1 9 8 4 – 1 9 8 8 (USA)
How is it that a seven-year-old is able to start her own dog-grooming business or build her own treehouse? A little something called “Punky Power”. That combination of pluck, sass, and downright adorability made the charming and lovable
Punky Brewster, played by Soleil Moon Frye (sister of Voyagers! co-star Meeno Peluce), was braver than most adults.
The orphaned bundle of sunshine was adopted by lonely 60-year-old widower Henry Warnimont, who ended up learning a thing or two from Punky.
Punky (who turned her nose up at her real name, Penelope) was abandoned first by her father, and then by her mother who went into a Chicago shopping mall one day and never came back out.
The waif wandered the streets of Chicago and finally hid out in a vacant apartment with her puppy Brandon.
She was soon discovered by the conservative and stuffy building manager Henry, played by George Gaynes. Punky’s future neighbour and playmate Cherie Johnson was actually the first to find her, and the soon-to-be best friends bonded when Cherie brought Punky food.
When Henry found out, he sent Punky to an orphanage named Fenster Hall, but Punky quickly escaped. The dour, old photographer eventually gave in and became Punky’s legal guardian.
Quick-tempered but always forgiving, Henry was always scrambling to keep up with Punky.
From breaking his new video camera while making a Jane Fonda-inspired workout video, to getting arrested for stealing a Christmas present, Punky kept Henry on his arthritis-ridden toes.
Henry developed a soft spot for Punky, even searching through every dumpster in Chicago for Punky’s ratty old doll, which was accidentally thrown down the garbage chute.
And if there were any doubts that the old man’s heart was softened, Henry opened up a restaurant in the third season – named “Punky’s Place”.
Neighbours included the loud and nosy Mrs Betty Johnson (Cherie’s grandmother) – a nurse at Cook County Hospital – and Eddie, the quirky building handyman.
Punky’s most visible pals and fellow classmates were the snobbish very rich beauty queen Margaux Kramer (Ami Foster) and the sheepish Allen Anderson.
NBC Entertainment Executive Brandon Tartikoff (yes, the dog was named after him) christened the series in honour of his childhood crush.
The real Punky Brewster was tracked down and given royalties for the use of her name, and even made a guest appearance as one of the teachers at Punky’s school.
In the fall of 1985, NBC introduced a cartoon version of the show, which took Punky and pals on fantastical adventures courtesy of a hamster-looking magical being called Glomer.
Punky’s colourful patch-covered clothes, mismatched funky bedroom and endless adventures became an inspiration to many young girls, who imitated their young idol in hopes of siphoning off a little “Punky Power” of their own.
The show launched the “Just Say No” anti-drugs campaign, following an episode where older children offer Punky drugs.
When the Challenger shuttle exploded in January 1986 the executives at NBC knew a lot of children would be devastated by the loss of schoolteacher Christa McAuliffe, as the shuttle launch was shown in many schools. A script was immediately written in which Punky had to come to terms with what the shuttle explosion meant to her.
Penelope “Punky” Brewster
Soleil Moon Frye
Mrs Betty Johnson