Carl Otis Winslow (born August 23, 1952) is a fictional character portrayed by Reginald VelJohnson on the ABC/CBS[1] American sitcom Family Matters from 1989-1998. The initials in his name, which spells COW, is joked around several times throughout the series.


Carl is a stocky, hard-working, and humble man. He is a Police Officer for the Chicago Police Department. He starts out as a Police Sergeant, then Lieutenant, and then Captain. Carl takes his role as the bread-winner of the household very seriously. Because of this, his opinion of being the "man of the house" tends to get in the way of more personal issues with his wife, Harriette. His ego often gets him into trouble with Harriette, although he is somewhat quick to concede to his wife, as she often ends up teaching him a lesson when it comes to resolving petty marital disputes.

Carl has a tendency to come down very hard on his only son, Eddie, while being protective of his daughters, Laura and Judy, at the same time. On occasion, Carl acts in an erratic fashion, and usually blames it on his stressful job. However, deep down, Carl has shown he is a very loving and caring father.

His favorite food is doughnuts.

Carl is the son of Estelle Winslow and Samuel Winslow. According to the pilot episode of the series, he has four brothers: Walter, Darryl, Calvin and Frank. Frank (Ted Lange) appeared in the eighth-season episode "The Brother Who Came to Dinner," and was portrayed as a long-estranged member of the family.

Relationship with Steve UrkelEdit

Especially during the early years, Carl is openly vocal when it comes to showing his displeasure with next-door neighbor, Steve Urkel, who seemingly shows up at the house during inconvenient or inopportune times. Carl often becomes annoyed with Steve for one of several reasons:

  • Most often, when he is pressed into helping Steve test out his often useless—and accident-prone—inventions. The contraption would invariably backfire, and Carl would become the victim of its unpredictable and/or undesirable effects. Property damage and/or bodily harm to the Winslows' household caused by Steve's clumsiness (or the ill-fated machines) only adds to Carl's frustration.
  • When Steve tries to talk about an odd or esoteric topic that the Winslows have no interest in (e.g.- a visit to a cheese festival).
  • When Steve tries any one of a number of elaborate schemes to win Laura's heart.

However, Carl understands that Steve looks up to him like a father-figure, and often shows gratitude when he helps him resolve a tough personal crisis (e.g., helped him conquer a fear of heights). Other times, Carl helps Steve deal with tough situations of his own, such as learning how to swim, to pass physical education class, while on occasion, Carl has to stick up for his nerdy neighbor. Carl eventually grows tolerant of Steve, and accepts him as a member of his family. At the end of the episode "Random Acts of Science" Carl revealed to Steve "I couldn't be even more proud if you were my own son." Since Steve saved his life.

Like his children, Eddie Laura and Judy, Carl has gotten an opportunity to see what it is like to walk in Steve's shoes through the use of the Transformation Chamber. This happened to Carl in the sixth-season opener, "To Be or Not to Be" (where he stepped into Steve's machine in an effort to improve his eyesight without having to visit the optometrist, but emerged with a Steve-like personality and clothing after Steve's girlfriend, Myra Monkhouse, caused the machine to fail).