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Behind the Scenes Drama That Took Family Matters off the Air

One of the best family sitcoms of the 1990s was, without a doubt, Family Matters. The show lasted from 1989 to 1998 and had 9 seasons and 215 episodes. It remains one of the best and one of the most loved family sitcoms of the 1990s. Perhaps all of us could relate to some of the characters, whether it was Eddie, Laura, Carl, or heck, perhaps you saw yourself in Urkel!

But despite the nice image we saw on screen, there was behind the scenes drama that took Family Matters off the air. Now, we’re just learning about some of the controversies and tensions that existed behind the scenes.

So, what were these dramatic events? How did they manage to keep the show on air for 9 seasons?

Join FactsVerse to learn about the Behind the Scenes Drama That Took Family Matters Off the Air…


One of the reasons why Family Matters was such a successful show was because of its great ensemble cast. However, one can argue that there was one character who was so distinct that he made the show a hit. Even with such a large cast, it seemed that this character always ended up stealing the show – and perhaps overshadowing his fellow cast members.

We’re of course talking about Steve Urkel – played by Jaleel White. The character was idiosyncratic and is still one of the most unique characters we’ve ever seen in an American sitcom. The popularity of Urkel was there from the first season and even as Jaleel White got older, he still managed to play the character well – without losing his charm, quirkiness, geekiness, and occasionally, even the annoying habits which we all grew to love.

Without a doubt, one can’t imagine Family Matters without Jaleel White. Yet, many of the cast members had their issues with him.

At first, the cast members didn’t like how Urkel, originally a minor character – and remember, not part of the Winslow family, was getting so much attention. Urkel eventually became the star of the show and the other characters and the actors who played them almost became background props. Jaleel White acknowledges that he felt this tension at first but that the relationships grew stronger as the years progressed.

The cast members acknowledged that the reason the show lasted so long was because of Urkel’s characters – and to this day, many of them still earn residuals from the show, so there’s less bitterness about Urkel’s overshadowing nature.  

Somehow, the show managed to go on despite the initial tensions – it’s amazing that the cast members didn’t storm out demanding that their characters received more attention. While perhaps we didn’t get to see all we could have from the other characters, from an economic standpoint, the proliferation of Urkel in almost every episode is what made the show a success and this benefitted everyone involved.

Plus, even today, newcomers who are interested in getting into Family Matters watch it because they want to watch Urkel. His character is truly timeless and Jaleel White hasn’t created a character after Urkel that’s been as memorable.



The Winslow’s – Carl and Harriette – had 3 children, Laura, Eddie, and Judy. Do you remember Judy? If you haven’t watched Family Matters from the beginning, you might have missed out on her altogether.

Judy was the youngest child in the Winslow family and she was played by child actress Jamie Foxxworth. Yet, after the fourth season we stopped seeing the character. In fact, even before then, her character was seen less – especially as Urkel became a more popular character.

The character disappeared because the show’s producers felt that there wasn’t much to do with the Judy character and that she was unnecessary to the show. The remaining seasons never explained her disappearance and it was then acknowledged that the Winslows only had 2 children.

There have also been rumors that there’s a lost episode where Judy dies and also rumors that it was Jaime Foxxworth who left the show as her parents wanted her to pursue other projects – or perhaps leave acting altogether. But its only been confirmed that the show’s producers simply wanted to get rid of the character and they hoped that the audience wouldn’t notice. Many of the cast members, particularly Jo Marie Payton, who played Harriette, was upset about it – but the show, somehow, went on.

And what happened to Jamie Foxxworth after she left the show?

After 95 episodes on Family Matters, she couldn’t get more acting gigs. She and her sisters created an R & B group called S.H.E. and they released one album called 3’s a Charm. This didn’t do much for her career and in the early 2000s, she acted in a few adult films – though she didn’t stick around in this career either.

She had many struggles in her life and her family was almost broke at one point. She suffered from substance abuse and also felt depressed for many years. Luckily, she managed to put her life back together and is now in a relationship with her boyfriend Michael Shaw. She became a mother in 2008.

She’s been in a few interviewers here and there to discuss her experience on Family Matters and the struggles she had in her life after the show ended. There’s not too much information on whether she’s still planning on working in show business, but she’s currently the executive producer for an upcoming short film called “Absent in the Present.”



The show went on even after Judy’s absence – but there was actually another character whom we almost lost. Jo Marie Payton played Harriette, the mother of the Winslow family – not including the character “Mother” Winslow of course. While she perfectly embodied the role and was one of the most memorable characters of the show, she eventually became tired of playing it in the ninth season.

She left the show and was replaced by Judyann Elder halfway throughout the ninth season – which eventually became the last season. Fans can agree, that the chemistry between Reginald VelJohnson and Judyann Elder simply wasn’t the same as that between him and Jo Marie Payton.

She wanted to move onto other projects, particularly a biopic of gospel singer Mahalia Jackson. This was a huge challenge for the show’s producers – for such an important character to leave the show after so many years.

Obviously, this was by no means a first in sitcom history. Most notably, Janet Hubert played Vivian Banks in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and was replaced by Daphne Maxwell-Reid after 2 seasons. But fans were able to adapt.

But imagine having to adapt to a new actress after 9 years!

The show went on, but it was clear that it had run its course. This is not to say that Jo Marie Payton’s departure is the reason that Family Matters went off the air – but it definitely contributed to the show’s decline.

The cast members, especially Reginald VelJohnson who played Carl and Darius McCrary who played Eddie felt that they couldn’t adapt to the change. Reginald felt that he was getting divorced and marrying someone new and Darius felt he was literally getting a new mom on the show. It was clear that the show couldn’t go on without Jo Marie Payton.


One of the great things about Family Matters is how often the show pushed the boundaries of what was acceptable for a family sitcom. But perhaps this is also part of the drama that took Family Matters off the air.

Steve Urkel’s character was a genius inventor and in later seasons, the seemingly realistic show delved into science fiction. While some fans embraced the change, others thought it just didn’t fit and that the show’s writers were just getting tired.

The science fiction and use of inventions seemed a bit too absurdist. Plus, in later seasons, we saw a new character who was Steve Urkel’s alter ego – Stefan Urkele. This was a cooler version of Urkel but many fans felt that the character was tiresome. Once again, this caused a bit of tension among the cast. They had accepted that Jaleel White would get most of the attention thatnks to Urkel but now he’d get double the attention thanks to Urkele!

The show sometimes also had its dramatic moments and wasn’t afraid to tackle such issues. One touching episode is where Carl mourns over the grave of an innocent bystander he wasn’t able to protect as a cop. Another episode touched upon the dark issue of racism in America. While some fans liked this change, this sudden switch to drama just wasn’t easy for the continuation of the show and the writers mostly focused on pure comedy.

There was also the character of Bruce Lee Urkel – which is who Steve Urkel became when he needed to kick some butt. While audiences weren’t as sensitive as they are now, this was seen by some as being offensive to Asians and was also just seen as lazy writing – as if the show’s team just couldn’t think of more original ideas.

Eventually, there were a series of behind the scenes drama that led to the decline of this show and the writer’s and producers had to keep coming up with ideas to keep it running. Despite these hurdles, looking back, this is still one of the funniest and most heartwarming sitcoms of all time – which is why we stuck around for 9 years and 215 episodes!

So, now let’s hear from you:

Are you a fan of Family Matters? Did you know about the Behind the scenes drama that took the show off the air?

In fact, we’ve got a question for you:

Do you think that shows like Family Matters were one of the last great family sitcoms?

Or are contemporary sitcoms doing a great job of portraying everyday American family life?

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