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Punky Brewster
Punky Brewster.jpg
Punky Brewster title card
Format Sitcom
Created by David W. Duclon
Starring Soleil Moon Frye
George Gaynes
Susie Garrett
Cherie Johnson
T. K. Carter
Ami Foster
Casey Ellison
Brandon
Country of origin  United States
No. of seasons 4
No. of episodes 88 (44 NBC; 44 syndicated) (List of episodes)
Production
Executive producer(s) David W. Duclon
Producer(s) Rick Hawkins
Liz Sage
Running time approx. 0:24 per episode (NBC); approx. 0:22 per episode (syndicated)
Production company(s) Lightkeeper Productions
NBC Productions (1984-1986)
Columbia Pictures Television (1987-1988)
Distributor Columbia Pictures Television (1987-1988)
Broadcast
Original channel NBC (1984-1986)
Syndicated (1987-1988)
Original run September 16, 1984 – May 27, 1988

Punky Brewster is an American sitcom about a girl named Punky Brewster (Soleil Moon Frye) being raised by her foster parent (George Gaynes). The show ran on NBC from September 16, 1984 to September 7, 1986 and again in first-run syndication from September 26, 1986 to May 27, 1988.

Contents

Overview

NBC run

Penelope "Punky" Brewster (played by Soleil Moon Frye) is a warm, funny and bright girl, abandoned by her mother. Her father walked out on her family, then her mother abandoned her at a Chicago shopping center, leaving Punky alone with her only companion, her faithful dog Brandon. Afterwards, Punky discovered a vacant apartment in a local building.[1]

The building was managed by photographer Henry Warnimont (George Gaynes), an old and grumpy widower. Punky quickly became friends with Cherie Johnson (Cherie Johnson), a young girl who lived upstairs in Henry's building with her grandmother, Betty Johnson (Susie Garrett), who worked as an RN at the local Cook County Hospital. Once Henry discovers Punky in the empty apartment across from his, he hears her story.[1] The relationship between the two blossoms, despite red tape from social workers, who ultimately rally to Henry's side. As their day in court approached, Punky was forced by the state to stay at Fenster Hall, a shelter for orphaned and abandoned children, which made her realize all the more how close she had grown to Henry. Finally, their day arrived, and the court approved Henry to become Punky's foster father.

Punky's other friends are geeky Allen Anderson (Casey Ellison) and stuck-up rich girl Margaux Kramer (Ami Foster). During the NBC run, Punky's teachers were regularly seen; in the first season, cheerful Mrs. Morton (Dody Goodman) and in the second season, hip Mike Fulton (T.K. Carter). Mike formed a close relationship with Punky and her friends, and was also portrayed as a social crusader of sorts. Also in the first season, Margaux's socialite mother, played by Loyita Chapel, appeared on a recurring basis, and there was a kooky maintenance man in the Warnimont building named Eddie Malvin (Eddie Deezen) who only showed up in the first several episodes.

Beginning in 1984, NBC aired the sitcom on Sundays. Because the show had many young viewers and was scheduled after football games (which tended to run overtime), six fifteen-minute episodes were produced. This was done rather than joining a full-length episode in progress, because that would disappoint children watching the program. Also, NBC felt that showing Punky Brewster later tended to put them up at a time parents may have considered too late for their children.

Many memorable episodes and storylines took place during the second season, which built up the show's popularity among young viewers. The most crucial development of the second season began on the February 2, 1986 episode, the first installment of a five-part storyline. In the five-part episode "Changes," Henry's downtown photography studio was destroyed in a fire, and it seemed for a time that he would not be able to recover from its aftermath and resume his career. As a result of his stress, Henry ended up hospitalized for a bleeding ulcer. During this time, Betty and Cherie made arrangements for Punky to stay with them until Henry recovered. Unfortunately, everyone's stability was halted when bureaucratic social worker Simon P. Chillings (guest star Timothy Stack) showed up, found out about Henry's condition and ultimately deemed the worst - not only did he find the Johnsons unsuitable to care for Punky in the meantime, but he felt that Henry was unfit to be her legal guardian in the long term, due to his health, age, and uncertain financial future. Chillings made Punky a ward of the state yet again, and she returned to Fenster Hall. Despite Punky's efforts to escape from Fenster, a trick pulled by Margaux in which she dressed up and pretended to be Punky, and advocacy from Mike Fulton, Chillings ended up placing Punky with a new foster family, the fabulously wealthy Jules and Tiffany Buckworth (Robert Casper and Joan Welles). Things gradually returned to normal though, as Henry was back on his feet following surgery, opened up a glitzy new studio at the local mall and therefore was able to reunite with Punky. At the conclusion of the story arc, Henry officially adopted Punky.

The final episode of the second season was notable for centering around the very recent, real-life Challenger Space Shuttle tragedy. Punky and her friends watched the live coverage of the shuttle launch in Mike Fulton's class, and after the explosion occurred, Punky is traumatized and finds her dreams to become an astronaut are crushed, until she is visited by special guest star Buzz Aldrin. Although the episode received high ratings, NBC would, in the following weeks, decide to cancel the show.

First-run syndication run

By the syndicated run, however, the show had clearly started to mature in more ways than one. Many more of Punky and Cherie's friends were seen (although most only made a handful of guest appearances each), with Margaux ever more becoming their comic foil and source of friction. Early in the third season, Allen moved away to Kansas with his mother, following his parents' divorce. As Punky herself embarked on junior high, her avant-garde day-glo and multicolored outfits, along with her pigtails, segued into more traditional teenage styles, and her declaration of, and reliance on "Punky Power!" gave way to the realization that intelligence, common sense and a strong will can get one out of any problem. More of her dalliances with boys entered the stories, with the ones she chased and those that tried to pursue her. Punky's spunk and vivacious attitude toward life did remain though, thanks in part to the sunshine brought in by the most important man in her life, Henry.

Henry's photography studio at the mall continued to see much success, so much that by the end of the third season he received an offer from the magnate of Glossy's, a photo studio franchise, for a $100,000 buyout of Warnimont's which also included the offer of Henry becoming manager of the Glossy's location. Henry accepted, but soon found that his creativity and business style was not being appreciated by his new employers. He quit Glossy's, but then decided to give into Punky's and Cherie's dream to run their own teen hangout/burger establishment, and invested into another mall property which ended up being splashed with as much color and originality as Punky's bedroom. All involved, which even included Betty and Margaux, unanimously decided on christening it "Punky's Place". Into season four, much of the action continued to take place at the mall, with Henry, Punky and her friends' efforts to keep their new restaurant afloat and the many teenage misadventures which passed through at Punky's Place.

First-run syndication scheduling & series finale

While the show was in production throughout the 1986-87 season, it did not return to the air via first-run syndication until October 30, 1987. Beginning on that premiere date, Punky was packaged such that new episodes would air once every weekday (usually late in the afternoon on local stations). The entire third season (1986-87) aired in the five-days-a-week format through December 7, 1987. The following Monday, reruns of the third season took over on weekdays, while the episodes shot during the 1987-88 season were completing. On April 27, 1988, new episodes resumed for the fourth season, and ran every weekday for exactly a month until the series finale aired on Friday, May 27, 1988. The final episode, "Wedding Bells for Brandon", had Brandon fall in love with Brenda, a golden retriever who belonged to one of Henry and Punky's neighbors. Their whirlwind romance culminated in a cute wedding ceremony in the courtyard, which was mostly attended by other neighborhood canines.

Production companies

The show was produced by Lightkeeper Productions and NBC Productions during the network run. After two seasons, NBC felt that Punky Brewster and its principal Sunday night stablemate, the four-year-old Silver Spoons, could not compete as strongly as they hoped against CBS' juggernaut 60 Minutes, and canceled both programs. Like many cult-favorite sitcoms of the time, Punky Brewster was revived for first-run syndication (as was Silver Spoons). Production on Punky went undelayed, and its third season began shooting on schedule. NBC could not co-produce the episodes due to then-existing FCC regulations regarding network involvement in syndicated TV programming. Thus, they made a syndication deal with Coca-Cola Telecommunications to co-produce two more seasons of episodes, plus US syndication rights to the NBC-era episodes. Although Coca-Cola held onto the deal during the next two seasons of Punky Brewster, production was moved over to Warner Bros. in the second syndicated season, whereupon they became a co-producer with Coca-Cola.

Theme song

The theme song for Punky Brewster is "Every Time I Turn Around", written by Gary Portnoy and Judy Hart Angelo and sung by Portnoy.

Origin of the name

"Punky Brewster" was the name given to the series by NBC Programming Chief Brandon Tartikoff. He remembered a girl he had known in his own childhood whose actual name was "Punky" (a nickname) Brewster. Before the series aired he had NBC lawyers track her down (actual name, Peyton Brewster) and secure her permission to use her name for the lead character. NBC hired her to do a cameo in one episode as a teacher at Punky's school (in the opening scene of the episode titled "The Search", aired November 10, 1985) so that both the real and fictional Punky Brewster could be on screen at the same time. She is credited at the end of the episode by her married name, Peyton B. Rutledge.

Cast

Clockwise from bottom-right: Frye, Brandon, Johnson, Garrett, Gaynes, Ellison and Foster (center)

Episodes

The series ran for four seasons from 1984-1988 with 22 episodes in each season.

DVD releases

All four seasons have been released on DVD in Region 1 by Shout! Factory, as well as separate discs that consist of six to eight episodes of the series, for those that do not wish to pay for full season sets. All season releases also contain episodes of the spin-off cartoon, It's Punky Brewster.

DVD Name Ep# Release Date
Season One 22 June 1, 2004
Season Two 22 February 8, 2005
Season Three 22 July 25, 2006
Season Four 22 February 26, 2008

Spin-offs

Fenster Hall

The final episode in Season 1 titled "Fenster Hall" (aired March 31, 1985) was a failed attempt to create a spin-off of Punky Brewster. It was originally a one hour episode, but was cut into two shows for syndication. This crossover episode marked the debut of Mike Fulton; T.K. Carter was the intended star of the Fenster Hall spin-off. Mike's history as a longtime resident of Fenster was explained, since he had been an orphan from birth and had been shuffled around to many foster homes before permanently staying at Fenster from the time he was seven. Now as the chief boys' councelor, Mike was saddled with helping new, tough street kid T.C. Finestra (Billy Lombardo) fit in with his group of regular charges, after an incident in which T.C. broke into and stole from the bedroom of Punky Brewster. Punky had a confrontation with T.C. after following him to a shady lair kept by street thug Blade (James LeGros), who had taken T.C. under his wing and was teaching him how to rob. It was there in which Punky learned of T.C.'s situation, and brought him home to Henry before it was decided that he would be better off at Fenster.

The primary focus of the episode was on Mike and T.C.'s learning to trust and look out for each other, while many other denizens of Fenster were introduced who would have also comprised the cast of the spin-off. Mike's boss was Rita J. Sanchez (Rosana DeSoto), and his other boys, who he treated as if they were his own sons, were aspiring heavyweight boxer Lester "Sugar" Thompson (Martin Davis), sweet little Dash (Benji Gregory), nerdy intellectual Lyle (Gabriel Damon), who supposedly did Mike's tax forms for him; and huge, hulking Conan (B.J. Barie). When Fenster Hall did not transpire as a regular series by the time of NBC's 1985-86 upfronts, T.K. Carter then continued his role as Mike Fulton on Punky Brewster the following season, now serving as Punky's fourth grade teacher in addition to his work at Fenster. This was perhaps due to Carter's contract with the producers, in addition to the fact that his portrayal of Fulton received positive reception with test audiences and regular ones alike when the Fenster Hall pilot was screened.

It's Punky Brewster

Punky Brewster and Glomer from the cartoon series It's Punky Brewster!

It's Punky Brewster!, an animated spin-off with the original cast appeared on NBC on Saturday mornings. The cartoon was produced by Ruby-Spears. It ran from September 14, 1985 to December 6, 1986, for a total of 26 episodes. However, through reruns, it remained in the regular Saturday-morning lineup through the 1988-89 season. The series was later syndicated by Claster Television as part of a package featuring the DIC series Maxie's World (the "lead" program), and Beverly Hills Teens.

This series included the addition of one new animal character known as Glomer (voiced by Frank Welker); a creature known as a "leprechaun gopher" that came from a world at the end of the rainbow. Glomer had various magical powers and one of them was the ability to transport Punky and her friends, Margaux, Cherie, and Allen, and at times her beloved dog, Brandon, to any part of the Earth instantly. Some episodes included Glomer having to correct his own mistakes when he plays around with magic and transforms Henry into a statue of Julius Caesar, or where Punky figures she can ask Santa Claus for anything. (Santa is on vacation at the time, and wearing an aloha shirt, and also knows Glomer.) Through an accident, Punky accidentally makes Christmas come early (in July). Punky then decides not to ask Santa for anything, realizing how hard he works to give gifts to kids the world over.

See also

References

External links








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