Facebook Twitter

CBS is thrilled to have brought `Family Matters’ over from ABC

SHARE CBS is thrilled to have brought `Family Matters’ over from ABC

CBS Entertainment President Leslie Moonves has taken more than a few shots for his decision to bring the long-running sitcom "Family Matters" to his network after eight seasons on ABC. It's a frequent topic of humor for "Late Show" host David Letterman.

But Moonves isn't in the least bit embarrassed to have Steve Urkel and company on CBS come September."Well, `Family Matters' won its time period for about eight years in a row, including this past season," Moonves said.

And it was not just a household victory - the show wins its time period in the younger demographics that are so highly prized by advertisers. And that fits in nicely with CBS's plans to try to bring younger viewers to the network.

Yes, it's true. It's not something that TV critics want to acknowledge, but there are a lot of people out there who actually like "Family Matters."

"Our show is like Frosted Flakes. Adults love them and they just don't like to admit they like the darn show," says Jaleel White, who plays mega-geek Steve Urkel.

"We saw this as a great opportunity to get younger real quick," Moonves said. "And to begin a Friday night of our own that will entice the family audience that, in the past, has not been there for us."

While the move came as somewhat of a surprise, nothing about it was a surprise to Moonves, who was president of the company that produces "Family Matters" before moving to CBS.

"Fortunately, having been at Warner Bros., I knew all about the contract with `Family Matters' and ABC. So we didn't have to listen to a production company playing both sides of the fence," Moonves said. "ABC, at the time, was dealing with some instability in terms of management. I think they blinked. They missed an opportunity, and we were right there talking to Warner Bros. at the time."

ABC executives haven't had a great deal to say about the situation, except to insinuate rather strongly that CBS paid too much to acquire the show.

"But you can bet the house that if we hadn't picked it up, they would have," Moonves said.

Certainly, shows have moved from one network to another before. "Family Matters" isn't even the only show making such a switch this year - "Clueless" is going from ABC to UPN.

But what makes the "Family Matters" situation all but unprecedented is the fact that this is an 8-year-old program - an age few shows even reach.

"We were very confident we'd go another year on ABC," said executive producer Michael Warren. "But this is an exciting opportunity for us because it is like doing a new show."

And there will indeed be a few changes as "Family Matters" enters its ninth year on the air. But don't expect to see any less emphasis on Urkel.

"Even last year, we had talked about the fact that we want to grow Steve Urkel up a bit," Warren said.

"Basically, he's grown up like a person. And we're going to take steps to grow him up more," White said. "But he's a person like anybody else. An odd person, but he's a person."

Look for some "new looks" and a new wardrobe for Urkel.

"Last year, Steve stopped wearing those tight jeans," White said. "First of all, they were giving me a problem, personally. So (executive producer) Dave (Duclon) came in and said, `We're going to move to khakis and corduroy and loosen 'em up a little bit for you so you're not so cranky by the fourth scene."

"This season we might lower the pitch of (Urkel's) voice a little bit," Duclon added. "But we discovered when we got away from the tight jeans, that sort of took care of it."

Also this season, Carl (Reginald VelJohnson) will be promoted to a police captain, and there will be a "rekindling" of the Laura-Urkel relationship.

But while Urkel is going to find himself in "some more mature situations," don't expect him to outgrow his nerdiness altogether.

"He's still the same person," White said. "He's kind-hearted, he's a goober, he's going to break everything, he's a freakin' genius and he invents everything that cannot be invented."

And the show won't be changing all that much. Warren pointed out that, over its eight years on the air, "Family Matters" has already undergone a good deal of change.

" `Family Matters' is a show that does kind of evolve as it moves through time, so this year's not going to be any different," he said.

And, while there had been a good deal of talk that this would be the last season for the show - White in particular made statements to that effect - that may not be the case. If "Family Matters" is a success on CBS, don't be surprised if there's a 10th season.

"I'm definitely open to doing another season," he said.

NEVER MIND: Reginald VelJohnson is all happiness, sweetness and light about the popularity of Steve Urkel today, but it wasn't always so.

Remember, Urkel was once just the next-door-neighbor boy who eventually just about completely took over the show. And Vel-John-son went public with his unhappiness about the situation, which he described as "the onslaught of the Urkel character (who) kind of usurped everything else."

But he's changed his mind.

"I think that because of the success of the show, because he was one of the direct reasons that the show has such longevity that you should forget about all those comments," VelJohnson said.

HATED IT: One of the more popular characters on "Family Matters" is Steve Urkel's cousin Myrtle - a character that's also played by Jaleel White. But Myrtle wasn't always White's favorite character.

"Oh, the first time I did Myrtle, I hated it," White said. "Matter of fact, I did Myrtle when I was probably 14 years old and I cried in my dressing room all tape night. . . . After that, my father told them that we weren't going to do Myrtle anymore."

Actually, it's not hard to understand why White hated doing the character at the time.

"Come on, I was in seventh grade and I thought everybody was going to make fun of me or whatever at school," he said.

By the time White, now 20, had turned 18, he had changed his mind about Myrtle, however.

"I took it upon myself and I just walked into Dave's office and told him, `I think we should do Myrtle again,' " he said. "Because I had just seen `To Wong Foo' with Wesley Snipes and Patrick Swayze and these guys who are considered ultimate hunks."

As far as he's concerned now, Myrtle has been "a really cool addition to the show."