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10+ 'Family Matters' Behind The Scenes Secrets Fans Didn't Know

Jordan Claes 17 Sep 2020

The goal of any sitcom is simple — make the audience laugh. But that wasn't enough for Family Matters: a show that's as culturally impactful as it was hilarious.

It's been more than 30 years since the first episode premiered and boy does that make me feel old!

Let's ease the pain and celebrate this milestone together with these 10+ Family Matters behind-the-scenes secrets that fans didn't know.

1. Steve Urkel was never supposed to be the star of the show.

Giphy | HULU

According to actor Jaleel White, Urkel was only supposed to appear in one episode.

As luck would have it, there was a fraternity in the audience during the taping. They kept on chanting "Urkel" during all the scenes that Steve (Jaleel) wasn't in.

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2. Judy Winslow disappeared.

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Longtime fans of the show may remember there was a second Winslow daughter named Judy.

At the end of season 4, Judy was sent to her room. She was never seen nor heard from again.

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3. Actress Jaimee Foxworth wasn't invited back for the Family Matters reunion, either.

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She didn't even know that it was happening! Two days before the EW cover was due to be released, she received a text from Shawn Harrison (Waldo) informing her of what was taking place.

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4. Jaleel White knows something about The Cosby Show that you don't know.

Giphy | Warner Archive

The character of Rudy was supposed to be a boy. How does Jaleel know? Why, because he was auditioning for the part — that's how!

His parents were so sure he'd book the gig that they'd already begun house hunting.

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5. Family Matters is a spin-off!

Before Family Matters, Harriette Winslow was a character on the sitcom Perfect Strangers. She worked as the elevator operator at the Chicago Chronicle.

If it wasn't for Harriet's tenacity and hilarity, there'd be no Steve Urkel!

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6. The show was one of the first and longest-running Black sitcoms in TV history.

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Family Matters was praised not only for its humor but also for its cultural impact.

Along with The Jeffersons and The Cosby Show, Family Matters helped to demolish the divide between white and black audiences.

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7. Steve Urkel crossed over into several different sitcoms.

The most memorable of which came when Steve decided to make an appearance on Full House!

If you haven't seen Uncle Jesse try to teach Steve how to strut, you don't know what you're missing!

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8. Jaleel White puts Eddie Murphy to shame.

Over the course of the entire series, Jaleel White played a total of 8 different characters.

Everyone remembers Steve's alter ego, Stefan Urquelle, but don't forget his hilarious cousins Cornelius Eugene and Myrtle Urkel!

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9. Steve's car might have looked nerdy but it's actually a collectible!

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Steve's 3-wheeled nerd mobile that opens at the front, complete with sun-roof, is actually a BMW Isetta.

It was built in the 1950s and was known as the German bubble car.

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10. There's a Steve Erkel in real-life.

Giphy | Warner Archive

The name Steve Urkel was inspired by one of Michael Warren's childhood friends, Steve Erkel. He used the name without permission, thinking Steve would only appear in one episode.

When the show's popularity ballooned, so began the crank calls to Steve Erkel's home.

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11. There were two Harriettes!

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Actress JoMarie Payton decided to abruptly leave halfway through Family Matters final season.

Rumors swirled that she was tired of playing second-fiddle to Jaleel White — allegations that she emphatically denies.

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12. Reginald VelJohnson holds a Family Matters cast record.

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He's the only member of the cast to have appeared in every single episode — all 215 of them.

I know that Urkel will always be Urkel, but without Carl, the bus just doesn't run on time.

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13. Steve Urkel had his own cereal!

As you may have been able to guess, the Family Matters branded cereal puffs were called Urkel-O's.

It's not the first box in the pantry I'd be reaching for, but clearly I'm in the minority on this one.

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14. Tensions mounted between Jaleel White and the rest of the cast.

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As I mentioned earlier, Family Matters was never supposed to turn into The Steve Urkel Show. It left a sour taste in many castmembers' mouths.

It took years for the tension to finally ease between Jaleel and his colleagues.

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15. JoMarie Payton recorded a jazz album!

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According to her, this was one of the motivating factors behind her decision to leave the show. JoMarie's album is a jazz/funk fusion piece called "Southern Shadows."

I've already listened to it cover to cover and the answer is "yes," — JoMarie can wail.

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