    • When Steve and Carl set aside their differences in a manly hug and make-up, sentimental music swells in the background. Carl then asks where the music is coming from and they're shown looking under the sofa cushions.
    • In the Noir Episode "Farewell, My Laura", Laura Wigglesworth, Laura's character, is a Femme Fatale that has drums play every time she's does a Supermodel Strut. When she leaves, Johnny Danger, Steve's character, wonders to himself, "Where did she hide those drums?".
  • Let Me at Him!: Several people have done this when Steve's clumsiness pushes them too far. Usually, Carl is the one who tries to chase Steve, with the rest of the Winslows having to stop him. When Steve accidentally burns down Leroy's, Leroy tries to throttle him and Carl is the one who stops him.
  • Leitmotif: Carl Urkel (Carl's nerdy persona in "To Be or Not to Be") is accompanied by a distinctively goofy theme that accentuates his new personality. The same music also plays when Eddie turns himself into a nerd in Season 8's "What Do You Know?"
  • Lie Detector: Steve uses one on Carl in "Words Hurt".
  • Lights Off, Somebody Dies: "Farewell, My Laura" features Johnny Danger, Steve's character, 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 Wigglesworth.
  • Local Hangout: In the first season, many of the local teenagers went to a restaurant called Leroy's, named after its owner. When Steve accidentally burned it down in the Season 2 premiere, Rachel bought the property and rebuilt it as "Rachel's Place", serving the same role as before.
  • Locker Mail: In the Very Special Episode "Fight the Good Fight," Laura finds her locker open with a racist note attached to it in response to her petition for a Black history course.
  • 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".
  • Malicious Misnaming: In "Presumed Urkel", Dexter Thornhill refers to Steve as "Yuckel".
  • 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.
  • Mighty Glacier: Carl is this when he competes against Steve on American Gladiators. His bulk makes him too slow to win the Wall event, but it also allows him to No-Sell the gladiator's attacks in the Joust and easily win.
  • 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.
  • Mock Headroom: A dream sequence shows Steve inside a computer screen with a Headroom-esque background.
  • Mood Whiplash:
    • "No. 1 With a Bullet" opens with Steve swooning over Laura as usual, until a sudden pain in his side makes him pass out. The Winslows think he's just being overdramatic... until they realize he's not waking up.
    • "Driving Carl Crazy" has Carl trying to control his temper for the sake of his blood pressure. After a failed driving lesson with Steve results in his garage getting wrecked, Carl completely loses it and furiously berates Steve; while it's comically over-the-top like usual, it takes a serious turn once Carl starts feeling faint from his skyrocketing blood pressure.
    • "The Brother Who Came to Dinner" switches between two drastically different plot lines: a serious story involving Carl and his estranged brother Frank, and a wacky, lighthearted plot involving Steve, Eddie, a wrestling contest and a force field-creating power belt.
  • Motive Rant: Dexter Thornhill gives one of these after being exposed for framing Steve for blowing up the school science lab.
  • Multi-Part Episode: The show has a few of them within the last four seasons.
    • Season 6 has the two-parters "To Be or Not to Be" and "We're Going to Disney World".
    • Season 8 has the biggest one in the series, the three-part saga "Paris Vacation".
    • The series finale, "Lost in Space", is split into two episodes.
  • Mundane Fantastic: Steve's sci-fi inventions in the otherwise realistic setting of Family Matters.
  • Mundane Utility: Carl doesn't want to get glasses when he starts having vision problems, so he tries using Steve's transformation chamber to improve his eyesight. Unfortunately, Myra sabotaged the chamber to try and make Stefan be permanently Steve, and it "Urkelizes" him by turning him into a nerd.
  • 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.
  • Never My Fault: When the Winslows see a therapist about their Urkel-related stress, Eddie reveals how Steve spilled the beans to his date Sue about how he took a girl named Tiffany to an expensive French restaurant when he told Sue he wasn't dating anyone else and took her to a cheap chicken joint. An infuriated Sue dumps Eddie and he blames Steve, even though Sue herself called him out for being a lying two-timing snake.
  • 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 sleepwalks into the Winslows' house and repeatedly raps Carl over the head with a rolled-up newspaper. Steve has no idea that he's doing it and isn't sure why. The Winslows hire a therapist, who hypnotizes Steve and figures out 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).
    • The Winslows are not the only people who suffer from Steve's clumsiness. Season 2's "Rachel's Place" shows Steve working at Leroy's, which is popular with teenagers. Instead of a paycheck, Leroy gives Steve a bill for all the dishes he's broken. When Steve tries to cook Laura some supper, he ends up starting a fire that burns down the whole restaurant. When Leroy says Screw This, I'm Outta Here and refuses to rebuild it, Rachel gets a loan from Estelle, Carl and Harriette to buy the property and turn it into Rachel's Place.
  • 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).
  • Nobody's That Dumb: In "Midterm Crisis", when Eddie and Steve accidentally eat Waldo's gourmet 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".
    • In "Flying Blind", Steve reveals that he's banned from all commercial airlines, apparently due to an incident involving "a faulty pet carrier and a wolverine".
  • Not Helping Your Case: When Carl is angry at Eddie for breaking his curfew, Weasel explains that Eddie's late because he was watching Weasel moon meter maids. Carl isn't pleased to learn that Weasel's dropping his pants to female law enforcement officers.
  • Not Me This Time:
    • In "Presumed Urkel", Steve's Wrongly Accused of blowing up the school science 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 the Intended Use: Steve uses the transformation chamber to turn him into Stefan or his "Bruce Lee" persona, but Carl once tried using it to fix his vision problems so he wouldn't have to get glasses. Unfortunately, Myra sabotaged the chamber to try and make Stefan permanently be Steve. The malfunctioning chamber "Urkelizes" Carl and turns him into a nerd.
  • 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.
  • One-Neighbor Neighborhood: Steve's the only neighbor that the Winslows mention for about five years, until Nick moves into the house on the opposite side.
  • Oh, Crap!: A rare Studio Audience example happens when Steve and Laura are working at Leroy's and Steve says he'll cook Laura some suppper. Several people in the audience can audibly be heard saying "uh oh" when Steve says he should become a chef.
  • One-Person Birthday Party: One episode has Steve celebrating his 20th birthday by himself. When Carl finds out, he spends the rest of the episode trying to make it up to him.
  • Oven Logic: Laura tries to cut the baking time in half for a home ec. cake by doubling the oven temperature. Hilarity Ensues.
  • Pair the Dumb Ones: Downplayed with Maxine and Waldo. Maxine is more flighty and unschooled than dumb. But Waldo's that perfect storm of unschooled, slow on the uptake, sarcasm blind and plain weird.
  • Prefer Jail to the Protagonist: In "Farewell, My Laura", Steve's story portrays himself as a detective named Johnny Danger trying to find the identity of Rachel's murderer. Upon suspects dropping like flies and Laura Wigglesworth holding him at gunpoint when it's just the two of them, Johnny disarms her. Johnny then offers her the choice to hook up with him if she doesn't want to go to jail, which she answers by turning herself in. Laura lampshades the ending asking why Steve didn't have them end up together with him replying he wanted to save that ending for real life, which at least got Laura to chuckle.
  • Pronouncing My Name for You: 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 catchphrase, which Carl angrily lampshades in "The Looney Bin" about the fifth time Mr. Looney says it.
  • Pro Wrestling Episode: "Psycho Twins," featuring the Bushwhackers as themselves. The episode plays with Pro Wrestling Is Real, as when circumstances force Steve and Carl to wrestle, the Bushwhackers try to carry them to a good match, only to lose it and fight for real when they find out Carl is a cop. The episode 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.
  • Rank Up: Carl starts the series as a sergeant in the Chicago PD, and over the course of the series, gets promoted to Lieutenant and eventually Captain, with a new boss each time (Lieutenant Murtaugh, Captain Savage, and finally Commissioner Geiss).
  • 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.
  • Really Gets Around: Vonda Mahoney had this reputation. She offered to be with 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 be popular. He convinced her that she no longer had to do this, much to Eddie's chagrin.
  • Reed Richards Is Useless: Despite the sheer variety of inventions Steve had used over the run, the rest of the Family Matters universe is identical to the Chicago of the '90s. This is occasionally justified In-Universe, like when Steve destroyed a cloning device he created worried it could be used for evil, or withdrew his transformation chamber from a public contest fearing what society would do with it.
  • Reel Torture: In the cold open of "That's What Friends Are For", Steve drop by to see Laura, only to be told by Carl that she doesn't want him to know where she is. Steve decides to "entertain" Carl by showing him a photo reel of his trip to the Wisconsin Cheese Festival. The reel barely starts before Carl breaks and not only divulges where Laura is but how long she will be there and what she is wearing:
    Steve: I knew you'd crack.
  • 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.
  • Retail Riot: In the first Christmas Episode, Carl gets caught up in one while shopping for the popular Freddy Teddy toy. The fact that the other shoppers are willing to mob a cop really says something about their desperation.
  • Retool: While the show never officially changed formats, episodes from the first 2-3 seasons, when it was a family-oriented sitcom, to the final 2-3 seasons, when it turned into a fantasy sitcom, are indeed very different in feel.
  • 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: In "Robo-Nerd", Steve creates Urkelbot, which soon develops a mind of its own and wants Laura for itself. A later episode, "Robo-Nerd II", had Steve fix Urkelbot's defective microchips to keep him from going crazy. He became a cop working alongside Carl, but later quit to become a professional dancer when he decided policework was too dangerous.
  • Rival Turned Evil: Dexter Thornhill was so sick of being beaten by Steve in the annual state science fair every year that he framed Steve for blowing up the school science lab in an effort to get him expelled.
  • Road Trip Episode: Season 5's "It Didn't Happen One Night", in which Steve drives Laura to Cincinnati for a cheerleading competition. The trip comes to a halt when Steve's car breaks down, and they're forced to stay at a hotel for the night.
  • Robot Girl: Laurabot's built after Urkelbot's shut down and reprogrammed.
  • Roommate Drama: In "Movin' On", Laura, who has recently reached adulthood, moves into an apartment with Myra. However, Myra's quirky Genki Girl personality drives Laura crazy, so Laura decides to move back to her parents' house. It helps that, even before moving in together, Laura and Myra were already Vitriolic Best Buds.
  • Running Gag:
    • Any situation involving one of Steve's catchphrases.
    • 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.
    • In "Dog Day Halloween", Laura, who is wearing a Tina Turner costume, is referred to as different singers such as Aretha Franklin and Patti LaBelle.
  • 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:
    • In "Baker's Dozens", the Winslow kids leave the kitchen in rapid succession twice, the first being when Harriette asks who's going to help with the dishes for a second time, while the second one occurs when everybody realizes that the kitchen is still a mess following the food fight. Additionally, Rachel leaves the kitchen during the former moment as well.
    • 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)
    • In "Rachel's Place", Steve accidentally burns down Leroy's restaurant. Carl tries to console Leroy by saying he can rebuild it better than ever, but Leroy says he's too old to start over. He takes his insurance money and retires to Florida, selling the property to Rachel.
    • Late in "They Shoot Urkels, Don't They?", Harriette proposes for Carl and Steve to call it a draw since everybody is exhausted from dancing for hours at the dance marathon. However, Carl and Steve, who have been stubbornly competitive against each other throughout the episode, refuse, resulting in both her and Myra leaving, followed by everyone who's still in the dance hall, including Fletcher, Estelle, and the D.J. providing the dance music. Carl and Steve continue to dance in the now-empty dance hall by themselves despite this:
      Harriette: Carl... you're walking home. [leaves]
      Myra: Steve, you know I love you with all my heart and soul... [taking one of her high-heel shoes out] but not my feet. [leaves]
      Fletcher: Oh, man, you two are the only ones left? And you don't even have partners. It's over. We're hopping on our Harley and we're going home. [leaves with Estelle]
      Dance marathon D.J.: I'm right behind you. [turns off electronic keyboard and lights before leaving]
    • Real life example is Jo Marie Payton leaving the show during the final season, despite the fact she was the character the show originally originated from when it started.
  • Science in Genre Only: Steve's inventions range from a transformation chamber to Ridiculously Human Robots to a teleportation pad to a time machine, driven by Rule of Funny rather than any sort of real scientific principles.
  • Second Place Is for Losers: This is why Dexter Thornhill framed Steve for blowing up the school science 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 references 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!" Sure enough, though, the thing goes haywire just after he says that, though his usual line doesn't follow and he instead does a "spoke too soon" routine, furthering how comedic this scene is.
    • In “Taking Credit”, the writers poke fun at themselves with this line from Mother Winslow:
      Mother Winslow: And Helen Winters, always flapping her gums about her granddaughter being a TV writer. Wait ‘til I tell her my grandson is a real writer!
  • Sentimental Music Cue: Downplayed as the series didn't employ this as much. "The Good, the Bad and the Urkel" out and out breaks the fourth wall when the characters can hear the cue, and look around wondering where it came from.
  • Sequel Escalation: The first season is very laidback with low-stakes scenarios, often focusing on small problems within the household. Season 2 is when the stakes start to rise, with episodes involving more dangerous (even life-threatening) situations like bank robbers and near-death experiences. Then once Steve’s kooky inventions are introduced in later seasons, the show takes an entirely new direction (see below).
  • The Series Has Left Reality: After Steve's introduced, his inventions introduce a number of sci-fi plots to the setting. We’re talking teleportation pads, cloning, robots, and most famously of all, transformation chambers.
  • Serious Business: After a poor showing on the basketball court, Steve makes it clear to Waldo that he and Eddie take their streetball league very seriously, even if Waldo doesn't. Realizing this, Waldo begins to take tap dancing lessons to improve his coordination and avoid being The Load on the court. It works.
  • Shoo Out the Clowns: In Season 2's "Finding the Words", Steve's comical B-plot is quickly wrapped up (ending with him getting shoved out of the house by Laura) right before the much more somber final act involving Harriette, Rachel, and their father.
  • 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.
    • (Upon meeting Fletcher, Mother Winslow's boyfriend) Carl: I'm Carl Winslow, who the hell are you?
    • 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.
    • Daniel Wallace gets sick with appendicitis in "The Show Must Go On", leaving Steve to be cast as Romeo in Daniel's place.
  • So Proud of You: In "Dog Day Halloween", Steve and Laura end up as hostages in a bank robbery, which Carl and the cops eventually foil. Steve later tells Carl that he feels like a failure, because he dreamed of standing up to the robber to save Laura and even tried to do so, but quickly lost his courage when the crook flashed his gun. Carl makes it clear that he has nothing to be ashamed of—trying to push around an armed robber isn't brave, it's foolish—and says that he's proud of Steve for being there for Laura regardless. He then points out that it was one of Steve's pranks, a fake pizza box full of springing snakes, that gave the cops the idea on how to stop the crook, and assures Steve that he did the right thing.
  • Special Aesop Victim: In "The Gun", Laura and her friends are harassed by a gang who are carrying around guns. Later on, one of Laura's friends brings a gun for protection but ends up being shot anyway.
  • Split-Screen Phone Call: The entire A plot for "Pulling Teeth" is framed this way, with characters going back and forth between different calls with separate people.
  • 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?
  • Supermodel Strut: Laura plays a Femme Fatale-esque character named Laura Wigglesworth in the Noir Episode "Farewell, My Laura", and she always walks with an exaggerated sultry strut.
  • 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 a 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 is in his Stefan persona and Carl has 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' son. 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 father 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."
  • Take That!:
    • In "Rock Video", Steve says this when Eddie tells him to focus the camera on him and not the band:
      Steve: Whatever you say. This is going to be the biggest bomb since Howard the Duck.
    • In "Father of the Bride", Carl turns on the television and immediately falls asleep when he sees that Hudson Hawk is showing. Then in his dream, he wakes up to the sound of the TV, sees that Hudson Hawk is still airing, then promptly goes back to sleep.
    • When Steve and Carl get trapped in the past in "A Pirate's Life for Me", Steve attempts to look at the bright side of things.
      Steve: There are no nuclear weapons, there's no pollution, and no Pauly Shore movies!
  • Tempting Fate:
    • In "Rachel's Place", when Laura tells Steve that he shouldn't do in any cooking, he asks what could go wrong. In the very next scene, Leroy's is burned down.
    • In "Boxcar Blues", while Carl and Steve are trapped inside a boxcar, Steve tells Carl to relax as it's not like they're going anywhere. Immediately after Steve says this, the train takes off.
    • 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.
  • Theme Tune Cameo: There's only one instance where the theme song is used outside of the opening credits and scene transitions: in "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Urkel", the melody can be heard getting progressively faster as Tyrone (Laura's Guardian Angel) rewinds time.
  • 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.
    • Lieutenant Murtaugh, Carl's first boss on the force, and Commissioner Geiss, Carl's boss in the last two seasons. (Captain Savage, Carl's second boss, is an aversion).
    • Nick Niedermeyer, the other annoying neighbor.
  • 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.
  • Twitchy Eye: When the Winslows go to see a family therapist for their Urkel-related stress in "What's Up Doc", Carl is suffering from this. One session completely cures his twitch...and then it comes right back when he sees the therapist's bill.
  • 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.
  • Underappreciated Women's Work: In "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad House," a stressed-out Harriet gets fed up with all the work she does around the house being taken for granted by her family and declares herself on strike, refusing to do any cooking, cleaning, or laundry, and she sticks firmly to it until everyone's learned their lesson, no matter how filthy the house gets or what kind of clothes the kids have to wear to school.
  • 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.
  • Unknowingly Possessing Stolen Goods: In "Hot Stuff", Eddie buys a stereo system for his car from a guy Weasel knows. However, after Eddie informs Steve he only paid $400 for the system and Steve notices the serial numbers were filed off the equipment, they realize the system was stolen.
  • 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.
    • In "A Pirate's Life for Me", when Steve and Carl go back in time to the golden age of piracy, Eddie casually mentions where they've gone, and everyone else reacts as if they'd left on a trip to the grocery store.
  • Very Special Episode:
    • "Fight the Good Fight" tackles the topic of racism, with Laura facing discrimination for wanting to put a Black History class in school.
    • "An Unlikely Match" has Steve organizing a bone marrow drive for a student who was diagnosed with leukemia. It ends with Kellie Shanygne Williams and Jaleel White providing contact information for the National Marrow Donor Program.
    • "The Gun" deals with gun violence amongst teens. It ends with a special message from the cast encouraging viewers to speak out and prevent teen violence.
    • "Good Cop, Bad Cop" tackles racial profiling, with Eddie getting harassed by two white cops for driving in an all-white neighborhood. Carl rightfully steps up and confronts the cops for their actions.
  • Vignette Episode:
    • Taking Credit where Rachel tells Judy and Richie about giving credit where it’s due when Richie tried to hog the credit after baking a cake with Judy. She talks about Carl sharing credit with his boss, and Eddie taking credit for Urkels work.
    • In "Le Jour d'amour", Steve hosts three shorts split into stories about First Love, True Love, and Lasting Love.
  • Vocal Evolution: Stevil, the Demonic Dummy from Steve's Halloween nightmare, starts off with a deep and genuinely menacing voice, obviously done with a voice filter. In his second appearance, the filter is removed, and his actor (director Richard Correll) does a voice that's more akin to Chucky.
  • Volleying Insults:
  • 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.
  • Weaponized Weakness: When Steve's clumsiness causes Carl's home insurance claims to skyrocket, and he nearly strangles the Winslows' insurance adjuster Mr. Tolbert, Tolbert raises Carl's rate to $10,000 unless the nerd moves out. Steve later comes to Mr. Tolbert's office to plead with him not to increase the Winslows' premiums, which will make him homeless, he accidentally wrecks Mr. Tolbert's office. Carl then comes in and tells Steve that he found him a new place to live...right next to Mr. Tolbert's place. Mr. Tolbert suffers a Freak Out and agrees to let Carl keep his old rate even if Steve still lives with him. Steve later congratulates Carl on his brilliant plan.
  • Wedding Episode: "Mama's Wedding", wherein Estelle marries Fletcher Thomas.
  • Wedding Smashers: Greta interrupts the wedding ceremony between Eddie and Myrtle in "Nightmare at Urkel Oaks" as the moment to Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace is ongoing. Cat Fight ensues.
  • 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.
    • "Finding the Words": a friendly old man named Jimmy visits the house and is invited to stay for the night. After spending some time with the family, Jimmy approaches Carl in private and reveals who he really is: he's the Disappeared Dad of Harriette and Rachel, long thought to have been killed in the Korean War.
    • In "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 aftereffects 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 Line: In "Father Time", when traveling to the past with Steve, Carl alters history in order to become the richest man on Earth. Unfortunately, he alters his family in the process, with Harriette declaring that she's going to divorce him. When a shocked Carl asks about what's going happen to Eddie and Laura, she responds that she doesn't know what he's talking about because they don't have any kids.
  • 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.
    • "Born to Be Mild" has the shot Rachel's Place completely trashed after a break-in from The Dragons. To make matters worse, Eddie later arrives to show that they didn't just target the restaurant.
      Rachel: So these hoodlums can do whatever they want and get away with it?
      Carl: Well I wouldn't go that far.
      (enter Eddie, who's badly bruised and beaten up)
      Eddie: I would.
  • What Could Possibly Go Wrong?: When Steve and Laura are working at Leroy's, Steve offers to cook Laura some supper on the grill. Laura isn't sure Steve should be messing with the grill, but he says this. One Gilligan Cut later, Leroy's is burning to the ground. Notably, several members of the Studio Audience muttered "uh oh" when Steve said it was time he became a chef.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Carl does this to Eddie in one episode after when Eddie repeatedly comes home drunk after attending college parties. When it doesn't seem to get through to Eddie, Carl kicks him out of the house. However, Eddie's plans to move in with Waldo fall through as Waldo angrily chews him out for getting drunk as well (Waldo doesn't drink so he would drive Eddie home, who would then insult him for being stupid). Eddie decides to stop getting drunk and patches things up with Carl.
  • 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 son, rather than Carl, to the position of captain, despite Carl having more experience. Carl's understandably upset, and tries to remain professional—but when a major gang fight is in danger of breaking out, the new captain is paralyzed with indecision and begs Carl to help him devise a plan. Carl is clearly tempted to tell him that it's the captain's job to figure that out, which would both get him fired and serve as a healthy dose of revenge—but he ultimately realizes that innocent people's lives are more important than his hurt feelings, and he quickly develops a strategy that averts the fight (which earns him a round of applause from the audience). Later, both men then get more of these moments: when Geiss congratulates the precinct on a job well done, Carl easily could have taken the credit for himself (which, again, would be a great bit of vengeance), 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 father that he appreciates the gesture but knows that Carl is a much better choice for the job. Commissioner Geiss, proud of his son for telling the truth and equally proud of Carl for his hard work, addresses him as "Captain" Winslow, ensuring the promotion goes to the right person.
    • In a last-season episode, Steve is at a college party when Laura, drunk out of her mind, starts trying to seduce him. This seems like a golden opportunity for Steve—who's pined after Laura for years at this point—to finally make his move...but he instead turns her down, helps get her to bed so she can sleep off the booze, and leaves the party. Laura then reveals the truth to her girlfriends: she was tipsy, not wasted, and decided to give Steve a test to see what he would do. It ends up being the right choice, as his kindness and chivalry win Laura over for good.
  • Whole-Plot Reference: Season 7's "Teacher's Pet" is basically The Nutty Professor, with Steve acting as a substitute teacher and later turning into Stefan when his class doesn't take him seriously.
  • 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.
  • 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.

"Did I do thaaat?"


Video Example(s):



In 1991 Ralston briefly marketed an Urkel-Os cereal, whose connection with Family Matters was mainly just that it had Urkel all over the box.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (5 votes)

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Main / TieInCereal

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