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 (T.K. 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. 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 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. The animated series was produced throughout the run by Ruby-Spears alongside NBC.


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.

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.
  • An Aesop: Usually once per episode.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Advertisement:
  • And Starring: The second season intro had "and T.K. Carter as Mike".
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Boxing Lesson
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Catchphrase: "Holy Macanoly!"
    • Also "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 Special: Three, the most iconic being the "Yes Punky, There is a Santa Claus" two-parter from Season One.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Mike Fulton disappears after season 2.
  • Clip Show: "Remember When" (season three finale) and "Wedding Bells For Brandon" (season four and series finale).
  • CPR: Clean, Pretty, Reliable: The subject of one of many many Very Special Episodes.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Allen.
  • Clueless Aesop: The Chicklets!
  • Companion Cube: In early seasons, Punky's doll, My.
  • Cute Bruiser: Punky. As quoted by Allen, "She can knock your block off!"
  • Department of Child Disservices: Recurring attempts by Child Services bureaucrats to take Punky away from Henry and put her in an orphanage.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Henry. He and Betty are known for Snark-to-Snark Combat.
  • 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." Ends with rallies being held in St. Louis (with Cherie Johnson) and Atlanta (with Soleil Moon Frye). Also with season 3 episode "Unhooking Henry."
  • '80s Hair: Punky in seasons 3 and 4.
  • Hair Decorations: The smiling sun clips in Punky's pigtails. Also in the cartoon, the little bows in Margaux's hair.
  • First-Name Basis: Punky and her friends have this with Mike Fulton.
  • Genki Girl: Punky.
  • Girlish Pigtails: Provides the trope image.
  • Halloween Episode / Valentine's Day Episode: Had episode of both holidays.
  • Happily Adopted: Punky.
  • Heartwarming Orphan: Punky
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Margaux.
  • Little Miss Snarker: Cherie in seasons 3 and 4.
  • Lovable Alpha Bitch : Margaux (Who else?).
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The One Guy: Henry. Subverted in the second season when T.K. Carter joined the cast as Mike Fulton, Punky's teacher. Also, among the rgular 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.
  • 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.
  • Plucky Girl: Punky.
  • 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.
  • 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. 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.
  • 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".
    • 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.
    • 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.
  • Sick Episode: In "Ouch," Punky comes down with appendicitis. The idea of being operated on frightens her to tears.
  • 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.
  • Town Girls: Tomboy Punky (Butch) and Girly Girl Margaux (Femme), with Cherie in-between (Neither).
  • 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.
  • 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 exploded." on the Space Shuttle episode.
    • Also 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 Go, Girl!: "PUNKY POWEEEER!!!"
  • Youkai: A few appear in "The Perils of 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.

The cartoon contains examples of:

  • Ascended Extra: Both Allen and Margaux had more prominence here than in the main live action program.
  • Animated Adaptation: It's Punky Brewster
    • 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.
      • In fact, the last shot of the intro to the primetime show's second season features the Ruby/Spears-animated Punky, Henry, and Brandon on TV.
    • 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 season one episodes were cel-on-film animation. Season two's new episodes, save for three, were composited by computer.
  • Body Double: Punky dresses up as Margaux in the 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: Happens to Punky in the episode "Punky the Heiress," where she believes she's going to see her missing mother. She is devastated when she realizes she was used by her aunt and uncle to embezzle an inheritance.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Punky winks to us at the end of the episode "The Bermuda Tangle."
  • Butt-Monkey: Allen. Probably because he's the only male of the four main kids in the show.
  • Demoted to Extra: Henry is seen less often than in the main live action program.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: This, from the animated episode "Punky To The Rescue," where Margaux is posed as bait for a so-called swamp monster which they hear coming:
    Punky: Smile! Look pretty!
    Margaux: Don't be redundant!
  • Fairy Companion / Sidekick Ex Machina: Glomer in the Animated Adaptation, infamously.
  • Great Gazoo: Glomer. He's a little more...out there than most examples. The joke? He's from a Brigadoon Expy.
  • Halloween Episode / Valentine's Day Episode: Had episodes of both holidays ("Halloween Howlers" and "Be My Glomley").
  • It's a Wonderful Plot: Pastiched in the episode "Allen Who?"
  • Jerkass: The host of the show "Can You Spend It?" (episode Punky's Millions), who celebrated Punky losing the game.
  • Magic Skirt: Subverted in the 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 the 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.
  • Missing Mom: In the 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.
  • The One Guy: Of the regular kids, this would be Allen in the cartoon.
  • Panty Shot: Margaux in two blink-and-you'll miss it instances ("Any Wish Way You Can" and "Louvre Affair").
  • Promotion to Parent: Could apply to Punky with Glomer. The episode "Return To Chaundoon" has a scene where Punky plants a goodnight kiss on Glomer's forehead.
  • Real Girls Don't Wear Dresses: Much like the live action show, Punky doesn't wear skirts often. The rare times that she did was when she impersonated Margaux at a fancy party, when her aunt and uncle used her to embezzle an inheritance, and going incognito to solve a crime at school.
  • Spot the Imposter: The 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 episode "Pretty Ugly."
  • Talking Animal: Pretty much averted, but subverted in the episode "Brandon The Dialogue Dog," Glomer gives Punky's dog Brandon the gift of gab. Also in "Punky's Half Acre," Glomer makes the barnyard animals at the farm of Punky's pen pal talk as they air their grievances about how Margaux treats them.
  • Unwilling Suspension: Happens to Punky twice ("Growing Pain" and "The Bermuda Tangle"), hung upside down by one foot each time.
  • Whole Plot Reference: The episode "Punky's Millions" is basically Brewster's Millions with the millions being a game show prize instead of an Unexpected Inheritance.
  • Wink "Ding!": When Punky and Allen wink to each other at the end of "How The Midwest Was Won."

Alternative Title(s): Its Punky Brewster


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: