Have Yourself a Merry Winslow Christmas
Season Two, Episode Thirteen
This episode is arguably the greatest sitcom Christmas episode of all-time. From beginning to end it contains everything you want in a great Christmas episode. There’s a hunt for a hard to find present (Freddy Teddy standing in for Teddy Ruxpin), decorations in every scene, discussions of the reality of Santa, and even a little singing at the end. It’s wholesome, touching, and beautifully shot. By the time the credits roll, you feel like you’ve spent Christmas with the Winslows and there is no where else you’d rather be.
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It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Urkel
Season Four, Episode Twelve
Two episodes into this Christmas rewatch and the one thing I have to give Family Matters a lot of credit for is infusing the holiday season. Not a single scene lacks Christmas decorations and they lean really hard into the Christmas spirit. In this episode, Laura wishes Steve knew what it felt like to be her. So, in an homage to It’s a Wonderful Life, Laura’s guardian angel grants her wish and Laura and Steve switch positions.
You have to give credit to Kellie Shanygne Williams (Laura) for doing an incredible impression of Steve Urkel from the female perspective. The episode isn’t as good as the first one, but this is still a solid holiday episode with a great message about realizing that even when people are annoying or a “nerd”, they still have feelings and deserve to be treated with respect.
Christmas is Where the Heart Is
Season Five, Episode Eleven
This episode continues the tradition of featuring Christmas in every scene, while doubling down on the holiday goodwill. The bulk of the episode takes place in a train car, where Steve and Carl find themselves trapped on Christmas Eve after a power outage. Everyone is in a terrible mood, including Carl, and Steve takes it upon himself to try and spread some true holiday cheer.
This episode is sweet, but it may take things a bit far with the holiday goodwill. We get another random singalong of Christmas music and it’s far from believable, but then again, most good Christmas stories have an element of fantasy to them.
Miracle on Elm Street
Season Six, Episode Eleven
Alright, it’s official… I want Harriett to decorate my house for Christmas. She has the perfect balance of decorations without being gaudy. It’s quite impressive!
In this episode, Carl attempts to teach Richie about the meaning of Christmas and Richie decided to invite a homeless man to live with the Winslows. Meanwhile, Eddie accidentally threw away Laura’s prized childhood doll and Steve heads to the landfill to try and find it. The episode ends with a little holiday magic as well as a sing-a-long, which is becoming a tradition in itself as these episodes progress.
Fa La La La Laagghh!
Season Seven, Episode Eleven
Eddie and Laura are getting older, and they don’t have much interest in helping Harriett decorate the tree, which hurts her feelings. Steve is always in the holiday spirit, unlike Carl, but Carl decides to let Steve decorate his roof in order to win a $5,000 dollar prize. This episode was missing the holiday magic of previous episodes, but had two great messages to pass along to viewers. Also, there is a very impressive scene involving the roof and what can best be described as a stunt. We also get another sing-a-long to end this episode.
It Came Upon a Midnight Clear
Season Eight, Episode Thirteen
Like most sitcoms, the early/mid seasons tend to be the best. Actors grow older, and there are only so many stories you can tell in a twenty-three-minute time block, so things become a little mundane. You have to give credit to Family Matters though, even though the core family story that the show began with slowly dissolved, the writers weren’t afraid to go a little crazy. And in this episode, you see a bit of that.
I forgot about Stefan, an alternate personality of Steve Urkel that was cloned and portrayed by Jaleel White himself. Stefan was everything Steve was not, he was smooth and handsome and well… it definitely sent some mixed messages about accepting yourself. Ha! Anyway, enough about the weirdness, let’s talk about this episode.
The main storyline involves Carl looking to save some money and he decides to chop down his own tree. Eddie can’t accompany him, so Steve volunteers, and off Carl and Steve go on another adventure. Meanwhile, Laura is leading on Curtis, while also dating Stefan, which leads to Harriett, sitting her down to discuss how this isn’t fair to either guy.
Steve and Carl getting lost is the far more interesting storyline, but the show is split equally between the two stories which does hurt the flow. The biggest takeaway from this episode is Jaleel White is talented. His physical comedy is wonderful and then to see him step into an opposite role in the next scene is impressive. However, this is not a strong Christmas episode, and even though we get another singalong at the end of the episode, it’s very forgettable.
Deck the Malls
Season Nine, Episode Eleven
It’s a given that most sitcoms go on a little too long and fizzle out, and this episode is proof that Family Matters went on just a little too long, or maybe they should have skipped the last couple of Christmas episodes.
In this episode, Urkel gets a job with Myra at the mall wrapping presents. Of course, his perfectionism causes him to wrap at an incredibly slow pace that not only annoys Myra, but the customers as well.
Meanwhile, Carl is stuck playing Santa while Laura is his elf at the department store. As usual, Carl is lacking the Christmas spirit until one kid wishes for his father to get a new job since he was recently laid off.
This isn’t a terrible episode, it just isn’t as good as the earlier seasons. You still get a little sentimentality alongside Urkel hijinks. It’s worth noting that this episode includes the final appearances of Jo Marie Payton-Downs as Harriett, Bryton McClure as Richie, Rosetta LeNoire as Estelle, and Telma Hopkins as Aunt Rachel.
And that concludes my recap of The Family Matters Christmas episodes. Sure, they are a little corny at times, but some of these episodes are really great and channel that positive energy that the 90’s had. It’s good wholesome fun and something we could use a little more of in today’s dark and brooding world. So, put away your bitterness and turn on some Urkel for Christmas this year. I bet he’ll make you chuckle.
(As of the time of this posting, Family Matters is streaming on Max.)