For this week’s “Things That Bring Back Memories” post, I am going to pick something in the topic of “TELEVISION” and go with “Punky Brewster“. This television show, which aired on NBC, started in 1984, and was over in 1986. I always loved Punky – she was a tomboy like I was and didn’t want to fit in with the norm. Whatever was in style, was not her style – that was totally me!! 🙂
I thought it was great that they talked about fostering on TV. Back then, you didn’t hear much about it. Also, having her become friends with the girl upstairs and her grandma, was also a great thing to watch. It let people know that it doesn’t matter what you look like, what race you are – or anything like that. True friends are true friends. For those of you, who are either too young, or just don’t remember it, here’s a video of the intro to one of the “Punky Brewster” shows:
So, did you ever watch this show when you were younger? or have you seen it on TV later in life? Let me know what you thought of it, and if you have any memories of it in your life!
More Info on the Show:
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 March 9, 1986, and again in first-run syndication from October 30, 1987 to May 27, 1988.
Punky Brewster spawned an animated spin-off It’s Punky Brewster. The series featured the original cast voicing their respective characters. The cartoon was produced by Ruby-Spears, and aired on NBC from September 14, 1985 to December 6, 1986.
Penelope “Punky” Brewster (Soleil Moon Frye) is a warm, funny and bright child. Her father walked out on her family, then her mother abandoned her at a Chicago shopping center, leaving Punky alone with her dog Brandon. Afterwards, Punky discovered a vacant apartment in a local building.
The building is managed by photographer Henry Warnimont (George Gaynes), an elderly widower who is something of a grouch. Punky quickly became friends with Cherie Johnson (played by Cherie Johnson, the niece of series creator David W. Duclon), 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. Henry discovers Punky in the empty apartment across from his, and hears her story.
The relationship between the two blossoms, despite red tape from social workers (who ultimately rally to Henry’s side). As their day in court approaches, the state forces Punky to stay at Fenster Hall, a shelter for orphaned and abandoned children, which makes her realize how close she has grown to Henry. Finally, their day arrives, and the court approves Henry to become Punky’s foster dad. Later on, Henry legally adopts her.
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, as did 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 long), six fifteen-minute episodes were produced. This was done rather than joining a full-length episode in progress, so as not to disappoint children watching the program.
About The Stars:
Soleil Moon Frye (Penelope “Punky” Brewster) was born August 6, 1976. She is an American actress, director and screenwriter. She began her career as a child actor at the age of 2. When she was 7 years old, Frye won the role of Penelope “Punky” Brewster in the sitcom Punky Brewster. The series, which debuted on NBC in September 1984, earned consistently low ratings but the Punky character was a hit with young children. After NBC canceled the series, it was picked up for the syndication market where it aired for an additional two seasons ending in 1988. After the series ended, Frye continued her career in guest spots on television and supporting roles in films. She attended The New School during the late 1990s, and directed her first film, Wild Horses in 1998. In 2000, she joined the cast of Sabrina, the Teenage Witch as Roxie King, Sabrina Spellman’s (Melissa Joan Hart) roommate and close friend. Frye remained with the series until its end in April 2003. She has since continued her acting career working mainly as a voice actor. Frye also voiced Aseefa in the animated series Planet Sheen. In 1998, Frye married producer Jason Goldberg, with whom she has three children. She has since opened an organic specialty clothing shop for children, The Little Seed, in Los Angeles. She also hosts a blog and web series which focus on child rearing and women’s issues. In 2011, Frye released her first book Happy Chaos: From Punky to Parenting and My Perfectly Imperfect Adventures in Between. Frye is currently the host of Home Made Simple on the Oprah Winfrey Network.
George Gaynes (Henry Warnimont) was born in 1917 in Helsinki, the son of Iya Grigorievna De Gay (later known as Lady Iya Abdy), a Russian artist, and Gerrit Jongejans, a Dutch businessman. His uncle was actor Gregory Gaye. A United States citizen for most of his life, Gaynes rapidly built a reputation as a Broadway musical comedy performer in the 1940’s and 1950’s (his best-known appearance was in Wonderful Town, the musical version of My Sister Eileen). He had a career on the opera stages of Italy and France before World War II and in the US after the war. He alternated between stage musicals and both comic and dramatic plays, including his role as Bob Baker in the original production of Wonderful Town (1953), Jupiter in the Cole Porter musical Out of This World, Gilbert and Sullivan operettas and as Henry Higgins in the 1964 US tour of My Fair Lady. In television, Gaynes played the role of Henry Warnimont, the eventual foster father for Punky Brewster in the eponymous series. (He also provided the voice for Henry in the animated Ruby-Spears version of the show.) Behind the camera, he directed the very last episode of WKRP in Cincinnati. Gaynes has been married to Canadian-born American stage and television actress and dancer Allyn Ann McLerie since December 20, 1953; they had two children, Matthew (Matt) and Iya. After early teenage experimentation with marijuana, Matthew was sent to the Catalina Island School; there he learned ocean kayaking, and his life changed completely. He grew to be one of the most respected kayakers of his generation; he was shortlisted for the Olympic team the year that President Jimmy Carter boycotted the Olympics after the Russians invaded Afghanistan. In a 2011 interview, he stated that he had an “easy”, “open” and “cordial” relationship with his Punky Brewster co-star Soleil Moon Frye, but added that they never had any relationship outside of their work. He also added that the series’ dog, “Brandon the Wonder Dog ” was named after the NBC executive Brandon Tartikoff.
Susie Garrett (Betty Johnson) was born on December 29, 1929, and passed away on May 24, 2002. She was an American actress of theater and television, jazz vocalist, and acting teacher. She is best known for playing Betty Johnson on the TV series Punky Brewster. Garrett had an associate’s degree in psychology from Shaw College at Detroit. She was the older sister of Marla Gibbs. Together, they co-founded the Crossroads Art Academy acting school in Los Angeles. Born in Detroit, Michigan in 1929, she sang jazz at clubs in the city. She starred in such plays as Dark of the Moon and Shakin’ the Mess Out of Misery, and had a small part in the 1989 film Wicked Stepmother. Aside from Punky Brewster, she has guest starred on The Twilight Zone, My Three Sons, and her sister’s Marla Gibbs TV series The Jeffersons and 227.
Cherie Johnson (as Cherie Johnson) was born November 21, 1975 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She is an American actress, author, columnist, executive producer, producer, and writer. She is of African American and Puerto Rican descent. Johnson first rose to fame, at age six, when she appeared on Punky Brewster (1984) as the fictional character, “Cherie”, and the show aired from 1984-1988 in first-run syndication on NBC (National Broadcasting Corporation). “Punky Brewster” later expanded into a cartoon series titled Punky Brewster (1985), which she contributed her voice for “Little Cherie” and it aired from 1985-1987 on NBC. One of her most recognized acting roles is on Family Matters (1989), where she co-starred as the character, “Maxine”, and the show aired from 1989-1997 on ABC (American Broadcasting Corporation) and on CBS (Columbia Broadcasting System) from 1997-1998. With 215 episodes, “Family Matters” is the third longest-running U.S. sitcom with a predominantly African-American cast. Johnson currently writes columns in publications including Dimez Magazine and Glam Couture Magazine. She has co-written, written, and self-published books, including “Around the World Twice”, “Two Different Walks of Life”, and “Peaches & Cream”. Johnson has been nominated and won several awards, including the Young Artist Award, Award of Excellence by the National Association of Youth in Entertainment, Opulece Humanitarian Award, and the Readers Choice Award by African American on The Move Book Club.
Did You Know?
Melissa Joan Hart was one who originally auditioned for the part of Punky Brewster.
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, and showing it later tended to put them up at a time parents may have considered too late for their children.
Fred Gwynne was originally to play Henry but backed out when, in an audition for the role of Henry P. Warnimont, He was identified as Herman Munster, which was his role on The Munsters (1964).
Cherie Johnson was the niece of the show’s creator and producer, David W. Duclon, who named the character for her. Nevertheless, she auditioned for the role like everyone else and was picked by the network to play the role.
During the second season, several of the interiors of the set were altered. The beige couch from the first season was replaced with a blue plaid couch. The bathroom and the hallway were altered, and the front door of Henry’s apartment was changed as well.
Although not officially an adaptation, Punky Brewster contains many story elements in common with the novel Silas Marner, in which a miserly old hermit whose only friend is an elderly woman adopts a precocious young girl who was abandoned by her parents.
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