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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Punky Brewster: Season Two
Punky Brewster: Season Two
Shout Factory // Unrated // February 8, 2005
List Price: $34.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Francis Rizzo III | posted January 23, 2005 | E-mail the Author
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In 10 Words or Less
The second season of the spunky '80s orphan

The Story So Far...
For those unfamiliar with the show, Punky (Soleil Moon-Frye), a young girl with plenty of energy and a unique sense of style, was abandoned by her mother in a supermarket, and found squatting in an empty apartment by the building's elderly superintendent, Henry (George Gaynes). Henry takes her in and she proceeds to turn his life upside down, as she gets into plenty of trouble with her friends Cherie, Margeaux and Allen.

Shout! Factory released the first season of the show in June of 2004. The DVDTalk review can be read here.

The Show
It may not have been a big hit when it was on the air, but "Punky Brewster" continues to be popular with the kids who grew up with her, either because of her unique character or the fact that she grew up to be very much the opposite of Punky. Season One apparently meant enough to her fans that it sold well enough to demand another season of DVDs. While season one walked the line between comedy and drama, the second go-round went over the line. Several extremely dark episodes came out of this year's episodes, including a tagged-on season finale that attempted to explain the Challenger shuttle explosion to kids, by showing Punky's reactions to it.

Of course, that's not the only challenge Punky faced this season, as every child-in-danger story from the headlines found its way into the show. In one episode, future "Full House" star Candace Cameron plays a girl kidnapped by her father, while Punky's pal Cherie (Cherie Johnson) risks death by getting locked in a discarded refrigerator. Though the season starts out like any other family sitcom, Punky is soon put through several trials by fire, facing every trouble a child could face. In recreating these tragic stories, the show took on a preachy quality that made it hard to enjoy at times. I'm not sure what it was with '80s sitcoms, but everywhere you looked there was trouble for kids, be it Kimberly getting kidnapped, Wesley getting molested or Natalie almost getting raped. Perhaps life was just too good, and to be escapist, TV had to torture its characters.

T.K. Carter (Baadasssss!) was added to the cast this season, as one of Punky's teachers, and his presence allowed more school-related plots, as well as a story about adoption that was one of the better episodes. His sense of humor was a bit more outlandish than the show's flavor, but he was a good addition. The rest of the show remained essentially the same, though the second entry on this set introducing Punky's treehouse, which gave the show another set to work with. Stargazing is kept to a minimum this time, though Peter Billingsley (A Christmas Story), boxer Marvin Hagler and Tim Stack ("Son of the Beach") make appearances.

This season also sees the biggest storyline in Punky's four-year run, the five-episode "Changes." To do such a lengthy plot on an '80s sitcom was certainly a bold move, and one that put Punky through hell. From Henry's health problems to Punky's new foster parents and everything in between, "Changes" tests the resolve of even the most hardcore Punky fan. The show's sense of humor is pretty much lost in these episodes. There are a few more enjoyable episodes on these discs, though, they are few and far between.

The DVDs
The 22 second-season episodes of "Punky Brewster" come spread over four DVDs, packed in an 8-panel gatefold digipack package. The episodes are spread out over four discs, with five on disc one, six on the second platter, five episodes on the third and six on the last DVD. Each episode can be selected to watch separately or you can select the Play All option to watch the entire disc. The discs come packaged with a set of seven Punky-themed stickers.

The Quality
The full-frame episodes in season two maintain the same level of quality seen in the first collection. The episodes display their age, with an acceptable amount of grain and softness for a show nearly 20 years old. Sharpness doesn't exist on these DVDs, and fine detail is similarly absent. The color is good, with solid black level, once you account for the grain and softness. Occasionally, some pixelation is obvious, while there is some banding on the left side of the screen.

The audio is good, recreating the sound of '80s network TV in Dolby Digital 2.0. The laughtrack is very obvious, while the music and stings are well separated from the dialogue. There's no obvious interference in the soundtrack, which is nice for an older series.

The Extras
Unlike the first season collection, the second season of "Punky Brewster" contains just one cast interview, this time with Gaynes. On disc one, he starts out by talking about how he's been typecast due to his most popular roles, but then eventually gets around to talking about the show. Listen to him talk about his time on the show is interesting, as his recollections aren't exactly what one might expect. Considering one of my main complaints about the first collection was the lack of participation by Gaynes and Moon-Frye, this interview is very welcome. One hopes that the titular star makes an appearance next time.

The rest of the extras take the form of eight more episodes (two per disc) from the Saturday morning cartoon, "It's Punky Brewster," continuing the extras theme from season one. Included among the eight two-part episodes are "Little Orphan Punky," "Punky's Millions," "Fair Feathered Friend," "Be My Glomely," "All In Henry's Family," "Bright Eyes," "Mississippi Mud," "Punky P.I.," "Camp Confusion," "Allen Who?," "Punky's Half Acre" and "Mother Of The Year." With each actor providing the voice for their character from the show, these episodes should be interesting to fans, despite the presence of the unfortunate kid-friendly addition, Glomer. As much of a longshot as it was that "Punky Brewster" would arrive on DVD, the chances of seeing this cartoon on disc were slim to none, so these special features are truly special.

The Bottom Line
Season Two was a rough year for Punky, as she had to deal with drugs, the Challenger explosion, the mentally handicapped, kidnapping, shoplifting, killers, refrigerators and an epic five-part storyline that shook up her life. The whole series took on the feel of a giant "very special episode," which may explain why NBC gave up on the show. Shout! Factory hasn't though, presenting the show in its optimal quality, with a very appropriate set of extras that should be welcomed by fans of the perky orphan. Considering how packed the first season's DVDs were, this set is a bit of a disappointment, but for fans, it's a no-brainer.

Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.

Check out 1106 - A Moment in Fictional Time or follow him on Twitter

*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.

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