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A lot of fan buzz surrounding the appearance of the beloved '90s TV series Family Matters on home video has been of the complaining variety. The grumbling has not been that the show is finally getting a release (although some might wish it to forever rest in the dustbin of TV history), but that it's taken so long and that the release schedule is so slow. There were nine seasons of Family Matters--exactly enough to span a decade--and it may take as many years for collectors to catch up with ownership of all those episodes. The travails of the suburban Chicago Winslow family seem almost like a balm to the people who grew up with them 20 years ago. The show was a mainstay of the ABC schedule as soon as it appeared as a spinoff from the less well remembered Perfect Strangers. Its portrayal of a regular family facing bland sitcom unrealities and who just happened to be African American was perfect for undemanding sitcom viewers of the era. The kick in the Family Matters formula was, of course, Jaleel White, who stole the show as Urkel, the Winslow's next-door neighbor and pop-culture meta-nerd. After Urkel proved such a massive phenomenon in season two, it was pretty much a given that he would become the show's focus for as long as it could hold on. Consequently, people who were already hooked on the show saw season three as his takeover. Pretty much every episode centered around Urkel, with Reginald VelJohnson and Jo Marie Payton as parents Carl and Harriette Winslow sliding firmly into his backseat. The episodes play like a sequence of high-concept Urkel brainstorms: Urkel has a sleepwalking problem; Urkel makes friends with an orangutan; Urkel gets in trouble at school; Urkel is a poker hustler; etc.--all to hilarious result and ending with Urkel blurting out the catchphrase "Did I do that?" To be fair, Carl and Harriette remained integral players in the silly stories, as did Urkel's perpetual crush Laura Winslow (Kellie Shanygne Williams) and her brother Eddie (Darius McCrary). Nevertheless, Urkel was the star and Jaleel White would never know a life without that alter ego trailing him. Some have suggested that they can see a drop in enthusiasm in the performances of the cast members as Family Matters became the Urkel show and that whatever chemistry may have existed started to fizzle. Though some may not have been happy about the takeover, the outright grumbling and more obvious pandering didn't start until closer to the show's natural demise. After all, Family Matters was a monster hit for everyone involved. Like it or not, that's still the case today with many fans who find comfort in their nostalgia for the show and wish more than anything that they could binge on the remaining six seasons right now. --Ted Fry
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Family Matters: Season 3 Price List