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Punky Brewster – Season One (A TV on DVD Review)

Updated: May 2, 2023

Punky Brewster

Season One 1984-1985 (Shout! Factory-2004)


When I was younger and Punky Brewster was on its first run, I didn't like this show. I found its star, the perky little moppet Soleil Moon Frye, rather annoying. However, in the years since, I have actually become a fan of Soleil's adult work as an actress, in guest starring roles on shows like The Wonder Years, Working and Friends and in her co-starring role on Sabrina the Teenage Witch. So, when Shout! Factory released the series on DVD, I decided to see if it would have a different effect on me after all these years. Watching Punky Brewster in the year 2004 is an odd experience. I still think it was basically a bad show; too cutesy, too obvious, and not all that well written. But I have to admit to kind of digging it. Punky Brewster is sort of like The Brady Bunch, even as you're watching it you know it isn't very good, but you still can't help but enjoy it on some light level.

What's Good About It?

First thing I have to say is that I totally underestimated Soleil Moon Frye as an actress. Yes, she was over-the-top in her precociously cute vivacity, but the surprising thing is that it wasn't her fault. She was just doing what she was told. Though there were way too many annoying Punky power moments on the show, watching her work now I realize that even then she was a quite personable actress, with terrific timing and charm, stuck in a show that let her down a bit by going for the easy laughs too often. Her co-star is veteran character actor George Gaynes, who was just coming off his triumphant supporting role in the Dustin Hoffman movie Tootsie (playing a character named Dr. Brewster... hmmm...) Gaynes is chewing scenery with crusty-but-lovable gusto here, but his histrionic acting becomes oddly fascinating. Then current references to Michael Sembello songs, Mr. T, Lyle Alzado, Cabbage Patch Kids, breakdancing and NBC head Brandon Tartikoff (who the show shamelessly named Punky's dog after) make the show a weird, but fun time capsule. Fading pop star Andy Gibb guest starred in two episodes, once as himself and once as a completely different character, Punky's piano teacher. The show also counts amongst its supporting actors the greatest über-nerd in Hollywood history, Eddie Deezen (Grease, Midnight Madness, WarGames).

What's Bad About It?

You can only watch a show with ironic detachment for so long. Eventually you have to get back to the stories and the writing. Here, Punky Brewster still disappoints pretty much, though I enjoyed it more than I remembered.

What's Missing?

Shout! Factory has done an amazing job of putting this package together, with bonus features including episodes from a long lost animated Punky series, featurettes and cast interviews. However, apparently, they couldn't get stars Soleil Moon Frye or George Gaynes to participate, leaving the viewers to have to settle for long forgotten supporting cast kids, the show's creator and one of the series' writers. final grade: C for the show. B for nostalgia.

You can't watch too many episodes of this one after the other, for fear of cavities and sugar shock. However, watched in small chunks, the show is peculiarly and compulsively entertaining.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2004 All rights reserved. Posted: June 1, 2004.


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