On This Day: ‘Punky Brewster’ Airs Series Finale in 1988

by Brandi Stillings

Guess what? It’s already been 33 years since the ’80s classic sitcom “Punky Brewster” aired its series finale!

It seems like yesterday we watched bright-eyed Penelope “Punky” Brewster (played by Soleil Moon Frye) and her foster parent, Henry Warnimont (George Gaynes) on TV.

The show debuted on September 16, 1984, and the hit series ran until March 9, 1986, and again in syndication from October 30, 1987 to May 27, 1988. After 88 episodes, the show left behind four unforgettable seasons and a catchy theme song.

According to IMDb.com, Punky’s father walked out on her family. Then, her mother abandoned her at a Chicago shopping center, while in search of groceries, leaving Punky alone with her dog, Brandon. Afterward, Punky discovers a vacant apartment in a local building.

The building, managed by Henry, an elderly, widowed photographer. Punky meets Cherie Johnson (played by Cherie Johnson), who happens to live in the same building with her grandma Betty (Susie Garrett). Eventually, Henry discovers Punky in the empty apartment. After that, their relationship grows until he legally adopts her as a daughter.

In addition to the original series, “Punky Brewster” generated an animated spin-off called “It’s Punky Brewster.” It had the same cast play their respective cartoon characters. Aired on NBC, the series ran a little bit over a year. On February 25, 2021, a 10-episode revival show premiered on NBC as well.

“Punky Brewster”; Name Actually Based Off Real Person

Ranked as one of the most memorable names in TV history, “Punky Brewster” fits the character’s role perfectly. You would assume, with her funky wardrobe choices and unique personality, that the writers created the name. However, the one-of-a-kind nickname was actually a real person’s name.

According to Looper.com, NBC Entertainment president Brandon Tartikoff commissioned the show “Punky Brewster,” suggesting the concept to creator David W. Duclon with the main character be named Punky Brewster. As a child, Tartikoff attended an exclusive, boys-only academy where he met the daughter of a teacher whose name was, adorably, Punky Brewster.

“It was no crush,” Tartikoff clarified to TV Guide. “She was no girlfriend.”

Punky was actually a nickname, the young woman’s real first name was Peyton. Amidst production, in 1984, NBC lawyers had to locate the “real” Punky. Now married, and going by Peyton Rutledge, they received her approval and paid for the right to use her name.

In the end, the “real” Punky agreed to hand over her name, and accepted a cameo part in the show as well.