The title character was named after a childhood crush of then-NBC programming chief Brandon Tartikoff. The real-life Punky was tapped to play a teacher in one episode.
Punky Brewster (real first name Penelope), a warm, funny and bright orphan girl, was adopted by Chicago photographer Henry Warnimont (George Gaynes), an older bachelor who enjoyed the energy Punky's presence provided him. Punky's rambunctious, faithful dog Brandon was named after Tartikoff. Punky quickly became friends with Cherie Johnson (Cherie Johnson), an African-American girl who lived in Henry's building with her grandmother Betty Johnson (Susie Garrett). Her other friends were geeky Allen Anderson (Casey Ellison) and stuck-up rich girl Margeaux Kramer (Ami Foster).
Soleil Moon Frye stars as Punky Brewster in the hit 1980s television sitcom. Fred Gwynne auditioned to play Henry, but lost to George Gaynes. Gaynes later became well-known as the elderly, bumbling commandant in the Police Academy movies.
Probably one of the most memorable episodes was built around the 1986 Challenger disaster, in which Punky hears about the deaths and her dreams of being an astronaut are nearly quashed. In the end, however, her schoolteacher and Henry, along with guest star Buzz Aldrin, both tell her that she should still follow her dreams.
It's Punky Brewster!, an animated spin-off with the original cast, as well as a hairy bearded magical creature called Glomer, appeared on Saturday mornings from Ruby-Spears in the mid-1980s.
Seasons one and two are currently available on DVD in Region 1.
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