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Jaleel White Is Bringing Steve Urkel Back In An Unexpected Way

To think back on it now, it's difficult to imagine "Family Matters" without Steve Urkel. The bespectacled ├╝bernerd is and, it seems, always was the lifeblood of the sitcom. In reality, Jaleel White's Steve Urkel didn't join "Family Matters" until halfway through the show's first season. The character was so popular with audiences that he was updated to series regular starting in Season 2, causing a ratings spike that saved the series from the brink of cancellation (via The Hollywood Reporter).

Since "Family Matters" went off the air in 1998, it's been difficult for audiences to imagine White without the suspenders, which leaves the actor to tend with an understandably complicated legacy. Still, White is anything but resentful. "I guard this character with my life," White told The Hollywood Reporter. "For me, it's honestly like talking about someone who is revered and deceased. You're not going to be disrespectful around me talking about the character." 

Now, White is resurrecting Steve Urkel, but not in the way that fans might expect.

Steve Urkel is returning for an animated holiday special

Since retiring the character of Steve Urkel in 1998, Jaleel White has hung up the glasses and suspenders for good. As it turns out, he won't need them for his next outing as America's nerdiest neighbor. The actor will voice Steve in Cartoon Network's animated Christmas special "Did I Do That to the Holidays? A Steve Urkel Story" (via Today).

Executive produced and written by Wyatt Cenac, the special will follow Steve as he bungles his way through the holiday season. When Steve's clumsiness gets him into trouble at the local mall, he must use his know-how to find the real Santa and bring back the Christmas spirit.

It's not the first time that White is voicing an animated version of Steve. In 2019, White appeared in an episode of "Scooby-Doo and Guess Who?" The series, which airs on HBO Max as of 2021, follows the Mystery Inc. team as they solve mysteries with the help of celebrities and fictional characters, ranging from Whoopi Goldberg to Alex Trebek to Batman.

With White's foray into animation, the 45-year-old actor is able to honor his former character without committing to the complications of a live-action appearance. "I always tell people, if I was Bart Simpson, I'd still be on the air [as Urkel] right now," he told The Hollywood Reporter in 2017. "But I wasn't animated. I was a real boy." With "Scooby-Doo" and his upcoming holiday special, White seems to have found the key to reviving the beloved character. While no release date has been set for the special, "Did I Do That to the Holidays? A Steve Urkel Story" is set to air towards the end of 2022.