I remember Punky Brewster, this was another gem that came under the helm of former NBC executive Brandon Tarkitkoff. I'm a guy and I used to watch it religiously as a kid during it's first few years on NBC. No I'm not ashamed to admit that I liked this goofy girl targeted show, hey I was just a little kid myself. Punky Brewster first aired in 1984 (that year of the 80's were everything seemed to happen), regularly clocking in on every Sunday night. And not only did I have a crush on both Solei Moon Frye and Cherie Johnson, but I loved their bright primary color schemed clothes and the non-condescending (to children), informative story lines. The series also perfectly captured the mood and feel of the mid 1980's. You can watch these early episodes and tell it was from that 1984 and 1985 time period. When the father Henry tries to get Punky to go to sleep and tells her something along the lines of, "but I let you stay up to watch Silver Spoons AND Knight Rider!", it will bring warm feelings and a smile to the face of everyone who had a childhood in the 80's. Apparently there was a real Punky Brewster, a childhood friend of Brandon Tartikoff's that made a guest appearance in one episode. Punky's dog was even named "Brandon", which was an in-joke that I somehow understood even as a child.
There was some stupidity here and there, such as one episode where Henry asked Punky's friend Allen for advice on performing CPR on a girl in critical condition. Henry's an adult, so why is he consulting a 7 year old boy for life saving medical advice? Even if he didn't know CPR himself, he could get help instead of relying on a small child. I wouldn't think about stuff like this as a kid, but today it seems more absurd. Like cartoons of the era, the series tried to empower children and give them more weight and wisdom then they would usually have in the real world.
But I have to say I did not like the later years of Punky. Once the show left NBC and went into cheapo syndication, it lost a lot of the magic and charm. The series no longer seemed to be about grumpy old Henry (played wonderfully by George 'Police Academy' Gaynes), and both his and Punky's adjustments to a non-traditional family. Instead all became about Punky, Punky, Punky. When it was on NBC, Punky Brewster was a show that could be watched by most people and of both genders. But the late 80's years had Solei Moon Frye inevitably getting older and lose a lot of her cuteness/innocence. The quality of writing seemed to go down when it was off NBC as well. Punky and the other girls turned into mean spirited, gossiping, boy crazy pre-teens. The kid who played Allen (the only recurring male child) had no room in such a show and was subsequently booted. I really liked Allen too, because I remember that kid being my male eyes into world of Punky.
The show degraded into a primarily chick targeted TV show, which resulted in a heavy loss of it's male audience as well as whatever adult audience it had. I guess they couldn't avoid Solei Moon Frye and the other girls getting older, but I wish more of an attempt was made to keep the series a bit more balanced with the Henry storyline. Still, for anyone that spent most or all their childhood years in the 1980's, Punky Brewster is an important part of pop culture lore for us. High school kids in the 80's had "The Breakfast Club" and "Fast Times at Ridgemont High", but elementary school aged children had Punky Power.
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