Alice Oscura, Featured Writer
The Peacock streaming service aired the 10-episode NBC series Punky Brewster in February 2021 and it serves as a sort of sequel to NBC’s 1984 series of the same name. For the youngsters out there, I will give you a bit of the back story before I head into the review of the 2021 revival series.
Backstory: Penelope “Punky” Brewster (Soleil Moon Frye) was an eight-year-old girl who was abandoned by her mother at a supermarket in Chicago with her pet dog after her father left the family. She is eventually discovered in a vacant apartment by an old, grumpy, widowed photographer named Henry Warnimont (the late George Gaynes). The two begin to form a unique bond which eventually leads to him legally adopting Punky by the second season of the series. Punky’s best friend is Cherie Johnson (Cherie Johnson, and no, that’s not a typo) who lived with her grandmother Betty (Susie Garrett) in the same apartment building as Henry. The series entailed Punky’s relationship with Henry, her teachers, and adventures with her friends and Brandon her golden retriever.
Flash forward to 2021: Our favourite troublemaker is all grown up with kids of her own. Actress Soleil Moon Frye reprises her role as Punky Brewster. Punky is now a recently divorced mother of three kids and is a professional photographer like her mentor Henry. There’s the teenaged Hannah (Lauren Lindsey Donzis), who is her only biological daughter, and two adopted sons Diego (Noah Cottrell) and Daniel (Oliver De Los Santos). They are still living in Henry’s old apartment and her ex-husband, band musician Travis (Freddie Prinze Jr.), still shows up often, hinting to the fact that the two still have feelings for each other.
Punky’s best friend Cherie (Cherie Johnson reprises her role) works at Fenster Hall, the same children’s shelter that Punky had to stay at temporarily while Henry filed for her adoption. At a chance encounter, Punky meets a little girl named Izzy (Quinn Copeland) at Fenster Hall waiting to be placed with a foster family. Her mother also abandoned her and Punky cannot help but see the similarities in Izzy’s spunky, bright personality and herself at that age. Punky agrees to foster Izzy, and after some teething problems with living arrangements, the family gets more and more attached to her. In the first episode Punky receives a mysterious phone call from a woman named Susan claiming to be her mother hinting at a possible reunion between the two. But Punky is still dealing with feelings of abandonment and doesn’t feel as though she is ready as yet.
Upon completion of the series, I have to say this—it may seem like a generic piece of work for those who don’t have the nostalgia associated with the series. For those who grew up seeing Punky and her misadventures, there was always a little part of us that wondered what became of her. If she got married, had kids of her own, what did she grow up to be? And I would have to say on behalf of fans like myself, it definitely did not disappoint. The series gave us that much needed closure and satisfaction to see our beloved Punky grow up to be the same caring, sweet person that she was as a kid, and her friendship with best friend Cherie still going strong.
I must say that it didn’t surprise me that she had adopted children either. She has at least one biological child and it was sweet to know that she remembered her roots and how many kids out there deserve a special home too. The bond with her ex-husband is cute and amusing. I haven’t seen actor Freddie Prinze Jr. in such a long time, and I had forgotten how much I liked his voice until I heard him speak here. He has excellent chemistry with Frye, almost making it believable that they were a couple.
The series touches on the heavy themes of child abandonment and the emotional consequences of such actions. Although I will not spoil it and reveal too much, what I will say is that the series concludes on an emotionally sweet but wholly realistic note. All of the characters are likeable, and the kids are all unique in their own special way. The close ups on Henry’s portraits tug at the heart strings and to hear Punky speak about Henry with so much reverence and respect, it was almost like they were also paying tribute to the actor’s contribution to the series itself.
Final Thoughts: The writers did a great job with this one and I thought that as a fan I got just enough out of the 10 episodes. I saw some tweets of fellow fans begging for a Season 2, but I honestly don’t think it necessary. I got to relive some happy moments from my childhood all over again with a “Punky Power!!!”
Alice’s Score: 6.5 out of 10
Dark Alice has an old soul and a curious mind. I believe that anyone can be a hero and that the good guys should always win! I dislike cruelty to animals and think that they have far superior qualities to humans. My motto is there is no future without the past. I also have a weird penchant for Paranormal TV shows even though the slightest sound makes me jump. I enjoy writing reviews and throwing in fun facts to pique the readers’ curiosity. My ultimate goal in life would be to become a published writer one day. You can find me as Dark Alice Reviews on Facebook where you’ll get my reviews hot off the press. You can also find me on Instagram as alice_oscura and my Twitter handle is @lise_veliz2. For my extended bio you can click here.