A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this 1980s sitcom celebrates the diverse definition of family, centering on the unique bond between a young girl and her unlikely foster (and eventual adoptive) father. Even though its style is notably outdated, kids who do tune in won’t likely miss its heartwarming messages about tolerance, kindness, and overcoming differences. The show is thoughtful in its approach to serious issues like a family member’s illness, child abandonment, and even the 1986 Space Shuttle tragedy.
What's the story?
When her mom abandons her at a shopping mall, young Penelope “Punky” Brewster (Soleil Moon Frye) is left to fend for herself. She discovers a vacant space in an apartment building and takes up residence there with her faithful canine companion, Brandon, and quickly befriends her upstairs neighbor, Cherie (Cherie Johnson). But she’s soon discovered by the building’s curmudgeonly manager, Henry Warnimont (George Gaynes), who surprisingly hits it off with free-spirited Punky. Their mutual affection eventually inspires him to become her foster parent, giving her the stable family life she’s always craved.
Is it any good?
Modern-day girls may take one look at Punky and veto the show solely for its outdated sense of fashion (mismatched shoes, gaudy colors, and that trademark handkerchief tied around one leg), but if they’re willing to take a chance on it, there are plenty of good messages about individuality and tolerance to be gleaned.
It isn’t flashy or set to a downloadable soundtrack, but PUNKY BREWSTER tells a feel-good story about realistic characters and relatable problems, and it makes us rethink what it means to be a family. As content goes, there’s very little to worry about here, but the show does touch on some serious issues (child abandonment and a parent’s illness, for example) that might raise concerns for kids.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what defines a family. How has society’s definition of family changed through the years? How expansive is your family? Are there non-biological relationships that you consider to be family?
Talk about comedy. What makes a show funny to you? Does a show’s humor change when it’s viewed through the lens of time? Is it harder to relate to shows that are years old? If so, why?
Kids: How do you express your individuality? What kinds of things do you hold dear to your heart? How do you let people know what you value? What makes you special?
For kids who love comedy
Our editors recommend
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.