If you were a kid watching Family Matters in the 90’s, you probably never called the show by its proper name. It was common to just lazily refer to the show by the name of its most popular character — Steve Urkel.
That’s because what started out as an innocuous sitcom about a working class black family living in Chicago was hastily and sloppily retooled to showcase the breakout character of Steve Urkel. However, since Urkel was sort of a one-note geek, the show quickly devolved into some sort of science-fantasy farce featuring clones, transformation chambers, time-travel and evil sentient ventriloquist dummies.
In fact, the show went so completely over the top with these ridiculous concepts that the viewer can only be left with one logical conclusion.
Steve Urkel is a damn witch.
We’re supposed to believe that Steve’s extraordinary accomplishments are all a result of his genius intellect, but no human being in the history of existence has been able to do the things this teenage nerd can do. If he were a real person, his scientific discoveries would have completely redefined our way of life. Steve Urkel would have singlehandedly propelled our species into its next stage of evolution.
But to the rest of the characters on the show, Urkel’s miracles are treated like annoying everyday occurrences. We never see someone at the end of the episode go “Steve, maybe if you work the kinks out of your machine that turns anybody into Bruce Lee you can sell it to the military and make a fortune.” It’s as if the other characters are purposely turning a blind eye to all the fucked up things he’s able to do.
You know what other show features a teenager who can do incredible, mind-blowing things that nobody seems to notice? Sabrina, the Teenage Witch.
In fact, there’s a staggering amount of similarities between Sabrina and Steve (both of whom aired on ABC’s TGIF lineup). Sabrina was raised by her aunts because prolonged exposure to her parents during her adolescence would turn them into balls of wax. Steve was basically raised by the Winslows because his absentee parents up and moved to another country one day, probably to avoid turning into balls of wax.
Sabrina had an evil twin, also played by Melissa Joan Hart, who tried to kill and replace her. Meanwhile, Jaleel White played what seemed like a dozen different Urkel cousins, any number of which could be Steve’s evil twin — from Steve’s female doppelganger Myrtle Urkel to Original Gangsta Dawg Urkel, whose name pretty much gives him away as the evil one.
The biggest difference between Sabrina and Steve is that Sabrina was raised to be a witch and trained to use her powers properly. Since Steve is living with the Winslows in later seasons, we can assume he’s not being trained and that he might not even know that he has these powers. So instead his magic abilities manifest themselves as strange inventions that are scientifically impossible.
When you think of Steve as an untrained teenage witch, suddenly his awkward appearance, innate clumsiness and eccentric behavior starts to make sense. He’s absolutely brimming with magical powers and he doesn’t know how to handle it. Even his catch phrase — “Did I do that?” — starts to take on a whole new meaning. He doesn’t realize what he’s doing half the time when he causes some unfathomable disaster.
Steve subconsciously finds a way to release all of this magical power by focusing his mind on the pursuit of one single goal — making Laura Winslow fall in love with him. Every invention Steve creates is a way to get Laura to notice him, which is why they end up being so unrealistically fantastical.
His most (in)famous invention would have to be “Cool Juice” which was essentially a magic potion that turned him from dorky Steve Urkel to smooth-as-hell Stefan Urquelle. Stefan was Steve’s way of providing Laura with everything she ever wanted in a man. But just like Sabrina, Steve would discover time and again that there’s no “magic solution” to his problems and Laura would always find some reason to reject Stefan.
The magic potions and incomprehensible inventions were all overt examples of Steve’s magical prowess. The real proof of Steve’s sorcery lies in all the covert ways he uses his powers to manipulate situations without anyone, even Steve himself, noticing.
Like for example, the time he got everybody at a party to break out singing and dancing to a nonsensical “Urkel Dance” in perfectly choreographed unison. Or how about the opening credit scene where it took the strength of the entire Winslow family to keep scrawny Steve from opening the front door?
Not to mention the ways he manipulated the Winslow family themselves. Like the fact that they used to have a younger daughter named Judy who up and disappeared without anybody even remembering she existed. Why would Steve get rid of her? To cut Laura off from her sister, the one person most likely to talk her out of marrying the weirdo dork next door.
He did the same thing for Laura’s Aunt Rachel, an attractive single mother who dated handsome men but never seemed to settle down. Having Rachel for a female role model would make Laura less likely to end up with Steve, so he gave her the boot. However, he kept her son Richie around, because Richie was one of the few Winslows who actually liked Steve, and nothing helps a guy get the girl better than the approval of a precocious younger relative.
The rest of the family he manipulated in subtle ways. He became one of Eddie’s best friends out of nowhere. He became a sort of surrogate son to Carl and Harriet. And he eventually married Laura.
That’s right, if you weren’t one of the three people still watching Family Matters in its final season (when it moved to CBS to die) then you probably don’t know that Steve and Laura finally end up together. On one hand it sort of makes sense — Laura had seriously considered marrying Stefan at one point and Stefan basically looks like Steve, just with better clothes and contacts.
But on the other hand, this is Family Matters, so of course magical shenanigans are involved.
Steve discovered Laura’s feelings for him during a final season episode in which he builds a machine that allows him to read minds. He overhears her thoughts and finds out she’s been feeling attracted to him lately. But what if that same magic telepathy allowed Steve to plant the idea into Laura’s mind?
Later when Steve proposes to Laura, she accepts because she can’t imagine her life without him. So how did Laura come to that conclusion? Earlier she asked Harriet why she married Carl, and Harriet said it was because she couldn’t imagine her life without him.
But it wasn’t the same Harriet we had known all along. It was a completely different looking woman who everybody had just been accepting as Harriet Winslow for the past few weeks. Could Steve have used his powers to change the Winslow matriarch into a woman who would say just the right thing to make Laura fall in love with him?
Probably. I mean, the dude’s already got a transformation chamber.