Sports On TV: Family Matters’ 20 Greatest Sports Moments

did I do that

This week, With Leather’s semi-weekly look at the best sports moments from not-sports television shows goes back to its 80s roots to chronicle the jet pack rope climbs, Bushwhacker tag team matches and Grandmama slam dunks of ABC’s TGIF founding father ‘Family Matters.’ You may remember it best as “that show Urkel was on.” Consider it a spiritual sequel to our Full House list.

If you watched the show, you’ll remember these moments. If you didn’t, you should find enough insurmountable 80s/90s cheese in Reginald VelJohnson ALONE to satiate you. So sit back, relax, and repeatedly click the “next” button for the 20 greatest sports moments of ‘Family Matters.’ No sweat, my pet!

More Sports On TV: Saved By The Bell (part 2) | Full House | King Of The Hill | The Wire | The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air | Parks And Recreation | Married… With Children | 30 Rock | The Brady Bunch | The Three Stooges | The Simpsons | Glee | Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers | South Park | Boy Meets World | Buffy The Vampire Slayer | It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia | Arthur | Community | Arrested Development | Freaks and Geeks | Archer

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Episode: “Basketball Blues” (season 1, episode 6)

What Happens: When he was a teen, Carl Winslow wanted to be a basketball star. Unfortunately for him, he was a 5-foot-9 fat guy, so he became a cop. But lucky for him, his son Eddie is GREAT at basketball, and Carl does everything he can to brutally force his own dreams down his son’s throat. He makes him name is basketball, makes him bounce it whenever he walks, works him out from dawn until dusk and even coerces fictional basketball great Will “The Thrill” Morgan into stopping by and giving Eddie some pointers by pretending to be interested in buying Thrill’s Porsche. Eventually Eddie says nuts to basketball, and Carl gets a stern talking-to from his wife in a darkened gym that wises him up to the whole “don’t force your kids to be what you wanted to be” thing. Carl apologizes, and ‘Family Matters’ does about a thousand more episodes about how Eddie loves basketball.

Key line: “I’ll call it … Fred.” “Okay! Fred! Now why don’t you two go up and change, and after you do your homework and eat your dinner, me, you and Fred’ll watch some highlight videos!” “Why don’t you and Fred watch them … while I go play Nintendo!”

Before the plot of every ‘Family Matters’ episode was LOOK AT WHAT URKEL DID, it was a by-the-numbers sitcom about a middle class African-American family living in Chicago. When the show was on, these were the “bad” episodes, but looking back, they were actually pretty solid. They were just too straight-forward, and didn’t end with anybody flying away over the cityscape in a jetpack.

Anyway, I feel for Eddie in this one. I had a similar experience with my dad growing up. He wanted to be a baseball star but ended up a skating rink disc-jockey with a pregnant teen wife, so when he found out his kid loved Cal Ripken Jr. and was pretty good at shortstop, he took said kid out onto the elementary school diamond and hit line drives at him. When those line drives hit shin or skull or eyeball and the kid burst into tears because he was having baseballs frozen-roped into his face, dad said “toughen up!” Carl apologizes to Eddie within like, 12 hours. It took my dad 25 years to say “I probably shouldn’t have forced my dreams on you and made you this weird hypersensitive liberal artist blogger guy, huh?”

(I still think Cal Ripken was the greatest, though.)

Episode: “The Way the Ball Bounces” (season 4, episode 13)

What Happens: Because Carl once treated Eddie like garbage and forced him to get great at basketball, Eddie turns into a top-shelf high school basketball player and a possible recruit for area college athletic programs. He finds out that the fine folks at Illinois Occidental University are interested in his skills and willing to let him half-ass college to make it happen. Carl and Harriette need to convince Eddie that a college education is more important than fleeting basketball fame, so Harriette brings in (you guessed it) fictional former basketball star Sam “The Slam” Massey. All the fictional ‘Family Matters’ basketball stars have nicknames like that. JOHN “THE BASKETBALL GOAL” JACKSON

Key line: “What school?” “Illinois Occidental University.” “Wow! IOU!”

Sam’s sob story is epic: he hit a game-winning three-pointer against Georgetown that made him an instant star, but he blew out his knee a week later and lost the free ride his college professors were giving him. Sam CAN BARELY READ. So he ends up bagging groceries and lecturing teens about prioritizing basketball. Eddie listens, because Eddie is just the human version of Robbie from ‘Dinosaurs’ and will listen to anybody.

In the episode’s B-story, Urkel pretends to be Laura in Laura’s bed (so she can study for the PSATs) and kisses Carl on the cheek. That is seriously this episode’s B-story.

Episode: “Requiem for an Urkel” (season 2, episode 11)

What Happens: School bully Willie wants Laura to go to the Big Dance with him and won’t take no for an answer, systematically eliminating all of her options. Enter CENTER OF THE KNOWN UNIVERSE Steve Urkel, Laura’s infatuated geeky neighbor, who stands up for her by slapping Willie in the face with a mitten and challenging him to a fight. Turns out Willie could beat the dog mess out of Urkel, so Carl agrees to teach him a few boxing moves. What follows is our first example of the Urkel Sports Dichotomy: Urkel is either unrealistically great or F**KING TERRIBLE BEYOND BELIEF at sports, and you can never tell which one is coming. Spoiler alert, Urkel sucks at boxing.

Key line: “I demand satisfaction!” “He hit me with a mitten!” “Be careful, he got another one!”

Urkel learns as much as he can and holds his own against Willie in the fight, including a random moment where he just starts moonwalking. Anyway, Willie starts brutalizing Steve in the fight, but Steve won’t stay down. That earns him the respect of the kids watching, and they eventually stand up to Willie and tell him that if he wants to finish Urkel, he’ll have to go through THEM first. This probably would’ve been more helpful BEFORE Willie had bashed Steve’s face in, but whatever.

The most notable thing about this episode is that it is appearance #1 for the show’s best character, Waldo Geraldo Faldo. Waldo starts off as Willie’s stupid sidekick (“Whacha gonna do, Willie?”) and ends up … uh, as Eddie Winslow’s stupid sidekick. But he’s GREAT, and goes to culinary school, and has a sister named Quesadilla.

Episode: “Whose Man Is It Anyway?” (season 9, episode 16)

What Happens: While nobody tops ‘Blossom’ for Very Special Episodes or ‘The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air’ for unexpectedly sad sitcom endings, ‘Family Matters’ is the reigning king of doing a Very Serious Episode and second episode of ridiculous crap simultaneously. Here’s the description of “Whose Man Is It Anyway?” courtesy of

Cousin Myrtle dukes it out in the boxing ring with Greta to win Eddie for her own. Meanwhile, 3J searches for his birth mother.

A search for your birth mother is the B-story because Urkel has to dress in drag and punch people.

Key line: “I’d like nothing more than to go Evander Holyfield on this heifer!”

Welcome to season 9 of ‘Family Matters,’ when the show switched from ABC to CBS in an nWo-esque attempt to destroy the programming block it helped create. Little Richie and “3J” become the show’s Nikki and Alex, Harriette suddenly becomes a demure light-skinned lady a la Aunt Viv, and a show about a normal Chicago family becomes about Urkel getting married to Laura and facing death on a space mission.

So yeah, every successful black comedian needs an ugly old lady alter ego, right? Martin Lawrence had Big Momma, Eddie Murphy had an array of Klumps, Tracy Jordan had Honky Grandma. Tyler Perry built an evil empire around it. It’s either a never-ending right-of-passage tribute to Flip Wilson or Hollywood’s attempt to emasculate black comedians by making them wear a dress (depending on who you ask), so I’ll let you watch this clip montage of Urkel dressed as his own sassy southern cousin set to Roy Orbison’s ‘Pretty Woman’ and decide for yourself.

Episode: “Making the Team” (season 3, episode 8)

What Happens: Laura Winslow joins the cheerleading squad and tries to get them to show a little spirit, but Bring It On hasn’t been released yet so nobody knows what she’s talking about. Steve tries to join the basketball team, but he’s a short nerd, so he ends up as equipment manager. With the team getting crushed in The Big Game, starters dropping like flies and the coach risking forfeiture if he doesn’t find a replacement player, Urkel gets subbed in. Everybody laughs. But they don’t know about the Urkel Sports Dichotomy! Despite being too uncoordinated to walk through the Winslow living room without knocking over three lamps, Steve is SUPER GREAT AT BASKETBALL and leads the team on a full Teen Wolf comeback. Laura just starts cheerleading by herself and the crowd loves it, so the others join in. Urkel wins the game, Laura becomes a cheerleading legend and they agree to get married.

Well, not yet.

Key line: “Steve, you were right! Anything’s possible!” “Will you marry me?” “Except that.”

Here’s the scene in its entirety. I love that they didn’t bother to write an actual episode of ‘Family Matters’ and just said “f**k it, we’re doing an inspirational sports movie.” If you haven’t seen this, it’s worth watching in its entirety for Laura’s cheer, which I’ve been doing regularly since the episode aired. DO YA DO YA, DO YA DO YA

Man, that alley-oop to Eddie at the 2:20 mark is Avon Barksdale bad. At least Steve doesn’t have to be a werewolf anymore, or however that works!

Episode: “Grandmama” (season 5, episode 7)

What Happens: Speaking of dunking and black guys dressing like old ladies, Larry Johnson of the super-1990s Charlotte Hornets guest stars as ‘Grandmama,’ a character from a Converse commercial who happens to attend a senior center with Mother Winslow, be great at basketball and be willing to help Urkel win a 2-on-2 basketball tournament when Eddie ditches him to team with local street legend Kenny ‘The Spider’ Jackson.

Being Larry Johnson in drag means you’re great at basketball, but it also means you’re crazy injury prone, and Grandmama ends up twisting her knee in the final moments of the championship game. That leaves Eddie and Urkel to decide the championship in an impromptu game of sudden death one-on-one for some reason, and Urkel dunks on Eddie (!) to win the game and prove a point: you shouldn’t ditch your friends, especially when they are geniuses who are unstoppable at basketball and know cross-dressing NBA stars.

Key line: “I shoulda worn my sports bra!”

How do you make “Larry Johnson teaming up with Steve Urkel on an episode of ‘Family Matters'” even MORE 90s? By featuring it in an episode of NBA Inside Stuff:

There are two payoff jokes in play here: that Grandmama doesn’t want to go to the Chicago Bulls game they won tickets to in the tournament because “for some reason she’s crazy about the Charlotte Hornets,” and that Grandmama wants to give Mother Winslow a makeover. If there’s one thing ‘Family Matters’ loved more than an inspirational basketball episode, it was “dressing up two characters to look identical.”

Episode: “Scammed” (season 7, episode 21)

What Happens: Speaking of the Chicago Bulls, Steve, Eddie and Waldo are returning home after a Bulls overtime win and get hustled by a gentleman’s club doorman who swears the Bulls players stop by after every game, and that the kids should come in and wait for them to get autographs. Eddie’s goal in life is to accidentally lose as much money as possible, so he and Waldo fall for it and end up buying $500-worth of champagne and roses for what I can only assume is the TGIF equivalent of a stripper. The club owners threaten Eddie unless Waldo can find the money, and ultimately somebody in the cast goes “oh wait, Carl Winslow is a cop.”

Key line: “I follow the games, I read the stats, and I’m telling ya … Dennis Rodman plays better with PURPLE hair!”

You’ll know this really well by the end of the column, but Eddie Winslow CANNOT STOP GAMBLING AND LOSING MONEY. If Carl was, say, a Roc-esque sanitation worker, Eddie would’ve been dead by season 2. Sorta like his sister Judy, now that I think about it. Poor Eddie. He spent all that money on stripper booze and didn’t even get to meet Jud Buechler.

The best part of the episode is the ridiculous Bulls clothes the kids are wearing while they walk home. They’re all wearing Bulls windbreakers and warm-up pants, Steve has a headband with giant bull ears on it and Waldo has the biggest foam finger in history. I guess if your job is to pull in rubes off the street, your easiest target would be “anybody who spent that much money at the United Center.”

Episode: “Bowl Me Over” (season 1, episode 21)

What Happens: Carl preaches good sportsmanship, but when his wife beats him at bowling (with three strikes in a row!), he’s sent into a shame spiral. That leads to a Boys Vs. Girls bowling thing and the first official discovery of the Urkel Sports Dichotomy: he’s a hapless goon, but he’s a bowling regular and becomes Carl’s “secret weapon.” The bad news for Carl is that Urkel has a raging multiple-decades-long boner for Carl’s daughter Laura, who diffuses the secret weapon by pretending to like him for a few seconds and sending him into epileptic shock. Carl learns an important lesson about sportsmanship, which he never remembers.

Key line: “I can’t breathe! All the pins look like Laura!”

Real talk: I loved TGIF shows when I was a kid, but when I was compiling the Full House list I realized how unbelievably bad it was. I mean, I knew it already, but it was sorta like staring into the face of a loveless God. Joey Gladstone did the “cut it out” hand gesture joke at least 200 times and the crowd cracked up every single time.

‘Family Matters’ was a little different. It’s not a great show, and you can accurately tell the plot and resolution of an episode by watching about 40 seconds of one, but I found myself laughing at it. The show hit a sweet spot JUST as Urkel shows up where he’s this legitimately cute, weird, funny little nerd asshole and the family is loving about it but also kinda wants him to die. That turned into a monster and we got 7-8 additional seasons of Urkel as this gangly grown-up speaking in a way-too-high-pitched voice and creating robot clones or whatever and it was terrible, but season 1 Urkel? Season 1 Urkel is money.

Episode: “Father of the Bride” (season 5, episode 17)

What Happens: Carl gets stuck on a bowling date with Urkel, so he promises Laura he’ll buy her a bunch of expensive clothes if she takes his place. She reluctantly agrees, and Carl goes full ‘Homer The Heretic’ and stays at home gloating and napping. But OH NO, Carl awakes from his nap to find that he’s an old man, and that Laura fell in love with Steve on their accidental bowling date and had a bunch of terrifying, accordion-playing Urkel children. Future Harriette assures Old Carl that everyone is happy and in love, but he screams and complains until he wakes up from his REAL nap. The resolution: Laura had a terrible time, and Carl had nothing to feel guilty about. Welp!

Key line: “Tonight, you’re gonna be proud to be with Steven Q. Urkel. Why? Because I’m STYLIN’. Shoes, bag, a-ball.” “Oh lord.”

The “Q” stands for “Quincy,” by the way.

Sitcoms love their Rip Van Winkle trope, and it’s pretty funny that Carl assumes Steve and Laura’s marriage would turn them into refined, mannerly accordion players. I’m sad that Future Harriette wasn’t played by the lady who subs in for her at the end of season 9. George Lucas should go back and touch up episodes of ‘Family Matters’ to make that happen. Or hell, if he can’t do that, give Future Harriette a robot arm.

‘Family Matters’ has the worst continuity sometimes. In season 1 the Winslows go bowling with Steve, find out he’s good and that he’s a regular at the bowling alley. Then a few seasons later, Laura’s all “ugh you bowl?” and everyone assumes he’s terrible again because he’s Steve, and because they can’t remember basic facts about each other. Also, Steve suddenly bowls in a kilt, because jokes.

Episode: “Swine Lake” (season 7, episode 17) and “Twinkle Toes Faldo” (season 7, episode 20)

What Happens: You know that thing sitcoms do where a male character plays sports and has some kind of hang-up, so the coach recommends they take ballet to work on their coordination, but ballet is FOR THE GAYS and all their friends make fun of them and they want to QUIT SPORTS I HATE THEM until they realize they shouldn’t be the victim of basic bullying and do whatever makes them happy? ‘Family Matters’ did that twice, within four episodes of each other.

In the first episode, Eddie decides to take ballet lessons to increase his agility and flexibility. Steve and Waldo make fun of him. In the second episode, Waldo trips during a basketball game and takes tap lessons to work on his footing. Steve and Eddie make fun of him. FOUR EPISODES BETWEEN THEM, you guys.

Key line: “Guys, don’t worry … this time you’re playing with ‘Twinkle-toes Faldo!'”

Lessons we learn here include:

1. Steve Urkel is a total homophobe

2. Eddie Winslow has the short-term memory of a kumquat

Regarding number one, the payoff for Eddie’s ballet lessons is a performance of Swan Lake, which Myrtle Urkel crashes to dance with him. My theory is that Myrtle wasn’t actually Steve’s cousin at all, but one of those characters he created in his Stefan Urquelle machine because he had a latent homosexual attraction to Eddie and wanted a justifiable way to sleep with him. Any scene where Steve interacts with Myrtle can be explained by the whole “Steve can clone himself and change the clones” thing that comes up later when Steve and Stefan become different people.

Regarding number two, hey Eddie, maybe this is why you lose so much money gambling. You start playing cards and then can’t remember what cards do.

Episode: “Sink or Swim” (season 6, episode 8)

What Happens: Urkel has to learn to swim. HILARITY ENSUES.

Key line: “Hey, wait a minute, you know how to swim?” “Yeah, and now so do you.”

But no, Urkel has to pass a swim test before he can graduate, and despite Carl’s best efforts, Urkel only loses his fear of water when he believes Laura is drowning. She isn’t, she’s just being helpful, so +1 to Laura Winslow for the first time in six seasons. Most of the later season sports moments can be summed up with “Urkel tries sports, hilarity ensues,” honestly. Urkel Sports Dichotomy means he can be four feet tall and dunk a basketball, but he can’t stand in four feet of water without flipping out and dying.

In the B-story, Aunt Rachel (who is so important that this is the first time I’ve mentioned her in the column) buys an expensive dress and loves it, but Little Richie needs $150 to join a roller hockey team, so she decides to return it. When she gets to the store she finds that the dress is mysteriously torn, and that they won’t take it back … turns out Little Richie was playing hockey in the living room and “accidentally hit it” with his stick. So now the dress is ruined AND Rachel doesn’t have the money to pay for hockey equipment. Thanks for ruining everything, Little Richie!

Episode: “Money Out the Window” (season 5, episode 5)

What Happens: Eddie Winslow cannot stop accidentally losing money. Waldo and Weasel (aka Dudley, the kid who got molested by the bike shop owner on ‘Diff’rent Stokes’) are betting on football and rope Eddie in. They end up losing more money than they have and get threatened by BONES, a giant man who will literally kill them if they don’t come up with the cash. Eddie, the king of great ideas, decides to raid his father’s stamp collection and sell his prized 1923 Head Of Freedom Statue stamp to cover the debt, thinking he can just work some overtime and buy it back later without his dad noticing. The rub here is that Carl had asked the Stamp Emporium to let him know if another Head of Freedom Statue stamp became available, was shocked to find he was buying back his own stamp, and … yeah ‘Family Matters’ paid off a football betting episode’s story with a thing about the Stamp Emporium. I don’t know.

Key line: “Sir, I’d love to pay you, but I honestly don’t have the money right now.” “Kid, I’d love to let you off the hook, but I honestly have to peel you like a grape right now.”

Bones is played by none-other than former NFL great and Police Academy student Bubba Smith, the man responsible for the single greatest Sports On TV moment in television history: Al Bundy vs. Spare Tire on ‘Married … With Children.’ If you haven’t seen that before, go watch it immediately.

The payoff to the episode is Bubba Smith dressed like Polka Urkel, because as I mentioned, it is ‘Family Matters” favorite thing.

Episode: “Hot Rods to Heck” (season 7, episode 7)

What Happens: In a Three Stooges-style rehashing of the boxing episode, Laura gets hit on by a local car enthusiast and has her honor defended by Steve. In response, the guy and his friends flip Steve’s BMW Isetta, setting off a chain of events that lead to a drag race, because sure! Steve shows up in a souped-up drag version of his Isetta (sadly not piloted by Myrtle, to make it a drag drag) and wins, but OH NO, his parachute malfunctions and he crashes into a wall of hay. Laura is concerned for his safety, especially after Steve’s hunky drag racing opponent clearly doesn’t give a shit about him, and learns a valuable lesson about appreciating Steve’s obsessive protection, which is neither valid or remembered.

Key line: “I wonder where Urkel is.” “Probably looking for the windup key to his car.”

Two things:

1. Urkel’s car has given me a lifetime of enjoyment, especially when Smart Cars became popular. Now whenever somebody drives by in a Car2Go, I point and laugh about how they are probably Urkel. Note: I have never stopped to think that ‘Family Matters’ was on over 20 years ago and that I am probably dating myself.

2. The person Steve SHOULD care about is Myra, who is not only way cuter than Laura, but the same kind of obsessive as Steve. Steve’s all “ew, no” to her but still hooks up with her on the reg, which makes him out to be a pretty huge hypocrite when Laura’s told him no for a decade and he keeps sneaking into her room and bringing orangutans to her house and shit. Here’s Myra dressed to “go Dutch” on a date with Steve, because yo.

Want to be sad all of a sudden? Myra’s been dead for 15 years.

Episode: “Karate Kids” (season 8, episode 8)

What Happens: Urkel takes a job at a local park/10-by-10 playground and can’t control the local bullies, so he uses his transmogrifier to change himself, Little Richie and 3J into Bruce Lee and two smaller versions of Bruce Lee. They beat up the gang and send them packing, including one special bully: Jason David Frank, current MMA fighter and former Mighty Morphin’ Power Ranger. So here’s some ammo for you, whoever fights Jason David Frank next: dude once lost a fight to Urkel.

Key line: “Good job, Bruce. Nice job, Bruce.” “You too, Bruce!”

I think this episode is probably when ABC went “yeah, no” and planned to jettison the show into the outer-space hellscape of CBS.

Did we ever find out the limitations of Urkel’s machine? It could make clones, it could change personalities, it could change the personalities OF clones and it could turn regular people (AND CHILDREN) into famous martial artists. Couldn’t he have like, I don’t know, cured hunger with that thing? If you put a loaf of bread into it can you “Stefan Urquelle” the bread into a five-course meal? Can you turn bread into the regional delicacies of wherever? If you can make Urkel an Asian guy with a speech impediment, you can turn Wonderbread into naan, right?

I feel like the government should’ve been SERIOUSLY concerned with what this kid was cooking up in his basement. Robots and jetpacks are fine, but Urkel was basically God. Remember when Laura dreamed that Steve created an atom bomb and blew up Chicago? That is straight-up the plot of Terminator 2.

Episode: “Fast Eddie Winslow” (season 2, episode 12)

What Happens: Eddie Winslow plays pool at a public place. GUESS WHAT HAPPENS NEXT.

Key line: “Name’s Boyd Higgins, but my friends call me Buck!” “Name’s Eddie Winslow, but my friends call me… Eddie.” “I’m Rodney, but my friends call me Rod-meister.” “And I’m Steve Urkel! And I don’t get many calls!”

In the best-ever example of Eddie Winslow being unable to go from morning until evening without losing everybody’s money, Eddie gets cornered by a pool shark and has to enlist the help of Steve, Carl AND Mother Winslow to bail him out. Urkel Sports Dichotomy says Steve is great at pool (because he’s a nerd, which means he knows math, which means he can instantly calculate angles and utilize them physically), and just when Eddie thinks Urkel’s gonna save him, the pool thugs break Steve’s glasses. That leads to an excellent piece of self-aware dialogue between Carl and Steve:

“So, uh, what’s goin’ on?”

“Boyd whipped Eddie. Eddie borrowed money from me. I’m playing Boyd double or nothing. I was kickin’ butt. Boyd broke my glasses. Five hundred on the line. Can’t see a darn thing.”

“Nice summary.”

Carl thinks he is Uncle Phil and takes over for Urkel, but ends up facing an impossible shot … impossible for anyone except his ANCIENT MOTHER, who assaults the thugs for standing in her way, sinks the shot, saves Eddie’s life and then (I’m assuming) hauls ass to Lollapalooza.

Episode: “Boom!” (season 3, episode 1)

What Happens: A terrorist plans to kill a police officer by rigging a treadmill to explode if the runner slows down, like in Speed. The guy never thought to equip the treadmill with a video camera, though, and poor Carl Winslow ends up trapped on the device while his commanding officer (the target) makes a bunch of excuses and generally farts around. Obama’s America, everybody.

Key line: “Red, we’re dead; blue, we’re through; yellow, we’re mellow!”

This has got to be the worst assassination plot ever, but I’m gonna guess that cops being killed by explosives and the episode title “Boom!” has probably caused this episode to quietly back its way out of syndication. Oh well, terrified Americans are missing out on the hilarity of a fat guy who can’t stop running. This is the worst thing to happen to Carl since that time he talked John McClane through a terrorist siege of Nakatomi Plaza.

Episode: “Brain Over Brawn” (season 3, episode 2)

What Happens: Laura has a crush on a hunky guy in Steve’s gym class. Steve decides that Laura doesn’t love him because he’s weak (not true: she doesn’t love him for lots of reasons) and challenges said hunk to a rope climbing contest: in “a fortnight” he’ll not only climb to the top of the rope, he’ll climb it faster than the jocks. A deal is struck, and Urkel exploits a loophole in the arrangement by using A GODDAMN JETPACK to break the rope climbing record. Of course, because he is Urkel, the jetpack malfunctions and sends him flying all the way to Wisconsin to visit the cast of ‘Step By Step’ or over the Chicago skyline, depending on whether you’re watching the originally-aired or syndication version.

Key line: “You may have been the better man today, but you hear me… in a fortnight, not only will I make it up to the top of that rope, but I’ll do it faster than you.” “Why don’t you put your money where your mouth is?” “Don’t do it, Urkel! Money has germs on it!”

Stay with me here: This episode of ‘Family Matters’ is the beginning of the destruction of the TGIF matrix.

At the end of the original episode, Steve’s jetpack sends him to the Lamberts’ house on ‘Step By Step,’ where he takes tomboy Al to a dance and helpfully teaches a room full of Wisconsinites how to do the Urkel Dance (sample lyric: “Do it. DO IT!”). Urkel also appears on ‘Full House’ as Urkel, helping Stephanie cope with having to wear glasses. This establishes ‘Family Matters,’ ‘Step By Step’ and ‘Full House’ as existing in the same universe. Good so far?

Here’s the problem: John Stamos plays Uncle Jesse on ‘Full House.’ He also makes an appearance on ‘Step By Step,’ which (as we mentioned) takes place in the ‘Full House’ universe per the Urkel connection. He shows up as a possible blind date for two of the Lambert girls, but they turn him down. He’s sad about it, and as he’s leaving, turns to their mother and says “Did you tell them I was on ‘Full House?'”


Episode: “Surely You Joust” (season 4, episode 1)

What Happens: Carl and Eddie go up onto the roof to install a satellite dish, but URKEL LOOMS, ends up electrocuting Carl and himself and eventually makes everybody fall off the roof. Carl is rightfully furious, and they almost get into a fist fight, but Waldo announces that he has a cousin who can help them solve their problems in a civilized manner. That manner: going on ‘American Gladiators.’ SYNERGY!

Also, they never say it explicitly, but going forward I’m going to assume Gemini was Waldo’s cousin.

Key line: “You hit my husband again, and you’ll have to answer to me!” “Ooh! Turbo’s down again!” “Yeah, spread the word: Don’t mess with MRS. Bonecrusher.”

The entire Gladiators crew appears in the episode, including Miami Dolphins legend Larry Csonka and former WWE Raw general manager Mike Adamle. Carl and Urkel get nicknames (sadly neither of them goes by “Two Scoops”) and stay neck-and-neck through the wall climb and the joust, and end up in a photo finish to end the Eliminator. When they find out that a tie means they have to do it all over again, they decide to patch things up and be friends.

I never realized how many shows crossed over or referenced American Gladiators until I started writing these columns. Too bad that trend didn’t continue with the updated Gladiators. It would’ve been pretty sweet to see Gina Carano blast John Cryer in the mouth with a pugil stick.

Episode: “Psycho Twins” (season 5, episode 18)

What Happens: Before you ask, yes, this is my favorite ‘Family Matters’ episode of all time.

Eddie and Waldo are looking at wrestling magazines and Carl recognizes one of the wrestlers as his old buddy from high school. Turns out this guy is one half of the best tag team in the world, the PSYCHO TWINS, and they’re defending their titles against The Bushwhackers (the actual WWF Bushwhackers) in Chicago at “Wrestle-Rama.” Carl, Eddie, Waldo and Steve take a trip down to the studio to say hi and are greeted warmly, but when the Psycho Twins accidentally mistake Urkel’s new invention (“Snooze Juice,” the cure for insomnia) for water, they pass out and can’t compete.

Faced with threats of a lawsuit from the crooked wrestling promoter, Carl and Urkel don the masks of the Psycho Twins and take on the Bushwhackers themselves. They’ve seen Secrets Of Pro Wrestling Revealed so they’re “in on the scam,” and things go smoothly until Urkel lets it slip that Carl’s day job is being a cop. The Bushwhackers HATE cops and start SHOOTING ON CARL AND URKEL, and THAT IS SERIOUSLY HOW THIS EPISODE OF FAMILY MATTERS ENDS.

Key line: “Hey Butch, the guy in the ring with you, he’s a cop!” “What?” “He’s a cop?” “Yeah!” “We hate cops!”

Urkel’s “The Bushwhackers look a little light on the bush and heavy on the whackers!” comment is pretty amazing, but yeah, there is an episode of ‘Family Matters’ where the Bushwhackers go into business for themselves and shoot on Carl Winslow. How is that possible?

This is the perfect opportunity for me to share with you the funniest thing I have ever seen in my life. Watch it from the beginning, and just wait for it. If you get it, IT IS SO GREAT.

I love you so much, This Episode Of Family Matters.

Episode: “Par For the Course” (season 6, episode 7)

What Happens: Urkel plays golf, and hilarity ensues. Also, judgment?

Key line: “Boy, I really whacked that one! Heh heh, hey Steve, can you see my ball?” “Abso-tootle-ootly!” (they look down, the ball is still on the tee) “Practice swing.”

Carl Winslow goes on a golf trip with his new commanding officer, played by Sherman Hemsley, aka George Jefferson from ‘The Jeffersons,’ stuck in that mid-90s period when he showed up on every black sitcom as a bad guy. Urkel comes along too, because he is the center of the universe. Anyway, it turns out Carl’s boss loves to cheat at golf, and Carl just lets it slide because he doesn’t want to get fired. But Urkel WILL NOT STAND FOR IT, and after wrecking a couple of golf carts and generally making a fool out of himself like always, lectures Carl about how “doing the right thing” and calling his boss out for cheating is more important than keeping his job and supporting his family. Because Carl is the guy stupid enough to let Urkel wreck his house for the previous five years, he gets guilted into being indignant about it.

The payoff is that Sherman Hemsley likes Carl sticking up for what’s right and says they should have more honest cops on the force, but that if Carl ever mentions him cheating at golf again, he’ll fire him. Thank you for being our moral compass, Urkel.