August 06, 2016


(NBC, September 14, 1985-December 6, 1986)

Ruby-Spears Productions, NBC Productions

Soleil Moon Frye – Penelope “Punky” Brewster
George Gaynes – Henry Warnimont
Ami Foster – Margaux Kramer
Cherie Johnson – Cherie Johnson
Casey Ellison – Allen Anderson
Frank Welker – Glomer, Brandon
Casey Kasem – NBC Bumper Announcer

            Penelope “Punky” Brewster (Soleil Moon Frye) was a unique young girl whose father walked out on her and mother abandoned her. She took residence in an empty apartment with her dog, Brandon, where she was eventually discovered by the building manager, photographer and curmudgeon Henry Warnimont (George Gaynes). Despite some personality conflicts and the best efforts of social services to put her in a “better” environment, she ended up becoming Henry’s adopted daughter. Punky’s friends included neighbor Cherie Johnson (niece of the series creator who used her own name) and her grandmother, Betty (Susie Garrett, who was actually her grandmother), geeky Allen Anderson (Casey Ellison), and stuck-up rich girl Margaux Kramer (Ami Foster).

            Punky Brewster was created by David W. Duclon with input from NBC’s programming chief Brandon Tartikoff (for whom the dog was named). Tartikoff’s involvement was what led to the lead character’s unique name: taken from a childhood crush named Peyton “Punky” Brewster. NBC secured the rights to use her name for the show and even hired her to do a cameo in an episode (credited as Peyton B. Rutledge, her married name). It was one of the first primetime shows geared towards children, an intended audience that Tartikoff hoped would allow them to compete against CBS60 Minutes on Sunday nights, and one of the few featuring a female lead. It would tackle the world from a kid’s perspective, dealing with issues real kids would face in their everyday lives.


Punky with Cherie, Allen, Glomer, Brandon and Margaux.

            The show ran for two seasons on NBC between 1984 and 1986 and seemed to be a hit with kids; with the production receiving up to 10,000 pieces of fan mail a week and a high demand for merchandise. Unfortunately, it didn’t perform as Tartikoff had hoped in the ratings and was cancelled by the end of the second season. The show was quickly revived for syndication by Columbia Pictures Television through their Coca-Cola Telecommunications division and the third season went into production; although it wasn’t broadcast until 1987. The series came to a final end in 1988, just in time for the Writers Guild of America strike. While NBC still had the rights, they sought to spin Punky off into two programs. The first was Fenster Hall, named after the foster home where Punky was placed at the end of the first season, which never took off. The second was It’s Punky Brewster (“It’s” was never seen in the actual title), an animated spin-off airing on Saturday mornings.

Poor Henry was kept in the dark.

            It’s Punky Brewster featured the entire Punky cast reprising their roles with the exception of Garrett and T.K. Carter as Mike Fulton, a resident-turned-administrator at Fenster Hall (and would-be star of the unproduced series). They were joined by a new character: Glomer (Frank Welker). Glomer was a magical being from Chaundoon, a city at the end of the rainbow. Glomer used his powers to transport the kids to various places, gave Brandon the ability to talk (courtesy of Welker), transformed the kids into statues or shrank them, and sometimes just caused general chaos that he’d have to straighten out. Glomer was added as a way to keep kids interested in the show, as well as have the characters perpetually thrown in adventures befitting Saturday mornings. 

Magical shenanigans.

            It’s Punky Brewster debuted on NBC on September 14, 1985 and was produced by Ruby-Spears Productions. Each episode was comprised of two 11-minute segments, and featured music by Haim Saban and Shuki Levy. The cartoon was picked up for a second season, but only the first three episodes contained two original segments. For the rest of the show’s run, a new segment was paired up with a rerun from the previous season. The series was written by Cliff Roberts, Sheryl Scarborough, Gary Greenfield, Diane Dixon, Kayte Kuch, Michael Chain, Jack Enyart, Elana Lesser, Cliff Ruby, Gene Ayres, Ted Field, Matt Uitz, Barbara Chain, Janis Diamond, Herb Engelhardt and Reed Robbins, with Lesser, Kuch, Ruby and Scarborough serving as story editors.

Punky: the doll!

            After NBC cancelled the show, it was used later in 1987 to replace their cancelled pre-teen show, 2 Hip 4 TV. In 1989, the series was included as a rotating feature along with DiC Entertainment’s Beverly Hills Teens to pad out DiC’s Maxie’s World syndication package. Among the collectibles made available for the show was a lunchbox by Thermos, a series of coloring books and a paper doll book by Golden Books, and a read-along book by Tele-Story.

Punky on VHS.

In 1985, various episodes were released on several VHS tapes by Celebrity Home Entertainment. Between 2004 and 2008, Shout! Factory released all four seasons of the live show. Included as special features were episodes of the animated series split between them. “The Shoe Must Go On” was the only episode missing as Shout! ran into rights issues with the licensed song “Axel F” by Harold Faltermeyer. However, in 2021 they released the complete series with the indication that it included all episodes of the cartoon. Cartoon Network’s Robot Chicken parodied the cartoon in two episodes with Frye returning to voice her character. Seth Green took over as Henry while Tom Kane filled in as Glomer.

In the wake of many pop-culture nostalgic revivals, NBCUniversal revisited the idea of Punky Brewster by greenlighting production on a new series in 2019 developed by Steve and Jim Armogida. Rather than a reboot, it was a continuation of the original focusing on an adult Punky (still Frye) who was now a divorced mother of two, Diego (Noah Cottrell) and Daniel (Oliver De Los Santos), working as a photographer (like Henry), and living once again in her childhood apartment, and still marching to the beat of her own drum. Cherie was still her best friend and now working at Fenster. Punky would also take in another abandoned resident of Fenster, Izzy (Quinn Copeland). Foster also reprised her role as Margaux for an episode. The series dropped all 10 episodes on February 25, 2021 on the streaming service Peacock. Unfortunately, the series failed to garner much in the way of ratings or attention compared to other Peacock offerings and was cancelled just a few months later.

Season 1:
“Punky to the Rescue / The Quartrsize Quaterback” (9/14/85) – Punky convinces Henry to take a photography job in a Florida swamp where they think he catches a sea monster. / Glomer gives Allen the skills of a professional football player.

“The Gold Rush / Phar Out Pharaoh” (9/21/85) – Glomer accidentally frees an evil leprechaun. / Glomer takes the kids to ancient Egypt to return a necklace Margaux has and she’s mistaken for a princess.

“Pretty Ugly / Glomer’s Story” (9/28/85) – Glomer changes Margaux’s face just before a party. / Punky recalls the day she met Glomer.

“Brandon the Dialogue Dog / Winning Isn’t Everything” (10/5/85) – Glomer allows Brandon to talk and he catches the attention of a magazine writer. / The kids scheme on how to win a TV in a contest.

“Punky Wise and Pound Foolish / Christmas in July” (10/12/85) – Brandon is locked in a pound after Punky spends his license money. / A trip to Santa’s workshop leads to an accident that causes it to snow around the world.

“Return to Chaundoon / A Small Mistake” (10/19/85) – Glomer takes Pinky to Chaundoon where they discover everyone asleep due to the theft of the town’s clock. / Glomer’s drink causes the kids to shrink.

“Halloween Howlers / The Perils of Punky” (10/26/85) – Glomer changes whoever doesn’t give him candy into a Jack-O-Lantern. / Glomer takes the kids into an adventure movie.

“Glomer Punks Out / Louvre Affair” (11/2/85) – Glomer’s musical act attracts the attention of a crooked record producer. / Glomer turns Henry into a statue of Julius Caesar, and when he’s declared a forgery Punky must save him before he’s destroyed.

“Growing Pain / Double Your Punky” (11/9/85) – Punky discovers that pepperoni pizza makes Glomer grow. / Glomer creates a Punky clone to keep him company and accidentally zaps the original back into the photograph he used.

“Spellbound / The Shoe Must Go On” (11/16/85) – Glomer zaps a bee and it gives people the ability to spell words. / The school diva wants the magical dancing shoes Glomer made Cherie.

“Switchin’ Places / How the Midwest Was Won” (11/23/85) – Allen switches bodies with Glomer to impress a girl. / Glomer takes the kids to 1803 Chicago where a fur poacher tries to prevent the city’s development.

“Any Wish Way You Can / The Bermuda Tangle” (11/30/85) – Glomer’s spell accidentally hits Margaux and she wishes she was a queen with everyone as her servants. / Glomer takes the kids to a tropical island and loses his powers after a coconut hits his head.

“Unidentified Flying Glomer / Fish Story” (12/7/85) – A pet groomer chases after Glomer. / Glomer turns Punky into a mermaid to help her land a part in the school play.

Season 2:
“Little Orphan Puny / Punky’s Millions” (9/13/86) – Punky is taken from home and put into a home where girls are used as slave labor in a candy factory. / Punky has to spend $1 million in a week so she and Henry can win a game show.

“Punky, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves / Punky the Heiress” (9/20/86) – Glomer brings the characters of Snow White to life. / Punky’s aunt and uncle use her in an embezzlement scheme.

“Fair Feathered Friend / Be My Glomley” (9/27/86) – Glomer gets jealous when Punky nurses a bird back to health. / A female glomley may help Glomer get back to Chaundoon.

“All in Henry’s Family” (10/4/86) – Henry takes Punky and Cherie to visit his eccentric sisters.

“Call Me Ms.” (10/11/86) – Glomer turns Punky into an adult.

“Punky P.I.” (10/18/86) – Punky decides to open a detective agency in school.

“Mississippi Mud” (10/25/86) – Glomer takes the kids to an old Mississippi riverboat.

“Punky’s Little Acre” (11/1/86) – Margaux visits Punky’s pen pal’s farm and creates chaos.

“Camp Confusion” (11/8/86) – Camp Tumbleweeds takes on Camp Towering Pines in an athletic competition.

“Bright Eyes” (11/15/86) – Cherie’s deaf friend wants to keep a lost puppy.

“Mother of the Year” (11/22/86) – Glomer creates a mother for Punky.

“Allen Who?” (11/29/86) – Allen wishes he was never born and Glomer grants it.

“Caught in the Act” (12/6/86) – Henry spots Glomer and Glomer gives him amnesia just before an important photography assignment.

Originally posted in 2016. Updated in 2022.

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