'Family Matters': THR's 1989 Review

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Reginald VelJohnson and Jo Marie Payton-France in 'Family Matters'
With Jo Marie Payton-France reprising her role as Harriette, 'Family Matters' is in good hands.

On Friday, Sept. 22, 1989, ABC debuted the half-hour spinoff comedy Family Matters, a series that eventually went on to run for nine seasons. The Hollywood Reporter's original review is below.

If ABC hadn't already grabbed the title, they should have labeled this one Full House. In this spinoff from the comedy hit Perfect Strangers, elevator operator Harriette Winslow takes us to her Chicago home wherein lives her husband, Carl, their three kids — Edward, Laura and Judy — her sister Rachel, Rachel's baby Richie and Carl's mama Mother Winslow.

Needless to add, with a family that size, there are Family Matters aplenty. 

In the opener, Mother Winslow is moving in, complete with what Carl calls her "take-over attitude." And it's not long before it surfaces. She sits in his chair, puts him on a diet and countermands his instructions to the kids. But it's not until she insults Harriette's meatloaf that things really come to a head. 

With Jo Marie Payton-France reprising her role as Harriette, Family Matters is in good hands. Coupled with Reginald VelJohnson (Die Hard) as hubby Carl, this pair leaps from the screen to rise above their material, which is standard sitcom stuff.

Kids Darius McCrary, Kellie Williams and Jamie Foxworth add little in the way of charm, while Telma Hopkins (as Rachel) and Rosetta LeNoire (as Mother Winslow) need to refine their delivery to mesh with the stars. 

It won't be easy, given the material delivered in the first script by co-executive producers William Bickley and Michael Warren. Not until the final five minutes do we really get solid insight into these characters, reassuring us that there's plenty of potential here. 

Trust executive producers Thomas L. Miller and Robert L. Boyett, however, to push for the same kind of physical good humor that has been the hallmark of Perfect Strangers — with which Family Matters is linked on Friday nights. — Richard Hack

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