When I was a kid, the reason that I fell in love with the television show Punky Brewster was because it made me believe that what made me original was the best parts of me. I learned that what was original about me, whatever strength I could find in myself, whatever made me feel unique were the things that I should embrace about myself.
Punky Power was about finding what made you unique and made you strong.
With Punky being back, a part of me was excited to revisit the things that were so special to me about the original show. I knew that I wanted to feel the things that I once felt. And did I find them in the premiere episode?
Kinda, but not really.
There are a few things that I expect from any reboot – which I am aware may be too much to ask.
Maintain the spirit of the original.
Give answers to past questions while exploring the future.
Pay homage to the fans and cast of the original.
And from the beginning we know that Punky Brewster is going to maintain Punky’s spirit – or help her find it as she feels a little lost in the life that she’s lived. After all, she’s lived her life wrapped up in a marriage that is now over, kids, and work. She lost who she was while trying to be everything to everyone else.
Punky is grown. She’s got three kids – Hannah, Daniel, and Diego. Daniel and Diego were adopted as a toddler and a baby (they are biological brothers). Hannah is Travis and Punky’s biological daughter, and instantly in her sass and sarcasm I see Punky.
I guess we do end up like our parents.
Punky’s stability in her life is still Cherie. They’ve been best friends since they were seven and their friendship still remains strong. Cherie works as a social worker and asks Punky to go and take pictures at the community center for the foster care website.
I think that one thing that this show could do and it feel natural is shine a light on the foster care system. I know that it is a feel good, family show, and I am not expecting much – but I do believe that it would be a missed opportunity with their social media and the press that will surround the return of Punky to not do that.
Cherie has an ulterior motive for bringing Punky down. Sure, she’s getting some free photos, but there is a little girl at the center – Izzy – who reminds Cherie of Punky. Izzy is stubborn and carefree and determined to break free. And the center thinks she has. So when everyone is off to find her, Izzy appears and Punky of course is right there.
It’s not the first time that a scene in this show feels forced, but the thing is you kind of expect it with these shows. The way that they are trying to manufacture a positive spin, even when it’s negative, that there is a lesson in every moment.
And to be honest, as first, I hated it. I hated the fact that Punky and Izzy had a forced moment, but I realized that the show didn’t want it to feel that way. They wanted you to feel like Punky was finding herself again, and Izzy was a mirror of who she once was.
Cherie wants Punky to take Izzy home, as she has a family that will take her, but they have to get their license. And if Izzy stays there, she’s going to bolt. And though Punky does protest, if you know anything about Punky, that is about to be short lived.
Punky doesn’t turn her back on those in need and she’s not gonna turn her back on someone that is just like she was. Henry was there for her and even when people thought that they were a bad match, Henry wouldn’t give up on Punky.
Maybe it’s the lessons that Henry taught her that have made her more of an empathetic person. Maybe it’s the things that Punky has gone through. But the thing is – Punky and Izzy are going to teach each other lessons. They are gonna make each other grow. And yes, that’s a good thing. But it’s also a plot point that will become predictable.
It always does.
Izzy is challenging. She’s a literal kid – takes everything to heart and isn’t afraid to reiterate all of the things that she’s hearing. But what does become special is the connection between Hannah and Izzy. The sister bond is important and I feel like it’s going to be one of the best things about the show.
But even that connection doesn’t stop Izzy from wanting to run again. And as she tries to make a run for it, we meet Travis, Punky’s ex. He may be my favorite character, because the one thing I always expect from Freddie Prinze Jr., is an overly clean cut character. And Travis – he’s a musician who has spent most of his life on the road. Sure, he loves his family, but music is his love.
And when he sees Izzy trying to make a run for it – he doesn’t question who she is. He just automatically goes into cool Dad mode of trying to keep her there. And hey, what kid can’t be bribed with chocolate chip pancakes?
It’s also the familiarness that you feel seeing Travis and Punky together. They just fit and they may not be together – but they always seem to run in sync with each other and that’s part of the beauty of seeing these characters on the television screen.
The time comes when Izzy is supposed to be given to her new foster family, and you can see that she doesn’t want to go. You can see in Punky’s eyes, she thinks she’s doing the right thing by letting her go, but that she doesn’t want to.
But as usual with Punky, someone has to step in to give her the time to see it. Hannah and Izzy make a run for it and Punky has to go find them.
The Keatons, who want to foster Izzy, want a child that they can show off. They want a child that they can brag about or make sure the world knows that they did a good job with. Punky knows that pressure – the feeling that she’ll have to be a certain person or the family will give her back. It’s too much for Izzy.
It’s too much for anyone.
And when Punky finds Izzy and Hannah and talks to Izzy, I admit that my heart broke a little. But it also felt like a TGIF moment (if you know what that means, you know). Your heart breaks as Izzy talks about wanting to find her Mom and apologize for whatever she did. And you want to protect this kid from feeling so alone and so deserted.
But it is this moment, when you know that Izzy and Punky were both abandoned, that you know that they will understand each other in a way that no one else will. These two need each other and it’s through their mutual understanding of each other that they will be able to grow.
And when they go back in and it’s time to let Izzy go, Punky can’t do it. She has had a part of her woken up and she knows that she needs to keep Izzy. Izzy has found her home. Hannah, Diego, and Daniel want her to stay.
It’s always crazy when you find that member of your family that was missing and that you never knew you needed. Family isn’t always blood. Family is what you make of it, the people that you let in your heart and that you let find you.
Punky Brewster’s reboot isn’t perfect. It’s not even close to perfect. But it’s a good start. It’s trying too hard and delivering slowly. Only one episode in and yes, I am willing to give it time. Because the power of Punky… that’s the power that sticks with you.
- Diego painting his nails when he finds out that his little brother was getting made fun of for painting his nails is too cute and great brotherhood.
- I love Travis and Punky. I laugh when Punky accidentally kisses him – twice.
- There is a lack of follow through on storylines and it’s confusing to me.
- There is something about Freddie Prinze Jr’s smile that can melt a heart.
- The ending with Punky’s Mom calling. After all this time? HEART IN MY THROAT.