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Punky Brewster aired from September 1984 until September 1986 on NBC and in 1987 and 1988 in first run syndication.
Punky ( Soleil Moon Frye) was a cute 7-year-old Chicago girl with a lot of problems, but a sunny outlook on life. Abandoned by her parents, spunky Punky and her adorable puppy set up housekeeping in an empty apartment, where they were soon discovered by the building manager Henry Warnimont ( George Gaynes), a dour old bachelor. He was about to turn them over to the authorities when-well those big eyes, that winning smile, that loving heart, who could resist? Somehow he pursuaded the skeptical authorities to let Punky stay with him for a while, and the little girl began to bring sunshine into Henry's world. Stories revolved around their adjustments to each other, and Henry's professional work as a photographer. Eddie ( Eddie Deezen) was the kooky building maintenance man, Cherie ( Cherie Johnson) was Punky's playmate, Betty ( played by Marla Gibbs' sister Susie Garrett) was Cherie's mother, Margaux ( Ami Foster)the stuck up classmate at school, Allen ( Casey Ellison) another of Punky's friends, and Mrs. Morton ( Dody Goodman) her teacher. Punky got a new teacher, Mike Fulton ( T.K. Carter) for the 1985-1986 season.
According to reports published when this series was announced, there was a real Punky Brewster, though not quite as depicted in the show. NBC programming head Brandon Tartikoff , while a youth had had a crush on a tomboyish older girl by that name. Years later he nicknamed his own first child Punky. He also thought it would make a great name for a TV series so when this show went into development , Punky it was-after NBC's lawyers tracked down the real Punky and got permission to use her name ( She was married to a lawyer in Connecticut , received a royalty for the use of her name , and even appeared once in a cameo role as one of the teachers at Punky's school. She was credited under her married name Peyton B. Rutledge). And the puppy who followed Punky around on the show? It's name was Brandon.
NBC canceled the show when its ratings couldn't weather the competition from CBS' 60 Minutes and Columbia Pictures TV who had bought the syndication rights, produced new episodes to make the show more profitable in syndication, there having been only 44 episodes for the two year run on NBC. 44 additional episodes were made -21 in the fall of 1987 and another 23 in the spring of 1988. In the series finale Brandon got married to a dog named Brenda, as the show's humans remembered how much he'd grown over the past four years.
An Article from The New York Times
TV WEEKEND; COPS-IN-HAWAII SERIES; KIDDIES VS. '60 MINUTES'
By JOHN J. O'CONNOR
Published: September 14, 1984
The new season shifts into high gear this weekend with series premieres and a first- run made-for-television movie.
''Hawaiian Heat'' moves onto the ABC schedule tonight at 9 on Channel 7, with a two-hour premiere (its hourlong slot will be Fridays at 9). The heroes are Starsky-and-Hutch-type police officers who leave the grime and cold of Chicago for the sun and bikinis of Hawaii. Its originality is not overwhelming.
Officers Mac Riley (Robert Ginty) and Andy Senkowski (Jeff McCracken), both about 30, have been friends since childhood. In fact, when Mac would not cooperate in a departmental investigation of his own corrupt policeman father, Andy refused to abandon his partner, and the two of them have since been pointedly denied promotions. Fed up with Chicago's winters and its criminals, who are getting meaner and younger, Mac kidnaps his friend to Honolulu after Andy has become engaged to a woman he has known since high school. What could one do, Mac asks, ''when your very best friend was about to make the biggest mistake of his life.''
Five minutes after reaching Hawaii, the chums are involved with a woman who operates a helicopter service and her former college roommate, whose Hawaiian father, a decent man trying to save his local community, has become involved in a heroin deal. The chief of police, looking for new faces to infiltrate the drug scene, turns to Mac and Andy, promising them steady work if they succeed. Along the way, there are nasty villains, beautiful women on picturesque beaches and the usual car chases. One chase sequence involves a pickup truck, a stretch limo, a jeep and a helicopter. All of this might be ho-hum, except that Mr. Ginty and Mr. McCracken give Mac and Andy the kind of nice offbeat spin that could develop into a diverting action-adventure romp.
Against ''60 Minutes,'' An Hour of Kid StuffUnable to put a dent in the ratings of the CBS ''60 Minutes'' with a news magazine of its own, NBC is reverting to the old kiddie ploy. The 7-to-8 P.M. slot Sundays on Channel 4 will now be filled with two youngster-oriented situation comedies. The already established ''Silver Spoons'' will be shown at 7, while the new ''Punky Brewster'' goes on at 7:30. Punky (Soliel Moon Frye) is a 7-year-old girl who has been abandoned by her mother at a shopping mall. Hiding out in an empty apartment, she is discovered by crotchety old Henry (George Gaynes), a photographer, whose wife died a year after they were married.
Punky is a beaming barrel of Shirley Temple-like spunk. Henry is a grumpy old slob doing his best to hide a heart of gold. Can the two, along with a modest collection of eccentric neighbors and friends, find happiness as an adorable situation-comedy couple? They will try. Convinced that she's a terrible person, Punky runs away briefly from Henry's apartment, but returns with the explanation, ''I thought it over, and I'm gonna give you one more chance.'' If nothing else, Punky is a lot cuter than Mike Wallace.
Herbert Gold Novel As Television MovieOn the television-movie schedule, tonight at 9 Channel 2 has ''Threesome,'' based on Herbert Gold's novel ''Salt.'' Had this been made in the 1930's with Cary Grant in the central role, the audience would probably have been treated to a smooth depiction of a charming bounder. Put in 1980's terms, however, and with Stephen Collins providing the searingly on-target portrayal, the same character emerges as a still charming but decidedly vicious rat.
Filmed in and around New York, getting all those familiar shots near the posh area of Fifth Avenue and 59th Street, ''Threesome'' finds Peter (Mr. Collins) getting ready to welcome from the Midwest his longtime best friend, Dan (Joel Higgins). Dan has just been divorced and wants to start a new career as a stockbroker. Peter is solidly established in that business and has become the epitome of the successful Manhattan bachelor. He eats at the right restaurants, orders the right wines, belongs to the right clubs, is seen with the right women and, it seems, can get away with anything. Just before Dan arrives, he decides to dump his steady and genuinely loving woman, Barbara.
Later, Peter makes the magnanimous gesture of ''offering'' Barbara to Dan as a possible date. But when Barbara and Dan get serious about each other, Peter senses that he is losing control of the situation and moves in for the figurative kill. The motivations get overpat, including one about Peter's never having felt loved enough by his parents. But the characterizations ring true, and the performers, directed by Lou Antonio, are outstanding. Peter's silken callousness (''There is no tragedy he cannot turn into a farce,'' someone observes), Dan's nice-guy tenderness and Barbara's ambivalent ambitions are evoked with a sharpness that gives the overall production a cutting edge unusual for a television movie.
An Article from the Washington Post
SOLEIL MOON FRYE
By Patricia Brennan July 21, 1985
While you've been watching summer reruns of "Punky Brewster," Soleil Moon Frye was at summer camp. After all, that's what kids do when school is out and television series -- even one's own -- are on hiatus.
She went swimming and horseback riding and worked on arts and crafts, pretty much the same things she's done all the four years she's attended camp with her best friend, who is not in show biz. She wasn't in show biz either, at first. But now life for the freckle-faced 8-year-old has become awfully busy.
For Soleil Moon Frye, aka "Punky Brewster," camp is one of the few breaks in what is rapidly becoming a fast-lane life. She's just finished doing picture layouts for four national magazines; she resumes taping "Punky Brewster" next week (she's been supplying the voice for the cartoon version of the series all summer); she's scheduled to appear at Wolf Trap Farm Park's International Children's Festival over the Labor Day weekend, and in the fall she'll dash off to Finland with the kids from "The Cosby Show" and Ricky Schroder to film a winter special.
What's more, 32 companies have contracted to begin producing an abundance of Punky products, from greeting cards and dolls to neon jewelry that lights up -- all aimed at children from 2 to 11. And as the heroine of the young set, little Soleil has been named honorary chairman of the National Institute of Drug Abuse and will make a television appeal to children to "Just Say No" to drugs.
Can a little girl who's so mobbed at personal appearances that she needs police protection, and who received 7,000 to 10,000 letters a week during the 1984-85 TV season, grow up normally?
Her mother seems to believe she can, at least as normal as a child-phenomenon is able. Sondra Peluce Frye describes her daughter as "bright, but she's real -- she's not affected . . . we live in a very low-key, family neighborhood, chock-full of kids" fairly near the NBC studios in Burbank. "The majority of her friends are not in the business." Even the folks in their new neighborhood seem to have adjusted to life with a celebrity and no longer come calling with cameras in hand.
Soleil talked briefly about her role in combating the growing drug problem among children. "I want to tell them to just say no," she said, echoing the campaign endorsed by Nancy Reagan, who may show up on a future episode of "Punky Brewster."
Do you know any little kids who use drugs? "No, but I know that some do," she declared earnestly. And then, friends having arrived, she excused herself to dash off for a dip in the backyard pool.
Soleil, who will be 9 on Aug. 6, has been acting a little more than two years. Her mother said she didn't push Soleil into becoming a tot star -- in fact, she said, her daughter was shy and didn't begin talking until she was 3. But acting was in the family: Soleil's dad, Virgil Frye -- now divorced from her mother -- is a veteran character actor who appeared in "The Burning Bed," an NBC made-for-TV movie that drew raves for its star, Farrah Fawcett. Her half-brother, Sean Frye, 19, played the best friend of Elliott Taylor's older brother in "E.T." and will appear in "Tough Love" with Bruce Dern. Another half-brother, Meeno Peluce, 15, appeared in "Starsky and Hutch," "Bad News Bears," "Best of the West" and the short- lived "Detective in the House," and is probably best known for his role in the "Voyagers" series.
Soleil grew up watching her brothers and her dad practicing their craft. She snagged small roles in three made-for-TV movies, including the part of the Ann- Margret's youngest child in "Who Will Love My Children?" At 7, she auditioned for -- and got -- the title role in "Punky Brewster."
NBC Entertainment President Brandon Tartikoff had told the world that "we're looking for the most wonderful girl in the world, someone who's smart, with a good sense of comedy and fun about herself. Someone you'd want to eat up with a spoon when you find her. When we find her, we'll know, and the series will be tailor-made to fit her talents." Joel Thurm, NBC vice president, talent, said, "We're looking for someone with something special -- a sparkle, a vitality. Something that catches the eye and makes you look twice."
From more than 1,000 girls between 6 and 12, they settled on Soleil, a 4-foot-tall, 45-pound child with straight brown hair and brown eyes, freckles, a slightly raspy voice and a bubbling personality. (And a peculiar name: Soleil's mother said her daughter was scheduled for a July birthday. When she showed up in August, Frye said she picked "Soleil" (French for "sun") because "August was the month of the sun" and "Moon" because she liked the lyrics from a song in "Annie Get Your Gun": "I've got the sun in the morning and the moon at night.")
So if Soleil Moon Frye seems a lot like Punky Brewster, that's not surprising. For as long as the series runs, Punky will probably age along with the star, who begins fourth grade this fall. And like Punky, who dotes on her dog, Brandon, Soleil is also an animal-lover. She counts among her home menagerie two dogs (a pit bull terrier and a Shih Tzu), rabbits and a chicken that lays eggs.
But life with a phenomenon like Soleil Moon Frye is not all pets and publicity photos. In fact, her mother, Sondra Peluce Frye, juggles many balls. For 10 years she has run a catering business for show-biz parties, formerly called "Mother Moon's" but now operating under her own name ("it's word-of-mouth -- I've never advertised and my number isn't even listed.") Her most recent party, for 125, was attended by "the biggest names in the business -- Barbra Streisand, Cher ..," and a party she catered last year was mentioned in a Hollywood gossip column as a "Lucullan buffet."
Still, the party business, however glamorous and lucrative, takes a back seat to the kids' careers. Much of her time Frye spends carting Meeno to his school and acting jobs and Soleil to hers. Sometimes the two work in studios near one another -- NBC's "Punky Brewster" and ABC's short-lived "Detective in the House" were filmed only a couple of miles apart. The year before Soleil won the "Punky Brewster" role, she made three TV movies. Once, Frye said, the children were working at far-flung locations, "so I leased a sports car -- a Camaro -- and zipped from one side of Southern California to the other so neither one would feel neglected."
During the school year, Soleil and Meeno are up between 6 and 7 a.m. Their mother drops Meeno at school and picks up Soleil's homework assignments and takes Soleil to the set, where a tutor teaches her from 9 a.m. to noon Mondays through Wednesdays. She is required to keep up with pupils in the private school she attends during filming breaks. After lunch, Soleil turns to acting for the rest of the day. On Thursdays and Fridays, studies are put on hold while Soleil tapes the shows before a live audience. In March, when the season's filming is done, she goes back to her private school -- except for personal appearances, and there are many.
Some of them, Frye says, have been "East Coast mob experiences, when thousands of people are shoving and screaming" to get a look at the child. In Pittsburgh, she said, when Soleil appeared in the city's Heritage Day Parade, she began by riding a Model T, then was moved to limousine and finally was forced to ride in a squad car with police both inside and out to protect her from crowds. Even the last year's egg roll on the White House lawn drew so many fans, Frye said, that the Secret Service whisked Soleil inside the residence for safety. Her mother says she was also mobbed when she appeared at "Night of 100 Stars" for ABC in New York and in the Macy's Day parade last Thanksgiving. Frye's boyfriend of three years, stunt man Sean Kennedy, sometimes comes along "to help us out."
Does all that frantic adoration faze our spunky Punky? Of course not. "She has her head on right," says her mother. Besides, "Punky Brewster" may not last forever. The show's final season Nielsen standing was a lowly 64, tied with "Partners in Crime" and "Dreams," both defunct. And "Silver Spoons," the show with which it shared the network's hour-long battle against venerable "60 Minutes," has not been renewed.
But that's okay. Soleil Moon Frye is a girl of the '80s -- no, the '90s. She may not devote her life to acting after all. When you're only 8 years old and already a star, anything seems possible. Besides, what she really wants is to be an astronaut.
For more on Punky Brewster go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Punky_Brewster
For PUNKY'S PLACE go to https://web.archive.org/web/20030205141151/http://punkybrewster.television-series.com/
For Tim's TV Showcase go to https://web.archive.org/web/20090217080451/http://www.timstvshowcase.com/punky.html
To read about How Punky Brewster Traumatized a Nation go to https://www.strangefamousrecords.com/blogs/sage-francis/punky-brewster-trauma/
For some Punky Brewster-related interview videos at the Archive of American Television go to https://interviews.televisionacademy.com/shows/punky-brewster
� Date: Tue April 12, 2016 � Filesize: 53.2kb, 282.9kb � Dimensions: 1600 x 1274 �
Keywords: The Cast of Punky Brewster (Links Updated 7/21/18)