Family Matters: The Complete First Season DVD Review–The Start of Something Big
The folks out at Warner Brothers shipped me off a relic from one of the great institutions of comedy–today I’m talking about Family Matters: The Complete First Season, and it’ll probably be just about as good as you remember.
Originally a spinoff of ABC eighties comedy juggernaut Perfect Strangers, Family Matters follows Harriette Winslow, an elevator operator, her husband Carl, a cop, and the rest of the family on their many little adventures. Sounds like pretty standard sitcom fare, and it did well enough…until about midway through the first season, when it was hijacked by a skinny, squeaky voiced nerd-boy with a crush on Carl and Harriette’s daughter Laura, the one and only Steve Urkel. The appearance of Urkel ramped the otherwise tepid sitcom into a full-blown comedy juggernaut of its own, and actor Jaleel White became a serious big deal…for his era.
Family Matters became, eventually, the cornerstone of ABC’s TGIF lineup (which itself went through several changes before ultimately being scrapped) and with good reason. This show is pretty much the textbook definition of “inoffensive pablum” (the pilot episode featured Carl’s mother moving in and eldest son Eddie wanting to stay out until two in the morning…watching movies at a friend’s house.), and the addition of Urkel to the mix ramped things up considerably, resulting in several bizarre and unsettling plotlines (I remember one involving both time travel AND pirates) so it was the kind of show that developed as it went.
Of course, for right now, we’re sort of looking at the slumped end of things, the early days before the Urkel Revolution. The sort of thing that made an Urkel Revolution both welcome and necessary. And there were certainly positives to it too–especially the positive nature of the content. There are heavy Christian overtones running through this, which will be great news for some and hiss-inducing for others. The overall package focuses heavily on the positive, literally at all costs.
But still–there are some laughs here, even if they’re of the canned variety. And there’s plenty of uplifting content here. So if you’re looking for a bit of a history lesson, some safe inoffensive comedy, or the start of something fairly interesting, then Family Matters: The Complete First Season should do the job nicely.
The Screenhead Ten Scale hands this fairly impressive if somewhat tepid opening salvo into a comedy dynasty a six out of ten. This one, not so good–but it only gets more interesting from here.