Multiple titles, dozens of crossovers, hundreds of characters, a vast universe, no I’m not describing the Marvel Cinematic Universe! I’m describing this other sprawling, interconnected action franchise. Oh no, I’m also not talking about what DC is doing with its multiverse of movies. I’m talking about TGIF, ABC’s Friday night sitcom block from the ’80s and’ 90s. Almost all of the programming was part of the same incredibly complicated TV universe – one with several John Stamoses and Bronson Pinchot running around. And this TV universe, probably the biggest one that isn’t centered around Tommy Westphall (although this kid from Saint-Elsewhere is part of it) – was born on this date 30 years ago thanks to a small crossover.
The crossing occurred on Full house in the season 4 episode “Stephanie Gets Framed”. This is an average episode of Full house with a fairly average problem: Stéphanie learns that she needs glasses and is too embarrassed to wear them to school. However, there is one aspect of this episode that sets it apart from the rest and places it firmly at the forefront of Full house WTF-ery (up there with Stephanie driving a car in the kitchen and Uncle Jesse being a close friend of the Beach Boys). The guest “Stephanie Gets Framed” is the one and only Steve urkel.
Why is Urkel in this episode of Full house? Maybe it’s because Family affairs was preempted on January 25, 1991 so that TGIF could broadcast the hour-long special New kids on the block at Disney-MGM studios: Wildest Dreams and ABC knew the world needed their weekly Urkel patch. The solution? Ask him to be the guest Full house like Julie’s annoying cousin, DJ’s friend of the week. When Jaleel White shows up at the Tanner House and comes face to face with John Stamos, it’s basically like seeing Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans together for the first time. He’s the most cheesy character on TGIF coming face-to-face with the coolest man on Friday night. What is Jesse doing? He tries to teach Urkel to strut.
This isn’t Urkel’s only thing in the episode. In fact, it’s likely that all of Stephanie’s glasses problem was the result of the writers knowing they had Urkel to write for this week. After all, he’s the ultimate eyewear geek who sits down and tries to cheer up Stephanie in his Urkel way.
The writers didn’t realize that this moment would essentially be the big bang of the TGIF universe.
Family affairs was already a spin-off of Perfect strangers; never forget that Family affairs started off as a show on Harriette Winslow! Corn Full house was the first time that Family affairs entered a totally different show, unrelated before. Soon Urkel flew to Step by step by jet pack (“Dance”), then Mr. Cooper took on the role of Michelle’s replacement on his new show (“Hang out with Michelle”). And expanding the universe even further, Boy meets the world crossed with Step by step (“The happiest show on Earth”) and Sabrina the Teenage Witch (“The Witches of Pennbrook”).
This little crossover started all of this madness, all because ABC probably couldn’t go a week without Urkel. When it comes to crossbreeding, TGIF had no mercy.