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Monday, July 21, 2008

You've won this round, Steven Q. Urkel!

Not sure if you've noticed, but "Family Matters" is on Nick at Nite. A lot.

And while I certainly haven't been going out of my way to look for it, I've regrettably been watching before bed. A lot.

Much like the "Full House" epidemic three or so years ago, the channel has a way of latching onto disposable, cheese-laden shows from yesteryear and running them nonstop until "You got it, dude" is slipping into everyday conversation without anyone batting an eyelash.

If you thought the worst was over after TBS stopped playing "Full House" AND "Family Matters" in one continuous loop during their early syndication days, well, you'd be wrong. Horribly, horribly wrong.

"Family Matters" has been on pretty much anytime I've crossed the channel at night, and for the love of all that is good and holy in the world, I can't help myself from watching what might be the single worst sitcom in the history of television.

Now, I know what you're thinking: Tom, aren't you the guy who defends "Saved by the Bell" as being legitimately funny? Yes. In spurts. I also certainly wouldn't put it next to "The Wire" on my living room media shelf, but I do find it eminently quotable and dare I say, entertaining for what it is, a schmaltzy teen sitcom. Plus, Kelly Kapowski is still hot.

But this recent train-wreck fixation isn't something I'm proud of, even while armed with the knowledge that "Family Matters" should be judged according to the same crap-infested criteria as written above. I would have been in fourth grade when "Matters" started it's nine season -- NINE SEASON -- run. Yet I hated the show as a kid and can't remember ever relating to anything that happened in the Winslow household (which is different, than say, relating to a San Francisco household with three dads, one of whom is a lame-ass rocker and another, a "Star Search" performer who sticks his hand up a woodchuck's ... oh nevermind.)

So I can't really explain why I'm not turning the channel when I hear the same shrill, squeaky voice that no doubt haunts Jaleel White as he continues to field offers from VH1 to appear in "Surreal Life 25" and "For the Love of Urkel."

Worse, I've almost been testing myself to see if I know how the episode is going to end, which is really scary to admit anywhere, even on a blog that registers as a blip on the radar screen of the Green Bay Favre Gazette. Full disclosure: I used to do this same exercise with "The Brady Bunch," but that's a rather victimless crime when you consider that knowing the Bradys is standard operating procedure for anyone who wants to don a TV trivia crown someday (and yes, I always figured that knowing Doug Simpson and Clumsy Charlie once fought for Marcia's affections would win me mass approval, or at least some type of cash prize.)

Here's what "Family Matters" has going against it. Steve Urkel might be the most annoying character in TV history. When he was first introduced on the show as a one-shot, Laura-loving social reject, he was effective, and dare I say, amusing. But like anything that gets a head of steam and is forced into a slot it was never intended to fill, Urkel became the entire show. His arrival pared the cast considerably -- even Granny Winslow got sent to the retirement home -- and while "Family Matters" benefited from higher ratings and a longer life span, it's impossible for me to consider that ANYONE (perhaps except Press-Gazette preps reporter Scott Venci) could be amused by a grown-up White forcing that ridiculous voice out of his throat as the show dipped into scientific absurdity with the invention of the Urkel-Bot and a transformation chamber that resulted in the worst atrocity of all, super smooth ladies man, Stefan Urquelle..

Anyway, these "plot devices" were clearly meant to add layers to a one-dimensional dork who never got the memo that real people EVOLVE with age. Plus, White was probably tired of never scoring any "I'm famous" booty because of the high pants stigma. So the writers found a way to have their cake and eat it by forging a ridiculous way to make the Urk-Man a stud and finally get the girl of his dreams. That it completely involved bending the rules of time, matter and space ... well, who really cares, right?

I mean, if they were just going to throw reality out the window, why didn't Urkel invent a serum that would brainwash Laura into falling in love with him and save the trouble of having to transform himself? If he was so smart, why didn't he actually profit from these mind-bending inventions that, apparently, were created right in the heart of working class Chicago? Why didn't he find a way to go back in time and stop Hitler? Why not use your powers for good, Urkel? Why?

I mean, can you imagine a pitch meeting for an episode of "Family Matters?"

Smarmy ABC exec: "So guys, this season of 'Family Matters' has to be the best ever! What madcap antics will lovable scamp Steve Urkel be foisting upon the Winslow household this season?"

Harvard writer 1: "Well, we have a particularly delicious episode where Urkel creates his own line of casserole dishes for Home-Economics class, though when eaten, they unexpectedly turn people invincible thanks to a beaker of scientific-y-looking fluid accidentally being poured in! Carl finds a dish in his fridge after Steve's becomes overstocked, and after unknowingly eating the magic tuna-flavored concoction, responds to a distress call in the city, you know, because he's a blue collar cop. When Carl saves the day, and actually survives a gun shot wound in the process, he begins eating the casserole without Steve's knowledge so that it'll help boost his career and give him greater fanfare in the city!"

Harvard writer 2: "Bloody brilliant, fellow Harvard douchebag! And Carl can then become drunk with power after reading his own press clippings, even having a Superman-like fantasy where he stops a speeding locomotive while wearing red and blue superhero pajamas. I mean, how funny and creative is that?"

Harvard writer 1: "But eventually, Steve gets through to Carl that part of what makes him a real hero is that he puts his life on the line everyday without the need for casserole invincibility! Once Carl realizes that he's always been a hero to Steve and his all-too understanding family, well, it's trash bin time for the Urk-casserole. A gooey group hug played over sentimental string music at the end signifies how dangerously close we all come to believing unrealistic expectations are our true savior, when in fact, real heroism is at our mistake-laden fingertips!"

Smarmy ABC exec: "I want a line of frozen food aisle Urkel casseroles, stat! And somebody, anybody, get me a new Urkel doll prototype to spew annoying catchphrases while I devour this adorable live kitten for lunch!"

Look, there is no honor in surviving back-to-back episodes of "Family Matters." The theme song blows. The way Urkel says, "Hey Ed-O!" is tantamount to water boarding. And if anyone, ANYONE, can replicate the Urkel Dance as an adult, they seriously should be shot on site.

This isn't a trip down nostalgia lane for me. My brain knows better, but it's not telling my fingers to turn the channel. So I can't help but feel as though Steven Q. Urkel is performing a scientific experiment on me, dear blog reader.

I'm powerless to combat Urkel. God help us all.

-- Thomas Rozwadowski, trozwado@greenbaypressgazette.com

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2 Comments:

Hey Tom, if you keep watching long enough, could you tell me which season it is that the youngest daughter -- Judy, I think -- suddenly DISAPPEARS from the show altogether? No explanation, no "oh she's living with family in Canada now," she just ... simply ... vanished.

But yeah, that show freaking sucks. I can't believe it spawned from that paragon of sitcom perfection, "Perfect Strangers."

Urkel-Os was a damn tasy cereal, though.
-Adam

By Blogger Press-Gazette blogger, At July 22, 2008 at 10:49 AM  

Judy Winslow vanished around the fourth season and then turned to a life of porn for a while before ending up on a VHI rehab show with Dr. Drew a few months ago. True story.

She was a much better catch than Laura. Steve should have been smart enough to see that.

By Anonymous Anonymous, At July 27, 2008 at 8:49 PM  

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