Monday, August 17, 2009

Sitcom: yes. Animation: no.

by Amy K. Bredemeyer

But even the 'yes' on sitcom is iffy.

For Soleil Moon Frye, the 1980s were dominated by portraying the spunky orphan, Punky Brewster. Four seasons of live action were intertwined with two seasons of animation (and an unrealized spin-off). Punky Brewster was an NBC show, which tackled a long and unsettling story arc in the second season where Henry (Punky's foster father) suffers an ulcer after his photography studio burns down, forcing Punky to be cared for by neighbors, then whisked away to Fenster Hall (an orphanage), sneaking out, then getting stuck with some rich foster parents, before finally being reunited with Henry five episodes later. Well, shortly after that NBC gave up, but it was popular enough to warrant an additional two seasons in first-run syndication (aka a grand total of three months, watching a new episode every afternoon on weekdays).

This post is a snark on NBC throwing in the towel too early (obviously they could have continued the show), but more importantly, it's about the lack of focus put on the animated series, It's Punky Brewster. I caught this one long before I found Punky Brewster on the Family Channel in the afternoons (back when the lineup on that channel included brother-sister game shows back-to-back). It ran on Saturday mornings, in that typical 2 12-minute episodes per half hour format, and my parents taped several episodes for me that I'm sure are still floating around my mom's house somewhere. (I also had a pair of Punky Brewster velcro-fastened sneakers when I was in Kindergarten, and they were super colorful and AWESOME.)

The animated feature was very much like the original, except that Allen is still there (he eventually moves to Kansas on the sitcom), and they hang around with a magical little furry guy named Glomer, who lives at the end of the rainbow. Henry is still a photographer, but the majority of episodes take place either at school, or someplace trying to remedy one of Glomer's spells. I've only seen a handful of episodes, including one where Punky is turned into a mermaid, one where Punky tried to expose a breach in child labor laws in a candy factory, one where Punky and her friends have to spend $1 million in two days, a Valentine's Day episode, and one where Punky acts as a detective.

Regarding why the show didn't last longer, I can't really seem to find a definitive response. I'm thinking that since NBC gave up on the sitcom in March of 1986, they didn't want to continue the animated series either, so they ran that out in December 1986.

I found one episode online, where the kids get shrunk.
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