It’s been over 30 years since Penelope “Punky” Brewster (Soleil Moon Frye) graced our TV screens, but she’s back in Peacock’s new continuation of the iconic 80s sitcom Punky Brewster. Punky is now a professional photographer, following in the footsteps of her foster father Henry Warnimont. While she used to work as a photojournalist, Punky now mainly just covers weddings and parties. Punky is recently divorced from musician Travis (Freddie Prinze Jr.), and lives in the downtown Chicago apartment that Henry left to her. She and Travis have three children. Daughter Hannah (Lauren Lindsey Donzis) is 15 and is just starting to date and want her independence. Adopted sons Diego (Noah Cottrell) and Daniel (Oliver De Los Santos) couldn’t be more different from one another. While Diego is your typical messy boy who likes video games and sports, his younger brother marches to the beat of his own drum, and is quieter and more kempt. As Punky is trying to figure out her own life as a single mother, Travis returns from a concert tour and wants to spend more time with his kids. He is constantly popping in unannounced like he still lives there. Though this doesn’t seem to bother Punky as she and Travis are getting along better now than when they were married.
Punky still keeps in touch with childhood best friend Cherie (Cherie Johnson), who now runs Fenster Hall, the home where Punky lived before Henry took her in. While visiting Cherie at work, Punky meets Izzy (Quinn Copeland), a spunky young girl who reminds her a lot of herself when she was Izzy’s age. Izzy has been in and out of foster homes but never found anyone she has clicked with. So Punky decides to welcome Izzy into her own home, where she immediately clicks with the other children and finally feels a sense of family. Meanwhile, Izzy helps Punky rediscover her Punky Power, starting with those iconic mismatched shoes.
I was a big fan of the original Punky Brewster series, watching it regularly as a kid, so I was really excited for this reboot. I’ve checked out the first 6 episodes of this new series, and I’m happy to say it really recaptures the tone and feeling of the original. Yes, it may be sappy and cheesy at times, but that’s what made the original so great as well. The actors all have great chemistry and comedic timing, and make these characters feel like they could be a real family. Izzy fits in perfectly with the rest of the family, while also evoking memories of the original young Punky Brewster. I found myself constantly grinning as I binged through these episodes.
The new series feels just like the classic sitcom, with witty writing, all the familiar catchphrases, and some hilarious situations. Many of the episodes mine classic sitcom tropes and wacky situations for comedic results, and even though many of these are familiar areas, they still worked and made me laugh. This reminded me a lot of how Fuller House handled its revival. The series also explores some more progressive areas. In the opener, we see Daniel experimenting with nail polish and eye-liner and the topic of gender identity comes up. However, this whole idea seems to then completely disappear until episode 6 when he randomly wears a sarong to school and the topic resurfaces. We also find out that Cherie is dating a lawyer named Lauren (Jasika Nicole, Fringe, The Good Doctor), but this is more seamlessly introduced and not turned into a big “special episode” type of situation.
The episodes also feature some great guest stars, such as some recognizable comedic actors and some WWE Superstars, and even a cameo from Margaux Kramer (Ami Foster). I look forward to checking out the rest of the season when it releases tomorrow, and hopefully we’ll see even more original characters make an appearance.
At launch, all 10 half-hour episodes of the first season of Punky Brewster will be available to watch for Peacock Premium subscribers, while those with the basic free tier should be able to at least check out the first episode.