Season 1, Episode 2
Date of airing: September 29, 1989 (ABC)
Nielsen ratings information: 21.1 million viewers, 12.8/24 in Households
Since I’m not black, I don’t know which stories are a predominantly black experience, or if those stories are being lived through the general population of the middle-class United States of America. Losing a job and feeling how tight the budget can be in your extended family seems like the perfect story for a middle-class, blue collar family, but Harriet having to deal with Mr. Seeger and giving him a speech that can change minds sounded like it could have come straight out of the life of an actual black family. Harriet may have never had the job at the Chronicles because she is a woman, and the 1980s didn’t like having women in executive and management position, but the way she gave her future boss her mind felt like it could only have come from the matriarch of a black family.
And it definitely was a great speech. For once being the housewife and mother actually pays off, although it only does so in a scripted narrative, and luckily that also happens to a fictional black woman. I am wondering though if Harriet’s speech inspired a lot of other black women to do the same during job interviews, and how many of them were hired at the end of that process. Because I can’t really believe that 1980s white managers were thinking of black women who spoke their mind as managerial personalities, because really, who back then wanted to be bossed around by a black woman? It’s not like racism was gone at the time (hell, it’s still present today), so FAMILY MATTERS could essentially be seen as a fairytale television show for black families — for them to see what their lives can look like when they don’t have to handle with racist neighbors while also having a pretty-looking family house and kids who don’t annoy you all day and night.
But I liked the story of the episode in general. There was a sense of family unity among the Winslows after Harriet lost her job, even if the first part was sort of used to make fun of Carl (after all it was his fault why she lost her job). While I didn’t quite get what Rachel was doing with the girls (at first it looked like they were putting resumes and cover letters into envelopes for Harriet to send out, but that was never specified), the fact that everyone was hoping for the best and wishing Harriet luck made me almost feel at home. I never had that kind of family life at home, so in a way I’m living vicariously through the Winslows right now, which I was not expecting to say at all after just two episodes. Disney Channel family sitcoms already give me the good and positive feelings I need after following the news on television and Twitter, but now it turns out I can also watch FAMILY MATTERS. By the way, is that even correct behavior of your new manager to not tell you, but a different person on the phone that you got the job after all? Shouldn’t Seeger have told that Harriet herself? How much of a good manager can this guy be when he tells the wrong person that someone was just accepted for a new job?
Meanwhile, Eddie was saving money for some new high-tops, and of course I could not connect with that story at all, because I never saved money for specific shows. When I buy shoes, they just have to look not like crap and they have to fit, but Eddie apparently dreams of shoes from current basketball stars, which means the kid is very materialistic. I hope that’s a consistent character flaw for Eddie, because there are potentially funny stories in that, especially when he comes down the stairs to ask his father if he can have the latest tech from Radioshack. By the way, what exactly are Eddie’s interests? We might only be two episodes in, but at this point it’s time for the writers to get into who the character are and what they could be if they weren’t stuck in a primetime family sitcom. Who Harriet is we have seen already, and we sort of know who Rachel is (her writing hasn’t been mentioned here, so imagine my sad face), but the other characters are bland after 48 minutes. Hopefully that’s gonna be rectified soon, but if not, then I can understand why FAMILY MATTERS was later slightly retooled via Jaleel White.