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Old 01-28-2011, 05:17 PM   #1
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Exclamation Challenger explosion, 25 years later: Punky Brewster helped us deal

http://blog.zap2it.com/frominsidethe...d-us-deal.html

By Jethro Nededog

January 28, 2011 2:19 PM ET

Twenty-five years ago, the space shuttle Challenger explosion rocked America's children. As a country, we're infatuated by space travel anyway, but this mission has a special reason for having held the attention of our nation's young folk.

Aside from the seven crewmembers on that mission, it was to transport Christa McAuliffe, a teacher from Concorde, New Hampshire who was selected from 11,000 applicants to be the first schoolteacher in space.

As a result, America's teachers felt a great sense of pride and on Jan. 28, 1986, schools across the nation wheeled their TVs on shaky stands into their classrooms or auditoriums for the big launch. Who could have known that 73 seconds after the launch, the space shuttle would explode? And, because of McAuliffe's participation, an unprecedented amount of America's children witnessed the horrible sight.

We're TV fanatics at Zap2it, after all, and our memories quickly went back to our favorite mismatched misfit, Punky Brewster (played by a 10-year-old Soleil Moone Frye), who helped express our pain in the episode, "Accidents Happen."

In the 80s NBC series, Punky wanted to be an astronaut when she grew up and then she witnessed the Challenger explosion. And for a nation full of children who had way too many questions after watching it all go down, Punky helped us process.

a reader comment:

I was 11 the day Challenger exploded. In a sixth grade classroom of a two story school, directly above the first grade and kindergarten classrooms who were permitted to watch the launch. Our school administrators felt going to space had become a routine event and so instead of watching each launch as we had done only 2 years prior, the kindergarten and first graders watched. Our teacher was a huge fan of the space program and interrupted her lecture to remind us the shuttle should be launching at the appointed time. Within a few seconds we heard cheers and clapping from beneath us, then screams and crying. The lecture continued until another teacher came into the room and whispered in our teacher's ear. Her head fell into her hands. She looked back at the other teacher and nodded, swallowing hard. Then slowly told us what happened. We sat there quietly listening to the children beneath our room crying for about a half an hour. We talked about it or tried to, but mostly just sat quietly. Our principle dismissed us early allowing us to go home to our families. Most of us went back to empty homes to watch CNN. It's not an exaggeration to say Punky helped. I think that episode aired 6 wks later, when adults stop talking about, or think the kids have moved forward. We hadn't. Punky crept into show and share, science crept into our essays, we kept talking, and our teachers let us. Not unlike the West Wing post 9/11 storytelling aberration, Punky offered kids and their grown-ups an indirect way to talk about it. The show was never shakespeare, but they knew what to do with the opportunity, and I'm still grateful.
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Old 01-28-2011, 05:21 PM   #2
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Old 01-28-2011, 06:22 PM   #3
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I just watched a clip of that episode and I like how they dealt with the issue. Considering that this didn't usually deal with serious issues like this I the writers, producers, and actors a lot of credit for how well they dealt with this issue. And having an actual astronaut (Buzz Aldrin) on as a guest star was a good idea too.
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Old 01-28-2011, 06:29 PM   #4
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http://www.deathandtaxesmag.com/4837...ering-bravery/

The Challenger Explosion, ‘Punky Brewster’ and America’s Unwavering Bravery

By Andrew Belonsky
Friday, January 28, 2011

The Space Shuttle Challenger exploded 25 years ago today. I was four years old at the time and have no memory of the actual event. ‘Punky Brewster,’ however, helped teach me about the tragedy, and the lessons it imparted on the nation.

“This year marks the 25th anniversary of the loss of the Challenger—a tragedy that caused us to completely rethink our systems and processes as we worked to make the shuttle safer,” said NASA Charles Bolden today as he laid flowers at a memorial for the astronauts killed on that day in 1986, including Christa McAuliffe, a school teacher who was supposed to be the first participant in the “Teacher in Space” project.

Unfortunately, McAuliffe and her fellow crew members never made it, for the Challenger exploded 73 seconds after launching from Cape Canaveral. It was a horrifying day, and President Reagan said at the time, “Today is a day for mourning and remembering. Nancy and I are pained to the core by the tragedy of the shuttle Challenger. We know we share this pain with all of the people of our country. This is truly a national loss.”

No doubt millions of Americans remember the Challenger disaster: my friend Amy just last week described watching the launch in her kindergarten class and being completely heartbroken when the shuttle exploded into the atmosphere. My sister also remembers the event, so too do many of the other people I’ve spoken with about it.

Me? I must have watched it, although I can’t recall actually seeing the actual Challenger explosion. And, honestly, I probably wouldn’t have much of a concept about the whole thing if it weren’t for a very special episode of ‘Punky Brewster.’

Many of you may recall the episode, entitled “Accidents Happen.” In it, Punky and her classmates are celebrating career day. Decked out in a helmet and highly-stylized space suit, Soleil Moon Frye’s Punky announces she’s going to be an astronaut, leading her teacher to turn on the Challenger launch and subsequent disaster.

Punky’s shocked and heartbroken to see the Space Shuttle Challenger explode, and decides being an astronaut’s too dangerous a profession to pursue. Her childhood has been tarnished by reality.

Hoping to revive Punky’s youthful dreams, her teacher, Mr. Fulton, played by TK Carter, asks astronaut Buzz Aldrin to impart some advice to young, dejected Punky: “Astronauts are explorers. All through history, people have thought explorers are a little off their rocker.”

After their chat, Punky’s faith has been renewed,and she concludes the show with a proclamation, “I still feel bad about the shuttle, but I’m going to be an astronaut, no matter how scary it may be.”

The episode spoke to a nation in mourning, one that needed faith in its pioneering spirit, and helped hammer home an important lesson for Americans of all ages, one that echoed President Ronald Reagan’s remarks on the Challenger explosion: “[The tragedy is] part of the process of exploration and discovery. It’s all part of taking a chance and expanding man’s horizons. The future doesn’t belong to the fainthearted; it belongs to the brave.”

It’s a timeless lesson, one that remains true today, as our nation struggles with fresh challenges and charts a new course for the future: dreams aren’t always easy to achieve, but even when you fail, you have to dust yourself off and keep shooting for the stars.
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Old 01-28-2011, 06:34 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Marvo301
I just watched a clip of that episode and I like how they dealt with the issue. Considering that this didn't usually deal with serious issues like this I the writers, producers, and actors a lot of credit for how well they dealt with this issue. And having an actual astronaut (Buzz Aldrin) on as a guest star was a good idea too.
Agreed. Seeing as Soleil Moon Frye and the other young members of the cast were kids not much older than me at that time, they had to have been affected by the disaster as much out of character as they were onscreen. They were speaking on behalf of the millions of schoolchildren who saw the disaster unfold right before their eyes.

The episode, entitled "Accidents Happen", from Season 2, can be found on YouTube in its entirety. It originally aired on March 9, 1986 - which makes me think that this episode was made almost immediately after the disaster, while emotions were still quite raw. Good for them for tackling the issue so fast.
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Old 01-28-2011, 07:59 PM   #6
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It was great how the day after watching the accident on TV, Mike , their teacher gave the kids an opportunity to express their feelings and emotions about the accident. And in the previous scene when Punky arrived home from school Henry had a discussion with her about it. I hope parents everywhere took a lesson from this and talked with their children and gave them an opportunity to express their feelings and emotions.

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Old 01-28-2011, 09:12 PM   #7
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I watched the episode on YouTube. It was very touching, and everyone involved did a good job. I liked Buzz Aldrin's guest spot - it really did add an extra something special to the proceedings. Plus, it didn't talk down to the audience. Kudos!!
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Old 01-29-2011, 03:14 AM   #8
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I wonder if making an episode so soon after the incident actually had a transverse effect. NBC incidentally, canceled the show soon afterward. I'm sure that if Punky Brewster was on the air in the year 2001, they would insist on doing an episode about Punky wanting to be an airplane pilot or stewardess only to have her dreams crushed by what happened on 9/11:
http://www.tv.com/punky-brewster/acc..._guide;summary

Quote:
When this episode aired two months after the fact I am sure it was meant as a tribute to Ms. McAuliffe and that those involved in its production had very good intentions.

But unfortunately all that this episode succeeded in doing in our house was bring back the terrible memories of that tragedy, reopening all of the pain that had slowly been receding.

Not only was my son so distraught that he could not even finish watching this episode, but he refused to watch any further episodes of "Punky Brewster." That was really a shame, as it was a quality show that we approved of his viewing.

I guess by this time, if the show is airing in syndication, it won't have this type of affect on most viewers because so much time has gone by. But even while typing this out, the memory of my son's pain still brings pain to me.
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Old 01-29-2011, 12:31 PM   #9
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^ Wow!!! I was only 6 at the time, but I don't remember watching either the Challenger tragedy when it happened or the PB episode. It's interesting reading about differing opinions. On the whole, most people thought it was a good episode. I did notice that neither the word "Challenger" or any of the astronauts' names were used - I wonder if they just decided not to do so or didn't get clearance to use the names. It was interesting to see Buzz Aldrin appear over 20 years prior to his Dancing With the Stars stint!!
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Old 01-29-2011, 12:47 PM   #10
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The one line that stuck out for me in the original article was that "most of us went back to empty homes to watch CNN."

What a sign of the times. This isn't a judgement on anyone or anything, but when I was a kid I think just about everyone in my class would have had somebody home to talk to about this.

I think the episode was a great idea. My guess is that the show was in ratings trouble anyway so they didn't have that much to lose. It's a great example of actually trying to use TV in a positive way; a far cry from the numbing cynicism that pervades today.
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Old 01-29-2011, 12:52 PM   #11
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Yes, it was great to see a prime-time network show aimed at kids deal with the issue. You know, back in the dark ages when there were actually prime-time network shows aimed at kids!!!

You are also right that this was the last PB episode that aired on NBC before the network gave it the ax. PB would air in first-run syndication for two more seasons.
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Old 01-31-2011, 02:04 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TMC
I wonder if making an episode so soon after the incident actually had a transverse effect. NBC incidentally, canceled the show soon afterward. I'm sure that if Punky Brewster was on the air in the year 2001, they would insist on doing an episode about Punky wanting to be an airplane pilot or stewardess only to have her dreams crushed by what happened on 9/11:
http://www.tv.com/punky-brewster/acc..._guide;summary
Nope, the reason that Punky Brewster was canceled was because NBC simply felt that it and its longtime stablemate, Silver Spoons, simply could not compete with CBS's juggernaut, 60 Minutes.

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Old 01-31-2011, 03:49 PM   #13
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I too watched this entire episode on youtube. I thought it was very well and very sensitively written. It dealt head on with the tragedy and the emotions that it engendered but at the same time the overall message of the show was a positive one. I love how they identified astronauts as explorers while acknowledging that exploration includes taking risks. Punky and the other kids learned that those who take risks while exploring the unknown are brave and heroic and that wanting to be an explorer is a very valid and courageous ambition. This episode was a great lesson for children and a great tribute to the astronauts all at the same time.
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Old 01-31-2011, 04:27 PM   #14
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Quote:
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Nope, the reason that Punky Brewster was canceled was because NBC simply felt that it and it's longtime stablemate, Silver Spoons, simply could not compete with CBS's juggernaut, 60 Minutes.
Silver Spoons ran in first-run syndication after NBC cancelled it as well, right?
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Old 01-31-2011, 05:08 PM   #15
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Silver Spoons ran in first-run syndication after NBC cancelled it as well, right?
Silver Spoons aired in first-run syndication for one season (86-87) following it's cancellation by NBC.
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