Punky Brewster was a 1984-88 Dom Com on NBC about abandoned child Penelope "Punky" Brewster (her father walked out on her and her mom left Punky and her pet dog, Brandon, at a grocery store), played by Soleil Moon Frye, and her adoptive father, Henry, played by George Gaynes (best known for his role as Cmdt. Lassard in the Police Academy movies). Also revolves around Punky's interactions with her best friend, Cherie Johnson, played by Cherie Johnson (who later went on to play Laura Winslow's friend on Family Matters), who lives with her grandmother, Betty, played by Susie Garrett. Punky's other friends include geeky Allen Anderson (Casey Ellison) and stuck-up rich girl Margaux Kramer (Ami Foster).Well-loved Kid Com of The Eighties (by kids, anyway—critics hated it), especially when it re-ran in syndication. Did a Very Special Episode after the Challenger space shuttle explosion. Its Animated Adaptation (featuring a magical furry creature named Glomer who was left in the real world after wandering out of his village, Chaundoon located within a rainbow) also was shown on NBC.The prime time and cartoon shows' rights were owned by NBC; they sold the rights to Coca-Cola Telecommunications (Sony Pictures Television) when it went into syndication. Sony owns US rights, NBC owns international rights.
Bizarrely, it was called that everywhere but the title card (which read just "Punky Brewster"). It's also notable in that it shared a cast with the live show.
TV Guide also billed the cartoon as just "Punky Brewster." NBC dropped it after a two-year run then brought it back in repeats in October 1988 after the live-action pre-teen show 2 Hip 4 TV tanked. In 1989, selected episodes were run on a rotating basis in the syndicated series Maxie's World.
Art Shift: All of the cartoon's season one episodes were cel-on-film animation. Season two's new episodes, save for three, were composited by computer.
Artistic License - Animal Care: Punky feeds her dog Brandon Oreos, ding-dongs, and all manner of other food that would wreak absolute havoc on a real dog's digestive system. Oreos and ding-dongs contain chocolate, which would kill a real live dog.
Blood Brothers: Punky, Cherie and Margaux felt disgusted at the notion of using blood so they instead became "ketchup sisters".
Body Double: In the five-part "Changes," Punky impersonates Margaux so she can sneak out of Fenster Hall and visit Henry, who is in the hospital after collapsing from exhaustion following the burning down of his photo studio. In turn, Margaux impersonates Punky. As a result, Margaux took Punky's personality test, causing Punky to be (temporarily) adopted by a wealthy couple.
Punky dresses up as Margaux again in the cartoon episode "Pretty Ugly"—but only because Glomer turned Margaux's face into a glomley face. It's a wonder that Avery Bigelow (a kid whose dad runs a fashion magazine) didn't catch on that Margaux doesn't have brown eyes, freckles and a smoky voice.
Break the Cutie: Punky after the Space Shuttle tragedy ("Accidents Happen"), after Allen moves away ("Divorce Anderson Style") and when she is stricken with appendicitis ("Ouch"—her tearful lament: "I have an -itis! I'm worm food!"); Cherie when she visits her parents' graves ("The Visit").
Brewster's Millions: The plot of the episode "Punky's Millions" at the animated adaptation. Trying to raise money for charity, Punky and Henry entered a game show. The final challenge was spending one million dollars within two days. Another restriction was that nothing can be bought for more than ten thousand dollars. They lose the game because Allen forgot to spend the ninety-eight cents he got as change from the candy bars he bought. Fortunately, the Lottery Ticket bought during the episode was a winner.
The task of spending the money fell on Punky and her pals after Henry came down with chicken pox.
Channel Hop: From NBC to first-run syndication in the final two seasons.
Cheerful Child: Punky and Cherie in the first two seasons. It wears off as the girls grow up and start facing more mature issues.
Christmas Special: Three, the most iconic being the "Yes Punky, There is a Santa Clause" two-parter from Season One.
Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Scotty Lotabucci is never seen again after "Walk Pool" and "Gone Fishing." Also Eddie the building superintendent, Mike Fulton, and Linda, the school cleaning lady that Punky befriends.
Clip Show: "Remember When" (season three finale) and "Wedding Bells For Brandon" (season four and series finale).
Cute Bruiser: Punky. As quoted by Allen, "She can knock your block off!"
The Danza: Cherie Johnson as...Cherie Johnson. This came about as Cherie's uncle, David W. Duclon, who created the show and served as executive producer, was going to name a character on the show after his niece, while the real Cherie thought she was actually going to be on the show. After she understood what happened, she tried out for the role anyway...and won it.
I Am Not Spock: Anytime someone mentions Soleil Moon Frye, she's always referred to as "Punky Brewster". Probably either because they can't pronounce her real name or because "Punky Brewster" is much easier to remember. It just flows off the tongue.
Magic Skirt: Averted but maintained in the animated episode "Punky To The Rescue." Margaux has one foot caught in a snare posing as bait for a so-called swamp monster, but since she's wearing a dress, she is shown standing upright against a tree with her trapped foot raised as opposed to hanging upside down.
In animated edition of "The Perils Of Punky," Margaux is held upside down as part of a human chain to retrieve a gem down a well. Her skirt and slip are draped over her rear end.
Malt Shop: In season 3, Henry sells his photography studio and opens up a restaurant he calls "Punky's Place."
Missing Mom: A few NBC episodes deal with Punky's desire to find her recalcitrant mother. In the animated episode "Punky The Heiress," she suddenly has an aunt and uncle—servants for the Chester Henderson estate—who use her to impersonate Chester's granddaughter and embezzle the kid's inheritance, all under the guise that they've located Punky's mother.
Name's the Same: "The Perils of Punky" was the title of both an episode of the live action series and the cartoon.
Not Allowed to Grow Up: Soleil Moon Frye, for a while. By the show's last season (in syndication) the producers gave up on that, and finally acknowledged that Punky needed to buy her first bra (the episode "Metamorphosis").
The Family Channel refused to screen this episode when they replayed the series in the mid 90s.
Soleil Moon Frye, as it turned out, suffered from a condition (known as either juvenile macromastia or juvenile gigantomastia) which caused her breasts to develop early and larger than usual. She had to have reduction surgery at 15 because of it.
The One Guy: Henry. Subverted in the second season when T.K. Carter joined the cast as Mike Fulton, Punky's teacher.
Of the regular kids, this would be Allen in the first two seasons and the cartoon.
Parental Abandonment: How it all started. When Henry first discovers Punky in an empty apartment, she tells him she was abandoned. Three episodes later in "Lost And Found," Punky thinks she's been abandoned again after she and Henry get separated at a grocery store.
Precocious Crush: Punky had been a tomboy, up until the syndicated episode "Crushed," where she falls for a boy named Kevin. The problem is Kevin is six years older than Punky, and to her devastation (and Henry's relief), already has a girlfriend.
Could also apply to Punky with Glomer in the cartoon. The episode "Return To Chaundoon" has a scene where Punky plants a goodnight kiss on Glomer's forehead.
Real-Life Relative: Both Soleil Moon Frye's real life brother, Meeno Peluce, and George Gaynes' real life wife, Allyn Ann McLerie, made guest appearances. In addition, Cherie Johnson's uncle, David W. Duclon, was the program's creator and executive producer.
Rich Bitch: Margaux, especially in the later two seasons.
Rummage Sale Reject: Punky's wardrobe. Then again, it's what makes her so cool. In syndication, Punky's clothing style, while still unorthodox, was not as colorful and patchwork as it was on NBC.
Screwed by the Network: Worked around after a while. Much like what would later plague FOX shows King of the Hill and Malcolm in the Middle, the timeslot for the show was impacted by overruns of NFL coverage. After a while, NBC eventually commissioned a handful of 15-minute episodes as insurance.
At least one non-O&O local NBC station (WPTZ, Plattsburgh, NY) regularly ran a local news show that preempted it.
Our NBC (WXIA, Atlanta GA) ran it regularly, but no station in our area ran the syndicated show. In late 1986 when NBC moved the cartoon to 11:30 AM, WXIA bumped it on the last Saturday of each month for a local kids' informational program.
Zig-zagged: During NBC's first set of replays of season 2 of the cartoon, episodes were trimmed to accomodate bumpers featuring the casts of some of NBC's family-friendly primetime sitcoms.
Shout-Out: The title character is named after a childhood crush of NBC Entertainment president Brandon Tartikoff (although the actual Punky's first name was Peyton), even leading to the real Punky being cast in the 1985 episode "The Search".
Also, in the Fenster Hall episode, T.C. Finestra is named after Carmen Finestra, the program's creative consultant.
In addition, in the episode "Yes, Punky, There is a Santa Claus", Henry mentions talking to a private investigator named Gene Doucette, which was also the name of the program's costume designer.
Spot the Imposter: The animated episode "Double Your Punky" had Glomer creating a clone of Punky from a photograph to keep him company at home while the real Punky was at a school picnic. The clone, however, was obnoxious, and in his confusion, Glomer zaps the sweet Punky back into the photograph and throws it away. Having retrieved it and getting her back, Glomer is unable to tell who the real Punky is. It's up to Brandon, who recognizes her scent.
Also, Punky disguising herself as Margaux in the five-part story arc "Changes" and the cartoon episode "Pretty Ugly."
Talking Animal: Pretty much averted, but subverted in an animated episode and zig-zagged in a live-action episode. In the animated episode "Brandon The Dialogue Dog," Glomer gives Punky's dog Brandon the gift of gab. In the third season episode "It's A Dog's Life," Punky dreams that she and Brandon switch bodies and we hear Punky's voice as thoughts coming from Brandon's head.
Unwilling Suspension: Happens to Punky twice in the cartoon ("Growing Pain" and "The Bermuda Tangle"), hung upside down by one foot each time.
Very Special Episode: Quite a few. The CPR/trapped in an old refrigerator episode is one of the more well remembered.
Wham Line: Punky's "it blew up" on the Space Shuttle episode.
What Could Have Been: Originally, T.K. Carter was supposed to star in a spinoff show, Fenster Hall, named after the orphanage Punky was trying to avoid before meeting Henry. The premise would have been that Mike was working for Fenster as the chief boys' counselor after staying there at age seven due to being orphaned since birth and being shuffled around various foster homes. The other regulars would have been Mike's charges: tough street kid T.C. Finestra (Billy Lombardo), aspiring heavyweight boxer Lester "Sugar" Thompson (Martin Davis), huge, hulking Conan (B.J. Barie), sweet little Dash (Benji Gregory), and nerdy intellectual Lyle (Gabriel Damon); as well as Mike's boss, orphanage administrator Rita J. Sanchez (Rosana DeSoto). Unfortunately, NBC passed on the spinoff and Carter was instead made a regular.
With Friends Like These...: Margaux. Despite being in their "best friend" group, she shows no aversion at all to belitting Punky and Cherie, from calling them "peasants" in the first two seasons to finding every way possible to slip in a mocking remark about their financial status and social class by seasons 3 and 4. And yet she's still their best friend!
Not to mention how she told Punky having an "adoptive" father wasn't the same as having a "real" one.