'Family really did matter and still does'
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It’s been nearly 20 years since Reginald VelJohnson, who played Carl Winslow for nine seasons on Family Matters, had a formal reunion with his TV family.
“I love these people… Every one of them,” the famous TV dad, 65, said when he and the cast recently got together for the latest issue of EW. “I didn’t realize I was going to see everybody. … To see them now, the way they are, is wonderful. It’s heartwarming. It makes me cry.”
There were occasional tears but mainly laughs on the staple of ABC’s TGIF block of family-friendly programming (where it lived before moving to CBS for its ninth and final season). The comedy — which signed off July 17, 1998 after 215 episodes — was a spin-off of Perfect Strangers, on which Jo Marie Payton’s Harriette Winslow was an elevator operator at the building where cousins Larry and Balki (Mark Linn-Baker and Bronson Pinchot) worked. (Both shows, plus other TGIF favorites such as Full House and Step by Step, are available Friday on Hulu.)
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Harriette and her police-officer husband, Carl, had a full house of their own: Kellie Shanygne Williams, Darius McCrary, and Jaimee Foxworth were their children Laura, Eddie, and Judy (who was written out of the show during season 4); Telma Hopkins played Rachel, Harriette’s widowed live-in sister, and Bryton James was Rachel’s son, Richie; Rosetta LeNoire played Estelle, a.k.a. “Mother Winslow”; Shawn Harrison was Eddie’s dim-witted friend Waldo; and White was their next-door neighbor, Steve Urkel — an iconic TV nerd before The Big Bang Theory gang was even a particle in the pop culture universe.
“It just feels so natural and so normal,” Hopkins explained of getting back together. “It’s like we haven’t been apart all these years.”
And if they had their way, they wouldn’t be apart much longer. In a day and age where revivals of old sitcoms are all the rage — Full House (as Fuller House), Will & Grace, and Roseanne among them — this cast seems ready to jump at the chance to bring their Chicago clan back to the small screen.
“Jaleel and I were talking just a little while ago and he said, ‘You know, we can do this.’ And I said, ‘If they dropped a script at our feet when we walked out of here, we would come back in tomorrow, and the next day we’d have a show shot,” Payton said about how quickly and easily they could fall back into their roles.
“Because we all have that rhythm,” Williams chimed in. Added Hopkins: “And we haven’t lost it. As soon as we’re together, it’s back to normal.”
VelJohnson admitted he’s curious what scientist and inventor Steve Urkel would be up to today, but more so, he’d like to see the show come back to “give a new perspective on things that are happening today from our point of view.”
And Payton, who said everyone is “ready to do it,” knows exactly how the revival should start: “I think the first scene should be Judy coming down those steps and everybody saying, ‘Where you been?'”
“There’s just something really magical about this cast and the real feelings that are here. It wasn’t just for the screen,” Hopkins concluded. “Family really did matter and still does.”
All nine seasons of Family Matters — plus other ABC comedies and TGIF titles including Full House, Step by Step, and Home Improvement — available now on Hulu.