Follow TV Tropes


Series / Punky Brewster

Go To
Punky Brewster is a 1984-88 Dom Com created and executive produced by David W. Duclon and airing on NBC and later in Syndication 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 Maxine 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). During the NBC run, Punky's teachers were frequently seen. In the first season, Punky's teacher was cheerful Mrs. Morton (Dody Goodman), while in the second season, it was hip Mike Fulton (TK Carter). Also seen briefly in Henry and Punky's apartment building was kooky maintenance man Eddie Malvin (Eddie Deezen).

Well-loved Kid Com of The '80s (by kids, anyway—critics hated it), especially when it re-ran in syndication. Did a Very Special Episode after the Challenger space shuttle explosion.

The show was originally produced by Lightkeeper Productions, David W. Duclon's production company, alongside NBC from 1984-1986, when NBC cancelled the series. After the NBC cancellation, Duclon teamed up with Columbia Pictures to produce two additional seasons in syndication from 1987-1988. Today, Sony, which now owns Columbia Pictures, hold domestic rights to the series, while NBC holds international rights.

An animated adaptation by Ruby-Spears also was shown on NBC from 1985-1986. It added a magical furry creature named Glomer whose magic enabled new kinds of misadventures.

In September 2019, it was announced that a sequel series was being produced for NBC's upcoming streaming service Peacock, with Frye reprising the role of Punky, now a single mother trying to get her life together. Punky Brewster (2021) premiered in February 2021.


Not to be confused with the early Devin Townsend album.

The sitcom contains examples of:

  • Abhorrent Admirer: Spud in season 3. An entire episode focuses on this.
  • Adult Fear:
    • The episodes in which Child Protective Services has taken Punky away from Henry due to his failing health. Being unable to care for their child (adoptive or biological) is one of every parent's worst fears.
    • One episode where the kids play hide and seek and Cherie hides inside an old refrigerator. She nearly suffocates to death.
  • An Aesop: Usually once per episode.
  • Afraid of Doctors:
    • In the episode "Ouch", Punky is stricken with appendicitis. She's not so much afraid of doctors or hospital as she is being operated on.
    • In "A Visit to the Doctor", Punky tries to get out of an immunization booster shot because she's afraid it will hurt.
  • The Alcoholic: Frank, the central character of the season 3 episode "Beer And Buffaloes Don't Mix." He changes at the end of the episode.
  • Advertisement:
  • Alternative Foreign Theme Song: Brazilian's SBT dub used this, the whole opening the US originally used kept while original song were changed. And later, there's Rede Bandeirantes dub when the show itself were redubbed too.
  • And Starring: The second season intro had "and T.K. Carter as Mike".
  • Angel Unaware: "Yes Punky, There is a Santa Claus" has a helpful old man named Nick, who is implied to really be Santa Claus.
  • Animated Credits Opening: Three weeks into the first season, an alternate opening sequence mixing live-action footage and an animated sequence was used. This lasted a few weeks and was replaced by yet another sequence mixing the location footage shot in Chicago and clips from episodes, ending with the tail end of the animated sequence being watched by the lead characters on TV. The animated sequence at the end stayed during the second season's intro, but was redone by Ruby-Spears in a cross-promotion for the animated series running on NBC at the time.
  • 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. note 
  • Badass Adorable: Punky, of course.
  • Battle Discretion Shot: Punky getting beat up by Moose the bully in the girls' bathroom.
  • Bland-Name Product: During the height of the Cabbage Patch Kids fad, the episode "Gals and Dolls" had Punky, Cherie and Margaux getting swept up in a craze for 'Butter Lettuce Baby' dolls.
  • Blood Brothers: Punky, Cherie and Margaux felt disgusted at the notion of using blood so they instead became "ketchup sisters".
  • Born in an Elevator: In an episode where Punky breaks her leg and Cherie feels guilty about it, at the hospital Cherie is in a stalled elevator with an expectant mother who is going into labor. Cherie helps with the delivery.
  • Boxing Lesson: Punky tried, unsuccessfully, to learn to box when a bully was picking on her.
  • Brainy Brunette: Punky Brewster is quite resourceful, albeit not always successful with her plans. She's still pretty smart for an eight-year-old.
  • 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 gets a dose of it too, when she visits her parents' graves ("The Visit").
  • Brotherhood of Funny Hats: Henry belongs to one, complete with ridiculous bison-headdress.
  • Butt-Monkey:
    • Allen. Probably because he's the only male of the four main kids in the show.
    • Henry is this in the very first episodes, which comically portray his difficulty adjusting to having a rambunctious child around.
  • The Cameo: Bee Gees sibling Andy Gibb, boxer Marvin Hagler, astronaut Buzz Aldrin, singer Marilyn McCoo and pop group DeBarge all appeared on the show.
  • Canine Companion: Punky's beloved golden retriever Brandon, who was abandoned along with Punky by Punky's mother until Henry Warnimont took them in.
  • Catchphrase:
    • "Holy Macanoly!"
    • "Gross-a-Roo" in early seasons when Punky is confronted with something disgusting.
    • Margaux had her own..."Peasants!"
  • 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 Episode:
    • The "Yes Punky, There is a Santa Claus" two-parter from Season One, in which Henry dresses as Santa for Punky's school, and Punky (who doesn't know it's him) asks for her mother for Christmas.
    • "Christmas Shoplifting" in season 2, in which Punky is goaded into shoplifting a scarf.
    • "Christmas Hero" in season 4.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Mike Fulton disappears after season 2.
  • Clip Show:
    • "Remember When" (season three finale) featured clips as the gang dealt with a power outtage during a blizzard.
    • "Wedding Bells For Brandon" (season four and series finale) used clips from past episodes as a wedding for Punky's dog Brandon and a female golden retriever named Brenda was arranged.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Allen.
  • Clueless Aesop: The Chicklets!
  • Companion Cube: In early seasons, Punky's doll, My.
  • CPR: Clean, Pretty, Reliable: The subject of one of many many Very Special Episodes. Probably the most notable is when it saved Cherie's life when she nearly suffocated to death in an old, abandoned refrigerator.
  • Cry into Chest: "Divorce, Anderson Style" ends with Punky crying into Cherie's chest after Allen leaves to move away with his to-be-divorced mother.
  • Cute Bruiser: Punky. As quoted by Allen, "She can knock your block off!"
  • Deadpan Snarker: Henry. He and Betty are known for Snark-to-Snark Combat.
  • Death as Comedy: Punky and Cherie deal with a customer at Henry's restaurant who they think is dead. The customer is a narcoleptic who had fallen asleep, but the girls don't know that...yet.
  • Department of Child Disservices: Recurring attempts by Child Services bureaucrats to take Punky away from Henry and put her in an orphanage. In one arc, when Henry is in hospital, an Obstructive Bureaucrat takes the letter of the law to ridiculous measures; Betty Johnson is denied custody of Punky because Punky would have to share a room with her Cherie. Betty complains that instead Punky will have to share a room with several strangers. Though in the end said social worker concedes that he's unfit for the job and backs off.
  • Disappeared Dad: Punky Brewster's woes began when her dad ran out on her family.
  • Do Not Call Me "Paul":
    • The opening story features a custody hearing between Henry and Fenster Hall which takes place in a courtroom where the bailiff announces Punky as "Penelope Brewster". She insists on being called Punky.
    • Inverted with Henry. Punky learns via Death Glare to NEVER call him "Hank."
  • Downer Ending: Season 3's "Divorce Anderson Style." It ends with Punky crying her eyes out after Allen leaves to move out of town with his now-divorced mother.
  • Drugs Are Bad:
    • The episode "Just Say No". Punky wants to join a clique who call themselves the Chiclets. But in order to join, she has to try drugs. Punky is faced with a quandary until she follows a "Just Say No" campaign. Ends with rallies being held in St. Louis (with Cherie Johnson) and Atlanta (with Soleil Moon Frye).
    • The season 3 episode "Unhooking Henry", in which Henry develops an addiction to his medication after a back injury.
  • '80s Hair: Punky in seasons 3 and 4.
  • Face on a Milk Carton: Used in an episode where Punky, Cherie, Henry and Betty learn that their new friend's father kidnapped her and re-named her.
  • Fashionable Asymmetry: Punky's outfit in the first two seasons. She has on a pink vest over a blue shirt over a red shirt, a bandana tied to one leg, a yellow shoe on her left foot and a red shoe on her right. Her pants leg is rolled up on her left.
  • Finger-Forced Smile: In the opening sequence, Punky makes Henry smile like this.
  • First-Name Basis: Punky and her friends have this with Mike Fulton.
  • Genki Girl: Punky.
  • Girliness Upgrade: Punky was a tomboy up until midway through the third season (first syndicated season) when she falls for a boy some six years older than she is. From that point, Punky's tomboy days had become history. This was most likely manifested in an early season three episode when Allen leaves, which makes Punky cry.
  • Girlish Pigtails: Provides the trope image.
  • Halloween Episode: "Love Thy Neighbor". Punky goes trick-or-treating, and an attempt to prank a mean neighbor has unexpected results.
  • Happily Adopted: Punky is a foster child of the kindly Henry; while she occasionally gets the urge to try and find her biological mother, it's clear the two of them are pretty happy together.
  • Heart Symbol: During the first two seasons, Punky had a small heart embroidered on the right side of her vest.
  • Heartwarming Orphan: Punky
  • I Want My Mommy!: Punky waxes melancholic about her missing mother in "The Search" (where she reunites her teacher with his missing mother), with Henry telling her that she still has her memories of her mother. Punky counters that you can't hug a memory or kiss it good night. She sobs "I want my mommy!" on Henry's shoulder.
  • I Want You to Meet an Old Friend of Mine: Although they never shared any scenes together in the show, both Eddie Deezen (Eddie Malvin) and Dody Goodman (Mrs. Morton) previously worked together in Grease, the former as Eugene Felsnic, the boy who becomes Sandy's boyfriend when she and Danny break up, the latter as Blanche Hodel, the faithful assistant to Principal McGee.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Margaux.
  • Kill 'Em All: "The Perils of Punky", with the excuse that it's just a ghost story being told by Punky to her friends, ends with evil spirits killing all of them and their little dog too.
  • Little Miss Snarker: Cherie in seasons 3 and 4.
  • The Little Shop That Wasn't There Yesterday: In "Yes, Punky, There Is a Santa Claus", Henry comes across an antique shop that he doesn't remember being there before and is unable to find again after. It's run by a helpful old man named Nick.
  • Lovable Alpha Bitch : Margaux (Who else?).
  • Magic Feather: In "A Visit to the Doctor", Punky is afraid of getting a booster shot so Henry gives her a "magic nickel" to help her.
  • Malt Shop: In season 3, Henry sells his photography studio and opens up a restaurant he calls "Punky's Place."
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Though platonic.
  • Missing Mom: A few NBC episodes deal with Punky's desire to find her recalcitrant mother.
  • Multi-Part Episode:
    • "Punky Finds a Home" (3 parts), which began the series and set up the premise.
    • "Changes" (5 parts), the penultimate episodes of the second season.
    • And several two-part episodes.
  • Nepotism: After Henry opens a restaurant, Punky has a part-time job as a server there.
  • Not Allowed to Grow Up: Soleil Moon Frye, for a while. By the show's third season (in syndication) the producers gave up on that, and finally acknowledged that Punky needed to buy her first bra (the episode "Metamorphosis"; November 12, 1987). 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.
  • Nurikabe: In "The Perils of Punky", Allen is taken by the spirit and turned into one.
  • Off to Boarding School: In "Henry Falls in Love", Henry's fiancée tries to persuade him to put Punky in boarding school so they can go traveling together.
  • One-Book Author: This was Susie Garrett's only significant series with her in a lead role.
  • The One Guy: Henry. Averted in the second season when T.K. Carter joined the cast as Mike Fulton, Punky's teacher. Also, among the regular kids, Allen in the first three seasons.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Punky's real name is Penelope, but nobody can call her that because she hates it.
  • OOC Is Serious Business: Cherie is normally sweet and effervescent, but in "The Anniversary", she suddenly becomes introverted and quiet. Punky finds out the day marks when Cherie parents were killed in a traffic accident.
  • Opinion-Changing Dream: In "My Aged Valentine", Punky renounces Valentine's Day, then that night dreams she's a lonely old spinster. When she wakes up, her opinion on Valentine's Day in regards to boys doesn't change (she's a tomboy at this stage), but she does share Valentine's Day love with Henry.
  • 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.
  • Parent Never Came Back from the Store: This was how the title character wound up living alone before being found at the beginning of the series. Her mom had gone to the store and never came back. In a slight twist, Punky and her dog were waiting outside the store instead of at home.
  • Pick a Card: At the start of "Accidents Happen", Punky gets her dog Brandon to take a card face down out of a deck, which he does with his mouth. Punky takes it and puts it back in the deck, shuffles, then successfully pulls out the card Brandon chose. How? It was the only card with dog slobber on it.
  • Playing a Tree: In "Tap Your Troubles Away", the gang attend dance class. When Punky loses her confidence and is unable to be a flower in the concert, they decide to give her the non-dancing part of the bee who pollinates all the flowers.
  • Please Don't Leave Me: During the first two seasons, Allen Anderson was usually the addled tag-along chum. In season three's "Divorce Anderson Style", Allen is consigned to moving away with his mom to another city. As he says his goodbyes, Henry, Mrs. Garrett and Cherie hold up just fine. Punky is another story: when Allen gets to her, she loses it. As Allen leaves, Punky collapses into Cherie's arms, crying her eyes out.
  • Plucky Comic Relief: Allen Anderson.
  • Plucky Girl: Punky.
  • Poorly Disguised Pilot: "Fenster Hall" pushes Punky and her friends and family to the background for a story about the inhabitants of the orphanage she would have gone to if Henry hadn't taken her in. It didn't go to series, but one of the new characters, Mike Fulton, hung around as a regular character on Punky Brewster the following season.
  • 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, already has a girlfriend named Gina. Thankfully, Kevin quickly realizes this and calmly tells Punky that he only likes her as a friend, but also adds that someday, Punky will find a love of her own who's her own age. Henry, of course, is initially horrified that Punky thinks Kevin is in love with her, but becomes very relieved when Kevin explains to her that he only likes her as a friend.
  • Promotion to Parent: When Henry officially adopts Punky.
  • Punny Name: In season 3, Henry's photographic studio is bought out by a chain called Glossy's, whose owner is Matt Glossy.
  • Raised by Grandparents: Cherie's parents both died in an auto accident so she was raised by her grandmother.
  • "Rashomon"-Style: The episode "See You In Court" where Henry and Betty tell different versions of the same events and then Punky and Cherie tell the real version.
  • Real Women Don't Wear Dresses: Punky rarely wears a dress. The only times she did was when she dressed as a 50s doo-wop girl for Halloween and when she dressed as Margaux to sneak out of Fenster Hall to see Henry at the hospital.
  • Rich Bitch: Margaux, especially in the later two seasons.
  • Rummage Sale Reject: Punky's wardrobe: a mauve vest over a red T-shirt over a blue long-sleeve shirt, jeans with one leg rolled up and another with a kerchief tied to it at the knee, a red shoe on her right foot and a yellow shoe on her left. 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.
  • Ruptured Appendix: The episode "Ouch" has Punky suffering from appendicitis. The thought of being operated on frightens her to tears, and she hides out in a hospital closet. Betty finds her and persuades her to have the operation done.
  • Salt and Pepper: Punky and Cherie, especially during the last two seasons.
  • Sink-or-Swim Fatherhood: Crochety photographer Henry Warnimont discovered Punky Brewster living by herself in a vacant apartment (she was abandoned by her mother) and initially planned to take her to Fenster Hall orphanage. That is, until Punky warmed his heart. It didn't take long for Henry to be able to swim as her new dad.
  • Spoiled Brat: Margaux.
  • Spot the Imposter: Punky disguising herself as Margaux in the five-part story arc "Changes."
  • Talking Animal: Pretty much averted, but zig-zagged 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.
  • Tears of Fear: Punky cries tears of fear in the episode "Ouch" when she learns the stabbing pain in her stomach is her appendix and she'll need an operation for it.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Punky and Margaux.
  • Tomboyish Voice: Punky.
  • Town Girls: Tomboy Punky (Butch) and Girly Girl Margaux (Femme), with Cherie in-between (Neither).
  • Trash the Set: "Changes", at the end of season 2, has Henry's photographic studio destroyed in a fire.
  • Trying Not to Cry: Punky tries not to cry when she says goodbye to Allen in "Divorce, Anderson Style". When Allen leaves, Punky loses it.
  • Tuckerization:
    • 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".
    • Brandon was the name of Punky's dog. Since this show was Mr. Tartikoff's pet project, it's only fitting that the pet is named after him.
    • 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.
  • Unexpectedly Dark Episode: The two-parter "The Perils of Punky" in which the gang goes in vacation in a lake and Punky tells her friends a ghost story about an evil spirit haunting the lake. Which includes all her friends being killed and their image used to taunt Punky, à la The Thing (1982). In a children's show.
  • The Unseen: Punky's mother never appears on the show, but the two-part Christmas episode strongly hints that Punky has received a gift from her. Punky believes it, anyway.
  • Valentine's Day Episodes: Punky disavows Valentine's Day then dreams she is an elderly spinster.
  • Valentine's Day Vitriol: In "My Aged Valentine", tomboy Punky refuses to participate in Valentine's Day and punches a boy in her class who tries to kiss her.
  • Very Special Episode:
    • "Cherie Lifesaver": Punky learns CPR, which she gets to put to the test on Cherie after she gets trapped inside an old fridge during a hide-and-seek game.
    • "Accidents Happen": Punky's dreams of becoming an astronaut are crushed after witnessing the real-life Space Shuttle Challenger disaster. Her teacher then arranges a meeting with Buzz Aldrin, who encourages Punky not to give up on her dreams.
    • "Unhooking Henry": Henry becomes addicted to medication. Typically for a VSE, the problem is resolved in a single episode and never mentioned again.
    • "The Reading Game" deals with illiteracy; Cherie's cousin Paula can't read, and has been hiding it, despite being in seventh grade. However, she learns the importance of reading when she is left alone with her younger brother Bobby, he ends up drinking fabric softener, and she can't read the warning label when instructed to by the 911 operator. Only when Punky and Cherie return do they use reading and solve the problem.
  • Wedding Finale: The final episode of the series revolves around a wedding staged for Punky's dog Brandon and a neighbor's female golden retriever, Brenda.
  • Wham Line:
    • Punky's "It exploded." on the Space Shuttle episode.
    • When Cherie reveals that May 9th is "The day my parents died!"
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Eddie Malvin leaves to fix a broken light early in season 1 and is never seen again.
  • 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.
  • You Are Grounded: In "Reading, Writing and Rock & Roll", Punky is grounded from going to the De Barge concert for failing to do a school assignment. Henry recruits the band to help Punky.
  • You Go, Girl!: In "Girls Will Be Boys", Punky gets into remote-control car racing, and fights to be allowed to take part in a competition, which she then wins.
  • Youkai: A few appear in "The Perils of Punky".
  • Youthful Freckles: Punky.
  • Zany Scheme: In the later two seasons, most episodes revolved around these. Though they are usually dreamed up by Punky, in season 3 Margaux comes up with a few as well.


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: