STUDIO: Warner Home Video
MSRP: $29.98
RATED: Not Rated
RUNNING TIME: 484 minutes

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The Pitch

The Winslow Family gets the first spin-off from Perfect Strangers.

The Humans

Rosetta LeNoire, Jaleel White, Darius McCrary and Reginald VelJohnson.

The Nutshell

The first season of Family Matters was shaky for the first three months. But, things changed when a one-off character stole the show. His name was Urkel and he was funky. Packing a pair of spectacles that’d make Betty Shabazz wet, Urkel slipped into the Winslow’s home like a thief in the night. The only object that Urkel wanted was sweet Laura’s lady junk. The big guy Carl wasn’t going to stand for this and a battle of the minds waged for the next nine years and across two networks. The face of American sitcoms would never be the same.

Dumber than Twofer, sharper than Rerun.

The Lowdown

Family Matters – The Complete First Season was one of the first major hits from the Miller / Boyet machine. While the arrivals of the Winslows helped to kill Just the Ten of Us long before its time, it did offer up an African American family that wasn’t the Huxtables. The Winslow Family made their debut on Perfect Strangers, where matriarch Harriet was the elevator operator at Larry Appleton’s place of employment. A year later, Chicago police officer Carl Winslow showed up to set the groundwork for the eventual spin-off. The show debuted in the Fall of 1989 and it was off to a weak start.

That’s when Steve Urkel showed up in a special Christmas episode. Carl was desperate to find a Holiday dance date for his daughter Laura, so he begged a neighborhood kid to take her out. This lead to the arrival of Urkel and the birth of a cottage industry of Urkel branded merchandise. Outside of that one event, nothing really happened during the first season. Telma Hopkins’ character dealt with being a young widow and Mother Winslow moved into the house despite Carl’s protests. America yawned, while they waited more for the little nerdy black kid.

The rest of the first season was basic introduction crap for the rest of the family. But, how many of the other family members do you remember from this show? You know that Carl was in Die Hard and that Urkel was the first successful black nerd on American Television. Before that the black nerd was set dressing or a bit character with a joke or two. Steve Urkel dared to pull a Cousin Oliver early in a show’s life and steal focus. Forget serious dramedy pandering, we’ve got an adorable black kid that cross-dressed and builds robots. If you had that kind of shit on I’ll Fly Away, it would still be on the air.

The A/V Quality is strong enough for a show that looks like it was shot on video. The audio is a weak Dolby mix that’s typical for sitcoms of the era. If you’re new to the show, there’s not a lot that’s going to pull you in. The modern era of Sunny, 30 Rock and Community has kind of raised the bar too high for sitcoms. No one can appreciate the troubles of teenagers looking for work or trying to piece together a school fundraiser. For those stricken with nostalgia, I’d recommend taking the first season in small viewing doses.

Hey, porn fiends! It’s Crave.

The Package

with no special features, but that’s to be expected for classic television sitcom packages from Warner Brothers. That’s not to say that I’m faulting WB for their endeavors. They’re better than SONY when it comes to sitcoms from the 1980s. When WB releases a season, it comes with the episodes uncut and preserved to their original airing condition. What does kill me is that you also have the risk of the studio not releasing future seasons. We can hope for future releases via a Hulu/Netflix Instant View service.

4.7 out of 10