Is ‘Family Matters’ Waldo Geraldo Faldo the most interesting TV character of all time? A discussion

OPINION: Eddie Winslow’s sidekick was a basket of kittens who was full of surprises at every turn, and there’s never been another character like him.

Shawn Harrison as Waldo Geraldo Faldo in “Family Matters.” (IMDb)

Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.

Back in the day, when I was young (I’m not a kid anymore), I used to live for the ABC family sitcom, Family Matters. Though I wasn’t quite as nerdy as Steven Q. Urkel (Jaleel White), I heavily identified with him for many reasons, the least of which was an undying love for Laura Winslow (Kellie Shanygne Williams). 

I enjoyed the family-ness of the show and the way they always worked out their issues by the end of the show, foreshadowed at all times by the sappy music that would begin to play when the lesson would be learned and the love shared. The show gave us iconic characters—aside from the Winslows themselves—like Urkel, Myrtle and Stefan Urquelle (the increased presence of Stefan also led to the complete jumping the shark of the show, beeteedubs), Myra Monkhouse, Willie Fuffner, Maxine Johnson and potentially one of the greatest television characters of all time—Max’s boyfriend—Waldo Geraldo Faldo. 

And if he isn’t the GOAT, he’s definitely in the running for inclusion on the Mount Rushmore of the most interesting. Allow me to offer some offerables. 

Let’s start at the beginning. Waldo Geraldo Faldo’s name (played in one-of-one capacity by Shawn Harrison) is a triplet of rhyming words. What has to be going on in the delivery room where names are being considered where the parents decide that not one but two names should rhyme with the unorthodox last name. And since it’s not an easy name to rhyme, they landed on Waldo and Geraldo. My mans started out interesting. But what they didn’t plan for—I’m speculating here—is that Waldo Faldo would end up becoming probably the second or third most famous Waldo of all time after Where’s Waldo? and (depending on if you read books or not) Ralph Waldo Emerson. Maybe Nick Faldo? Waldo Faldo is definitely more popular in my household than Mr. Emerson, but to each his own.

But the fun with the Faldos doesn’t stop with their Black creativity in naming Waldo. Waldo has siblings. And his siblings have names. I’m resorting to the Family Matters Wiki here for some help, but I will mostly stick to the rivers and lakes that I’m used to. Off the top of my head, he had sisters named Quesadilla and Noxima and a brother named Renaldo. He had an uncle named Jalapeño who had sons named Nacho and…Gary. He famously had a cousin in the popular ’90s group Portrait who agreed to have his group sing at the Roosevelt High School dance as long as Waldo didn’t divulge which member was his cousin. The cousin was outed by Steve when the group was introduced and he said “sup,” a famous Waldo Faldo greeting; it was a dead giveaway. 

Waldo—who was a happy-go-lucky, morally sound, well-intentioned dimwit—turned out to be a savant in the kitchen when the crew decided to all take home economics. Waldo ended up discovering his culinary talent, a talent that would take him to culinary school, allowing him to flourish and prosper. And he not only flourished and prospered in the kitchen, Waldo ended up dating Maxine Johnson, played by Cherie Johnson, who I vividly remember was often argued about as one of the baddest baddies during that era. We all loved Max. In fact, I remember a debate at high school one day about Max vs. Laura, a dumb debate, but when you’re 15, all debates are life and death.

Waldo is one of the most enduring characters from the ’90s era of television because of how many liberties the writers took with his character’s backstory. They made him as goofy, but as oddly interesting as possible. I would LOVE to see a Waldo Faldo Netflix show at this point, where he and Max actually end up married; if memory serves, I believe they broke up in the ninth season, and the intended 10th season never happened. 

But Waldo and Maxine back together with little Faldo children running around where his various interesting family members show up for hijinks has pure comedy written all over it. Can you imagine the kids’ names? Can you imagine what a late 40s world-famous chef, Waldo Faldo—who owns the most popular restaurant in Chicago and (because Waldo), like, Reykjavik—would get into? The social media faux pas. The charming Forrest Gump right-place, right-time opportunities. The kids who are trying to not be as goofy as their father but can’t help it, save for that one kid who is way too cool to be part of the family? 

See, because of how interesting and off-kilter Waldo was, I can’t see a world where any show starring him isn’t instantly a gem of Black fun and excellence. And that’s because Waldo Geraldo Faldo was and is one of the most interesting television characters ever. And they could actually make it more of a Black show instead of a family show for mainstream America now, which adds a whole extra layer since Waldo sounds like he also came from one of the Blackest families of all time. I’m here for all of it.

I stand with Waldo, one of the most interesting television characters of all time.

Panama Jackson

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