Every Time I Turn Around: Revisiting Punky Brewster

The thought of a child’s parents just up and leaving is awful, but that idea spawned one of the best sitcoms of the 1980’s. “Punky Brewster” was so popular that it quickly spawned an animated spin-off and ran in syndication throughout the late ’80s.

Let’s take a look back at some cool facts about the show, and also see what the cast has been up to since it ended.

Punky Was a Real Person

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The character of Punky Brewster wasn’t just a clever idea by the team behind the show, they gained inspiration from a real person. NBC President Brandon Tartikoff named the character after a crush he had as a child. Of course, the real Punky gave her blessing for a character to be named after her.

The Show Was Actually Fairly Dark

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While NBC was originally interested in a lighthearted children’s show in this slot, that is ultimately not what they got. After researching topical issues, the team decided the parents of Punky would be deadbeats and the show would sometimes deal with some grim material.

Sued for $80 Million by the Production Company

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That’s right, when the actress who played Punky was only 10 years old, she was sued by Columbia Pictures for a massive $80 million. This followed her refusal to report for work on the show in 1986. As it turned out, once the show left NBC and went on to syndication, she had no obligation to go, so her money was safe.

Some of the Episodes Were Only 15 Minutes

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For the first time in television since the 1960s, some episodes of Punky Brewster were actually cut down to only 15 minutes. The reasoning for this is that Brewster often came on after NFL games and right before NBC’s hit “Knight Rider.” They would often shorten the episodes to make sure none of “Knight Rider” would be missed if the games went on a tad late. Thanks, David Hasselhoff!

Punky’s Cool Teacher Turned into a Car Thief

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During the show, T.K Carter played Punky’s “cool” teacher, but later in life, Carter wasn’t so cool. Only a few years after the show ended, Carter was arrested for stealing a car from a lady and punching her in the stomach before leading police on a chase.

The Show Addressed the Challenger Explosion

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As mentioned earlier, despite the show’s main character being a young girl, the show actually tackled some serious issues. One of which being their addressing of the Challenger explosion. After the tragic explosion happened (and with the help of psychologists) they made an episode where Punky and her classmates watch it and then struggled to cope with their feelings.

Punky is Now a Mom

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Despite most of the fans of this show remembering her as barely older than a toddler, the show was filmed over 30 years ago. In that time, not only has Soleil Moon Frye become a mother, but she has had a total of four kids with her husband.

Punky Has Been in Some Big Roles Since the Show

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Since her breakout role, Soleil Moon Frye has been in a number of high-profile shows. While she has never been able to break away from Punky as her most famous role, she isn’t a one trick pony. Punky has appeared in ”Sabrina the Teenage Witch,” “The Proud Family” as well as a number of other TV and movies.

Herman Munster was Considered for the Role of Henry

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Before George Gaynes was given the role of Henry, NBC originally wanted to go with a very familiar face. The actor who played the famous role of Herman Munster (Fred Gwynne) was their first choice, but he ended up turning down the role.

George Gaynes Appeared in All 7 Police Academy Movies

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Gaynes got the role in “Punky” but it was not the role most people would likely know him for. That would be his role as Eric Lassard in the “Police Academy” films, where he appeared in all seven of them. He also appeared in various other TV shows and movies in his career.

Brandon the Dog Was Named After an Exec

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Just like he named a character after a girl he knew as a child, NBC President Brandon Tartikoff had a character named after him. However, the character wasn’t human — it was Punky’s lovable pooch, who was named Brandon after the President.

The Show Got Bad Ratings, But Punky Was a Very Popular Character

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As evidenced by the fact that the show only ran for two seasons (prior to syndication), the ratings of the show were fairly poor. But for some reason, people really got attached to Punky, especially children. She became very popular, and is still a cultural icon today.

Frye had Gigantomastia as a teen

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What many people may not know is that long after being Punky, Soleil Moon Frye suffered through a terrible disease. Gigantomastia is a disease where a woman’s breasts grow to excessive and potentially harmful sizes. Frye had surgery for this just prior to her 16th birthday, which corrected the disease.

Cherie Johnson is Best Known For Her Role on “Family Matters”

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As a child, Johnson played Punky’s best friend, but this was not her most famous “best friend” role. That would easily be her eight-year stint on “Family Matters” as the best friend of Laura Winslow. And as you’ll see with our next entry, she was able to parlay this success into much more.

Johnson is Also Now a Successful Entrepreneur

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Johnson was not only able to turn the success on those two shows into more acting roles but was also able to find success as a serial entrepreneur. She had produced numerous films, written a few books and even started some other businesses, such as a makeup line and line of shoes.

Frye Married a TV Producer

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If working in TV wasn’t enough, Frye ended up marrying a TV and movie producer. She married Jason Goldberg in 1998 and the two have four kids. Goldberg has often been tied to Ashton Kutcher on various projects and the two have worked on the “Butterfly Effect” and “Punk’d” together.

There Was Crossover Between This and Perhaps the Most Popular Show of the 80s/90s

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During the 1990s, “Saved by the Bell” was arguably the most popular show out there, and the show had a connection to Punky Brewster. That’s right, the characters of Punky and Zack Morris (of “Saved by the Bell”) each appeared on the others show for a cameo appearance, albeit years apart.

George Gaynes – Then and Now

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George Gaynes played the role of Henry who was rough around the edges. However, Gaynes did bring a warmth to that character and that in turn allowed for audiences to adore him. Gaynes is getting up there in age. He lives in Santa Barbara with his wife that he’s been together with for over 50 years.

Ami Foster – Then and Now

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Ami Foster was the girl who was rich and called everyone peasants. She was one of Punky’s friends and played an entitled character perfectly even though in real life she is as sweet as they come. Today, Foster is a mother out in Los Angeles who teaches acting workshops.

Casey Ellison – Then and Now

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This was Casey Ellison’s first acting role. He played the goofy and lovable Allen Anderson, a friend of Punky who would often lead her to trouble. He wouldn’t be there for long as he would leave after the third season. These days, Ellison lives in Los Angeles. His intelligence has shined since his acting days as recently, he just finished four years managing a research lab at Purdue University.

It Spawned a Spin-Off

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Despite not being a massive hit show, the show spawned and inspired many different ideas and series. An animated spin-off titled “It’s Punky Brewster” started showing in 1985, which was still during the original running of the show.

The Alvin and the Chipmunks Connection

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The production company that assisted in the creation of the “It’s Punky Brewster” cartoon show was one that have actually worked on another popular cartoon too. The other famous cartoon that they had a hand in making was the “Alvin and the Chipmunk” series.

Seasons 1-4 Finally Released on DVD

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As mentioned before, the show never had stellar ratings like a lot of other shows with a similar legacy but developed almost a cult-like following. As a result of the popularity of the show, all of the seasons were finally released on DVD around 20 years after they aired on TV.