Judge Patrick Naugle still secretly wears leg warmers under his jeans.
Our review of Punky Brewster: Season Two, published May 7th, 2005, is also available.
Get ready for Punky Power!
What happens when you put an orphaned little girl together with a cantankerous photographer in big, bad New York City? Unabashed cuteness that would make even Strawberry Shortcake retch. In 1984, viewers were given the adorableness that is Punky Brewster, a sassy little abandoned street girl who found a home in the arms of Henry Warnimont, a widowed, grumpy geezer who owns a photography studio. At first, Henry doesn't want Punky, but in a short time span (oh, say around a half hour) he quickly learns that the two of them are meant to be together. After fighting for Punky and gaining custody, the two mismatched characters soon settle into a life of funny mishaps, wacky interludes and lots of spontaneous "Punky Power"!
Included on this four-disc set are the following episodes:
• Punky Finds A Home: Part I
Ah yes, the innocuous '80s. If you grew up during the time of tube socks and Pac-Man, you know all about the late, great decade of decadence. In fact, just the other day my telephone played the Diff'rent Strokes theme and the faces around me were filled with nostalgia.
That same feeling will wash over you when you sit down to watch Punky Brewster: Season One. It's difficult for me to pinpoint why this show is so beloved. Let's be honest: the jokes are tame and labored while Soleil Moon Frye attempts to wring maximum cuteness out of every single line she recites (it's usually followed by the audience "ooh"ing and "aah"ing or seemingly uncontrollable fits of laughter). Frye is complemented by George Gaynes (Police Academy), an actor who appears to be on the verge of holding his head in his hands because he knows he's in a kiddie sitcom. Then again, he was the star of seven Police Academy flicks (for the sake of all our sanity, I refuse to list them all), so it's not as if he was very discerning about his projects.
And yet it all (mostly) comes together in the end. The three-part start of the show—where Punky meets Henry, is taken away by the Department of Child Services, then is returned to Henry after a short and absolutely unbelievable court hearing—paves the way for Punky's wacky misadventures to come. There's a lot of Punky being sassy, Henry acting cantankerous, and many camera shots of Brandon (Punky's adorable Golden Retriever puppy) looking wistfully at the audience.
What it all boils down to is this: I can recommend this set to only two groups of people: those who want to revisit their youth and those with young children (and hey, maybe you're in both of those groups). Was Punky Brewster the high point of television history? Not on your life. But it does offer some soft chuckles, stories with solid moral messages, and oh…that Brandon, he's just soooooo dang cute!
Every episode in Punky Brewster: Season One is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.33:1 full frame. I can't say I was overly impressed with how these video transfer look. There are a lot of imperfections in the picture, mostly due to the age and budget of the show. Then again, if you're hoping to see Punky Brewster exactly how you remember it, you may get your wish. Most of the colors are bright and bold, though there are a few that appear slightly washed out. The transfers won't win any awards, but what else did you expect from a show circa 1984?
The soundtracks are presented in what appear to be Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono in English. There isn't a lot of excitement to any of these tracks—the dialogue, canned laughter, cheesy theme song, and special effects are all well heard. Otherwise, this is a very front-heavy mix that is low on directional effects or surround sounds. No alternate soundtracks or subtitles have been included.
You Punky fans will be thrilled to see Shout! Factory's inclusion of a few fun extra features, most notably interviews with Ami Foster ("Margaux Kramer"), Cherie Johnson ("Cherie Johnson"), writer Barry Vigon, and creator/executive producer David W. Duclon. All of the interview subjects chuckle, giggle, and wax philosophical about their involvement with the show. Also included on each disc are various episodes from the cartoon show It's Punky Brewster.
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