TITLE: FAMILY MATTERS - THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON
Release Date: June 8, 2010 (Warner Home Video)
Number of Discs: 3
Number of Episodes: 22
Running Time: 484 minutes
Running Time of Features: N/A
Audio: English Dolby Digital Stereo
Subtitles and Captioning: English & French Subtitles; No captioning.
Special Features: None
At long last the popular ‘90s sitcom Family Matters is now on to DVD! Warner Home Video has released the complete first season on DVD (streets June 8, 2010) with all 22 episodes on a nice three-disc set! Family Matters aired from 1989-1998 on ABC’s popular TGIF block on Friday nights. The sitcom is a spin-off of the ABC series Perfect Strangers (1986-1993), which had Harriette as the elevator operator at the Chicago Chronicle (where Larry and Balki worked). This spin-off focuses on her family, the Winslow’s. The Winslow family consists of Harriette’s husband Carl, who is a police officer, and their kids Eddie, Laura and Judy. Also living with them are Harriette’s sister Rachel and her infant son Richie. But what will happen when Carol invites his mother to move in with them?
Then midway through the first season, Jaleel White made a one-shot appearance as neighborhood nerd Steve Urkel. With oversized glasses, undersized body, screechy voice and indomitable self-confidence, Urkel proved irresistibly funny, turning White into an overnight sensation and a new star of the show as his role grew more and more by the end of the season.
Family Matters stars Reginald VelJohnson as Carl Winslow, JoMarie Payton-France as Harriette Winslow, Rosetta LeNoire as Estelle Winslow, Darius McCrary as Eddie Winslow, Kellie Shanygne as Laura Winslow, Jamiee Foxworth as Judy Winslow, Joseph Julius Wright as little Richie, and Telma Hopkins as Rachel. Jaleel White recurs as Steve Urkel. Note: Valerie Jones played Judy Winslow in the first episode.
The early part of the first season originally focused on the Winslow family. Then came Steve Urkel in episode 12 and slowly his role grew. By the end of the season the show was more about how Urkel incorporates his life with the Winslow family. I loved nearly the entire run of the show, so I don’t mind Urkel. I think this season is not as good as say seasons 2-6, but I like it much more than the last few seasons where it just got wild. This DVD uses airdate order, which I think best fits the show.
In the series premiere “The Mama Who Came to Dinner,” Mother Winslow moves in and immediately begins to take over Carl's authority, while Eddie wants to go out with his friends, but he has a strict curfew that complicates things with Carl. In “Rachel’s First Date,” Rachel is anxious about her first date since the death of her husband. In “Stake Out,” Harriette is jealous of Carl's new beat partner, an attractive female cop. She grows especially worried when the two spend a lot of time together on a stake out. In “The Quilt,” Laura accidentally sells Estelle's heirloom quilt to an art dealer, then makes an impassioned, tearful all-out plea to get it back. In the popular episode, “Laura’s First Date,” Laura is dateless for the upcoming school dance, so well-meaning Carl and Eddie (without consulting each other) set Laura up with three different dates--Carl's pick for Laura's date would be someone who would change their lives (as well as the show) forever, and one he'd forever live to regret: Steven Q. Urkel. In “Baker’s Dozen,” Rachel persuades Carl to sell his secret recipe for lemon tarts to a local restaurant, but the family then gets a huge order for the treats (12,000 tarts), and less than 48 hours to fulfill the contract! In “The Big Fix,” Urkel agrees to tutor Eddie, who is failing his algebra class under one condition that he set him up on a date with Laura. In “Bowl Me Over,” after Laura beats Eddie in a video game, Carl decides to bowl for a Friday night, but when Steve comes, it gets competitive, and when Harriette admits she let Carl win it turns into a bowling brawl: Carl, Eddie, and surprisingly good Steve versus Laura, Rachel, and Harriette.
Among the guest stars this season are Ron Glass, Shawn Harrison, Ebonie Smith, Randy Josselyn, Gino Conforti, Tim Russ and Bumper Robinson. Here are all the episodes with runtimes on the DVD, which is in airdate order (I added production order to compare):
1. “The Mama Who Came to Dinner” (23:44, Prod. #101)
2. “Two-Income Family” (23:46, Prod. #103)
3. “Short Story” (23:45, Prod. #102)
4. “Rachel’s First Date” (24:06, Prod. #105)
5. “Straight A’s” (23:46, Prod. #108)
6. “Basketball Blues” (24:06, Prod. #104)
7. “Body Damage” (23:47, Prod. #106)
8. “Mr. Badwrench” (23:47, Prod. #107)
9. “Stake-Out” (24:06, Prod. #111)
10. “False Arrest” (24:06, Prod. #109)
11. “The Quilt” (24:06, Prod. #110)
12. “Laura’s First Date” (24:03, Prod. #113)
13. “Man’s Best Friend” (24:05, Prod. #114)
14. “Baker’s Dozen” (24:05, Prod. #115)
15. “The Big Reunion” (24:05, Prod. #112)
16. “The Party” (24:06, Prod. #117)
17. “The Big Fix” (24:05, Prod. #118)
18. “Sitting Pretty” (24:05, Prod. #119)
19. “In A Jam” (24:05, Prod. #120)
20. “The Candidate” (24:05, Prod. #116)
21. “Bowl Me Over” (24:05, Prod. #122)
22. “Rock Video” (24:05, Prod. #121)
View the video and audio section for tons of tidbits that you will want to read.
The packaging has an outer box that holds a keep case. The cover art for both is the same. We get a white background with the show logo on top (it’s not the right font though!) and a mention of The Complete First Season in small lettering. Below that we get a small cast photo of the Winslow family (with Valerie Jones as Judy, who was only Judy for the pilot) and a big photo of Steve Urkel in lime suspenders and a funky looking blue shirt with different shades of blue. The back of the box has info on the show and set, along with a promotional photo of Urkel flexing. The color scheme on the back is yellow and black. There is also a small strip of promotional photos featuring the Winslow family (and again Judy is played by Valerie Jones). We get four photos in that strip. The back of the keep case is different. We get a variation of the photo from the cover art of Urkel in a different pose. There is a yellow background and credits are below in a red background.
Inside the keep case we see an episode booklet on the left side. It’s a nice two-page booklet with a front and back. The front has a close-up shot of Urkel and the show logo (wrong font). When we open it, we see a breakdown of disc one on the left and disc two on the right. The back of the booklet details disc three. There are nice promotional photos placed all over the booklet. The disc-by-disc breakdown has episode number, title, writer, director, original airdate and a short synopsis. Back to the keep case we go, discs one and two are in a little plastic holder that we can flip a page on a book. Disc one is on the front of that and disc two is on the back. Disc three is placed on the right panel itself. Packaging on the panels is cool. We get a nice cast photo of the Winslow family, but not Judy for some reason. Show credits are on the right side. Disc art has a white background for each disc, with a head-shot of Urkel on each disc. It’s a variation of the Urkel photo on the cover art and back of the case, but in different poses. The show logo and disc number are on each disc as well.
Menu Design and Navigation:
We start off the menu with the closing theme music (instrumental version of “As Days Goes By”) playing and we see the same artwork as the cover art. The main menu options are Play All, Episodes and Languages. Play All obviously just plays them all at once on that particular disc. Episodes option takes us to another menu where we have the episode titles listed along with an image of Urkel (different on each disc). Languages option takes us to a menu where we can choose the language (only English) and have subtitles in English or French. There are no scene selections, but we do have four chapter stops per episode that you can use via your DVD remote. The stops are after the opening teaser/credits, act one, act two, and closing credits.
Video and Audio Quality:
The video quality is decent. It is not perfect by any means. It isn’t remastered so you see some dust and debris. That being said, it is certainly watchable and probably beats all of your archives of taped episodes from VHS or even home made DVDs. The audio quality is in Dolby Digital Surround Stereo, so nothing to complain really about here.
I have A LOT of tidbits that I want to cover. First off, originally the first few episodes (not sure how many, read reports of first 3-5 episodes) had the theme song "What a Wonderful World" by Louis Armstrong. Unfortunately on this DVD, it has been replaced by the theme song from the rest of the season, “As Days Go By” by Jesse Frederick, which is what the show is known for, though. This is not a major loss I think, since the original theme was only on the first few episodes anyway. Still, it would have been nice to have it at least on one episode, but it had to have been expensive for them to buy, so I understand. Each episode on the DVD has the unedited “As Days Go By” theme that runs well over a minute. View the “What a Wonderful World” theme song that is NOT on the DVD if you have never seen it.
Then the next thing that I want to cover is the opening teasers, also known as cold opens. These are basically short scenes that really don’t have anything to do with the episode, but they start the episode off in a fun way leading into the opening credits. They can easily be cut in syndication. These opening teasers started from episode 3 (“Short Story”) and on. Why am I mentioning this? Because Jaleel White joined the cast after appearing on episode #12 “Laura’s First Date.” He had such a positive impact on that episode that they brought him back for the rest of the season. That episode aired on December 15, 1989. And the next episode didn’t air until January, so they had some time to edit Urkel into a scene or two for the next few episodes before expanding him to most of the episode by season’s end. They even went back to 4 episodes that had already aired and added him to the opening teaser. So when those episodes aired again in the summer, it would appear Urkel was on the show from the start. They redid the opening teasers for episode 4 Rachel's First Date, episode 7 Body Damage, episode 8 Mr. Badwrench and episode 10 False Arrest to have Urkel present on them.
So what is on the DVD you may want to know? Well, the original opening teasers are present on all of these EXCEPT episode 4 “Rachel’s First Date.” For some reason we get the Urkel opening teaser on that episode on this DVD. Not sure why, but it doesn’t make sense since Urkel wasn’t introduced until episode 12. This is the opening teaser that we should have seen instead but instead we got this Urkel opening teaser on this set. The original opening teaser was less than 25 seconds, so it is not a big deal I guess.
Anyway, it is nice to see them use the original opening teasers on this DVD for episodes 7, 8, and 10 at least. What they should have done is use all the new Urkel opening teasers as a special feature and title them “Bonus Urkel Scenes” or something. So if you want to see the new Urkel added opening teasers that are NOT on the DVD they are here: Body Damages, Mr. Badwrench, and False Arrest. Watch the DVD to see the ORIGINAL opening teasers for these episodes that haven’t been seen since the original airings in this country!
Then from episode 12 and on Urkel appears on every episode. Episodes 13 and 14 he appears on the opening teaser and also a scene within the episode. I wonder if they had to reshoot those scenes to add him in? In episode 15, he only appears in the opening teaser, however I wonder if they had a different one shot but scrapped it due to the addition or Urkel? Because the episode was produced before Urkel’s first episode and it didn’t air until later. Episodes 16 and on he appears more and more, so by that time there probably wasn’t any reshoots or adding scenes as Urkel became a fixture on the show.
The final question is what about original music? It seems to be all there, but I don’t have a full list to compare it to. All of the songs the cast sing are intact. And Paula Abdul’s “Straight Up” music can be heard for a few seconds in the episode “Stake-Out,” as Eddie watches on TV. I wish I had some original airings so I can compare it, but I don’t think there is anything to be alarmed here as the show didn’t have heavy music used.
We get no extras at all here. Original promos would have been nice. Even a blooper reel would have been cool, if Warner didn’t want to produce any new material like commentaries and interviews. And as I suggested, they could have given us all of 4 the Urkel opening teasers that were added into existing episodes later in the first season as extras and call it “Bonus Urkel Scenes.” I am still kind of pissed they used one of those on an actual opening teaser on this DVD instead of an original one.
This is a good set and it is finally good to see this show on DVD! I wish there were bonus features but having the episodes unedited is the best part, of course. To recap, these are the pros/cons for the set regarding content:
- Original opening teasers present for 3 of the 4 pre-Urkel episodes
- All music seems intact
- The theme song (“As Days Go By” version) is the full version on all episodes and the episode content is all unedited
- Original opening teaser for “Rachel’s First Date” is not present - instead we get the Urkel opening teaser that was added in later for summer reruns/syndication
- “What a Wonderful World” opening theme is not used for those first few episodes
- The pre-Urkel opening teasers should have been present as Special Features at least
The main thing is the episodes are unedited besides those minor flaws I mentioned in the cons. It is vital fans buy this set because Warner Bros. is very slow in releasing series, but if this show does very well in sales, then you will see a second season much faster! There won’t be any of these issues on that set either as we don’t have to deal with the original opening or pre-Urkel episode teasers on that set. In other aspects of this set, the packaging is good, the menus are good, the video and audio are decent, but could be better I think. I don’t think video and audio is bad, though, I guess we are all just spoiled by HD these days. And a special feature or two would have been nice. I hope we get something for season two...we just have to make sure we buy this set so Warner can deliver that. Let’s go and say “Did I Do That?” to help out in sales so Warner continues to release this show!
Final Numbers (out of 5 stars - How our point system works)
Video Quality: 4/5
Audio Quality: 4/5
Special Features: 0/5
Menu Design/Navigation: 4/5
-- Reviewed by Pavan on 05/29/10
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