Retro Christmas TV Episodes – Family Matters
I spoil quite a bit of the plot in most of these write ups, so if you want to avoid spoilers, be sure to just skim the titles and watch them before reading.
Family Matters is a show that I started revisiting since it was added to Hulu earlier this fall. It’s odd, because I watched a ton of Family Matters growing up, but not much of it stuck with me. Now, when I start an episode, it usually takes me just a minute or so to remember the entire plot and recall the show in shocking detail. It’s like it’s just hanging out somewhere in my subconscious waiting to be triggered.
Family Matters did seven Christmas episodes that are all worth watching.
Have Yourself a Very Winslow Christmas
Season Two, Episode Thirteen
Originally Aired: December 21st, 1990
The first Family Matters Christmas episode revolves around Steve Urkel, who is home alone at Christmas and is shunned by the Winslows after breaking Laura’s favorite ornament. Steve upsets the Winslows even more by promising Richie that Santa will bring him the hottest toy that holiday season, Freddie Teddy. Steve has faith that people will get what they really want because he still believes in Santa.
Carl does his best to secure a Freddy Teddy and almost pulls it off, but a little old lady accuses him of cutting in line and a massive fight breaks out over the toy.
Laura finds Steve sitting in his basement, eating a TV dinner, reading his one Christmas card from his doctor, and trimming his tiny desktop tree. It’s just about the most pathetic Christmas scene you could ever see and although the show hits you over the head with it, you’ll still feel sympathy for Steve. Laura invites him to spend Christmas with the Winslows, which fills Steve’s Christmas wish that he placed in a letter a few days earlier. Also, under the tree, Richie finds a Freddy Teddy, but no one is sure who bought it.
This is a very decent Christmas episode that works with the familiar formula of not taking for granted what you have and recognizing the struggles of others. I felt like Steve was at his most annoying in the earlier seasons, but Laura’s impatience with Steve is equally as annoying. A good story was told though, and I found myself enjoying this episode quite a bit.
Christmas Theme: B
It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Urkel
Season Four, Episode Ten
Originally Aired: November 20th, 1992
Family Matters took a season off before making another Christmas episode, and this one begins with Urkel bringing his new snow creation machine into the Winslow’s house that blows up and covers the Winslows and their living room in snow.
Laura and Eddie head out to buy Christmas gifts and Laura picks up an expensive crystal ornament that she put on layaway for her mother. When Steve comes to pick her up he accidently breaks the ornament and Laura (as usual) loses her temper with Steve and tells him that she wishes he knew what it felt like to be her.
Cue Laura’s Guardian Angel
Laura gets to see firsthand how it feels to be Steve in an alternate reality. She dresses and acts like Steve (and does an amazing impression) and Steve takes her place in The Winslow family.
Of course, things play out exactly the way they do in a typical Family Matters episode, but this time Laura is the one being yelled at and demeaned. She realizes that Steve has true feelings for her and that the way she treats him is not respectful. Much like Scrooge, over the course of her time in this alternate reality, she realizes that she is a bit of a villain and needs to change the way she acts.
I’m normally not a big fan of the different takes on “A Christmas Carol” that so many movies and TV shows love to use, but this one didn’t bother me. I think my frustration with Laura’s rudeness made me want to see her mistreated, and both Kellie Williams and Jaleel White’s acting in the reverse roles was impressive enough to keep me hooked and I found myself really enjoying the episode.
Christmas Theme: A
Christmas Is Where the Heart Is
Season Five, Episode Eleven
Originally Aired: December 10th, 1993
Well, after a great Christmas episode, they followed it up with a very subpar one.
Carl accidently breaks his gift for Harriet (what is up with all the breaking stuff in these episodes?) and has to go out on Christmas Eve to buy something new. Steve ends up accompanying Carl and his bubbly spirit does not go over well with Carl since he doesn’t want to be out in the madness that is Christmas Eve.
As fate would have it, a power outage causes Steve and Carl to get trapped on the subway with a bunch of other grinches who take offense to Steve’s pressure to get them all into the holiday spirit. But slowly Steve works everyone over and convinces them to discuss where they are planning on spending Christmas. The dirty subway car beomes a jolly place and they even decorate their own makeshift tree. Once everyone’s spirits are raised the power comes back and everyone gets to go home.
I don’t know about this episode. It’s not terrible, but it certainly is not good. I found myself counting the minutes until it would end. It reminded me of the first Christmas episode of Full House, since both Steve and Carl were trapped with a bunch of strangers on Christmas Eve, and because they were trapped, they were all in a bad mood and needed cheering up.
Christmas Theme: B
Miracle on Elm Street
Season Six, Episode Eleven
Originally Aired: December 16th, 1994
In this episode, Richie brings home a homeless man to spend the holiday with The Winslows, which is not something they appreciated. Meanwhile, Eddie throws out Laura’s favorite childhood doll by accident and Laura refuses to speak to him and allows this mistake to ruin her Christmas.
The homeless man keeps trying to teach The Winslows Christmas lessons which they slowly start to understand. It’s revealed that the homeless man is actually Santa Claus and he had chosen The Winslows to help teach the true meaning of Christmas to.
After Steve sees how upset Laura is about her doll, he decides to head out to the landfill and try and find it. He teams up with a dog he meets and they spend sixteen hours before finding her beloved doll. Steve makes Laura Christmas special, and Santa brings Carl the present he’s wanted since his childhood.
Not the best and not the worse, the one thing that rings pretty consistent with most of the Family Matters Christmas episodes is that they are very average, which isn’t a bad thing. The plots of this episode doesn’t change up the normal Family Matters formula and that makes it feel like just another episode.
Christmas Theme: B
Fa La La La Laaagghh!
Season Seven, Episode Eleven
Originally Aired: December 15th, 1995
Carl has no interest in putting up Christmas lights since last year his nativity scene got laughed at. Steve offers to help, but Carl turns him down. However, Carl’s tune changes once he hears that a cash prize will be awarded to the best decorated house in the neighborhood. He hoodwinks Steve into helping and Carl thinks they are a shoe-in for the prize.
Eddie and Laura find themselves too busy to help Harriette decorate the Christmas tree, which upsets Harriette and angers Mother Winslow. Mother Winslow decides to punish the children by not making her special gingerbread cookies since they are too old and busy to help decorate for Christmas. Of course, the children see the error of their ways and help their mother finish up decorating.
Carl and Steve fall through the roof and Carl admits that he only entered the contest for the money. This sends Steve off on a tangent about how Carl is a Grinch and only decorated for the money and not to make children happy. Carl sees the error of his ways and apologizes.
This episode was a little better than the rest and it was nice seeing almost everyone in the family getting a lesson about having a positive Christmas spirit.
Christmas Theme: B
It Came Upon a Midnight Clear
Season Eight, Episode Thirteen
Originally Aired: December 13th, 1996
Cheap-o Carl decides he wants to cut down his own Christmas tree this year. He invites Eddie to assist him and reluctantly invites Steve along too. Unfortunately for Carl, Eddie can’t make the Christmas Eve trek for a tree and that leaves Carl with just Steve coming along for the journey.
While Carl and Steve are out looking for the perfect Christmas tree, Laura is busy kissing on both Curtis and Stefan. Harriette decides it’s time to intervene and puts Laura in a position to actually choosing between one of the guys. Laura decides to break it off with Curtis and stay with Stefan, which leads to a very awkward and horribly acted interaction between Stefan and Curtis.
Steve, of course, drives Carl nuts and the quest for the perfect tree takes so long it starts snowing and they lose sight of their tracks in the snow. They seem destined to spend the night out in the woods, but Steve uses his knowledge of astronomy to lead them out of the trees.
I really liked the whole Steve and Carl lost in the woods plot line. It was like The Pine Barrens episode of The Sopranos, but with less profanity and a half dead Russian.
Christmas Theme: B
Deck the Malls
Season Nine, Episode Eleven
Originally Aired: December 19th, 1997
It’s Christmastime again and this year the gang all finds jobs at the mall: Myra hires Steve to work at a gift wrapping booth at the mall, Carl is suckered into playing Santa, and Laura acts as his elf. Richie is upset because his mom isn’t going to make it home in time for Christmas and Steve upsets Myra because he cannot work productively.
In typical sitcom fashion, everything works out. Myra and Steve make up after a crowd attacks Steve due to his inability to wrap at an appropriate speed and Eddie drives all night to pick Rachel to make Richie’s Christmas special. Carl who hates working as Santa finds a little Christmas spirit when a young boy asks Santa to help his dad find a job.
This was Family Matters last season and the quality of the episodes were on the decline. With that being said, this episode holds up well and is a very decent Christmas episode. There is just enough absurdity to keep the laughs going while a few touching moments give it that Christmas charm.
I’ll admit I felt a little sadness when I finished this episode. I guess, I enjoyed watching The Winslows at Christmastime more than I thought.
Christmas Theme: B
Top Three Episodes Worth Watching:
- Family Matters, It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Urkel (Season 4, Episode 10)
- Family Matters, Fa La La La Laaagghh! (Season 7, Episode 11)
- Family Matters, It Came Upon a Midnight Clear