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‘Brewster’ punked: Revival series gets the ax and Soleil Moon Frye is bummed

A woman splashes water up with her foot at the ocean's edge
Soleil Moon Frye made a splash with a new show based on her ‘80s sitcom, “Punky Brewster.” Now, the continuation series has been canceled.
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

Despite enthusiasm from its creators and star, the revival/continuation of “Punky Brewster” has been canceled by NBC streamer Peacock.

“We just got the news yesterday that they made the hard decision to not pick up our Punky for another season,” star Soleil Moon Frye wrote Friday on Instagram. “I am so grateful for your constant love and support. I am feeling so many feels about what to say to all of our friends, family, and fans that have supported us so I will share what I wrote to my Punky family last night which all of you that have loved us have been a part of…

“I want to start by saying I love each and every one of you from the depths of my heart,” she continued. “I am so incredibly grateful for all of the beautiful stunning gifts you gave to me and the way in which you touched my heart and so many others. The best way I can put this experience is that it has felt like lightning in a bottle, a comet of joy, heart and love that I will hold closest to my heart forever and always.

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Fans had shared that excitement to the tune of an 81%-positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes, but critics were unmoved (57% positive). Times television critic Robert Lloyd described the show as “not a reboot but a long-delayed next season, executed more or less in the style of the original. It’s very much for children and people who were children back when ... a Feel the Feels affair in which eyes oft brim with tears, understanding smile meets understanding smile and a bed is just a place for the whole family to pile onto with popcorn and a dog.

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When the ‘Punky Brewster’ star embarked on a new documentary, she found that confronting her past, including surviving sexual assault, was the only way forward.

“There’s nothing here that strives to be remotely novel,” Lloyd continued. “But as a new season of ‘Punky Brewster,’ it is unimpeachable. And was I moved by the series’ climactic reunion? Yes, I was.”

The 10 episodes of the new show (resurrected by Punky Power, presumably) found its protagonist much the same as before, but 33 years older and the newly divorced mother of three. Freddie Prinze Jr. played her ex; 9-year-old Quinn Copeland of Broadway’s “Waitress the Musical” played the new Punky figure, Izzy; and Cherie Johnson was back as best friend Cherie. Fans will be let down that they won’t get to see the planned wedding for Cherie and girlfriend Lauren (Jasika Nicole), who got engaged in the eighth episode.

“You helped me find my inner strength and Punky Power once again,” Frye wrote on Instagram. “This has always been more than a show, it has been the collective of spirits coming together to help make the world a better place and create change by sharing our stories. Please keep sharing your stories, believe in your stories and follow your passion. We are each manifestors. Keep manifesting your dreams and following this incredible rainbow. I truly have faith that believing is seeing. I feel in my heart our paths will continue to come together again.

“I love you so very much my extended family, my forever Punky Family,” she continued. “I am wrapping my arms and heart around you yesterday, today and always.”

PLUS: Peacock gets eyeballs. But Olympics viewers are confused.

The Hollywood Reporter first broke the news of the cancellation.

“Punky’s” fellow kid-sitcom revival on Peacock, “Saved by the Bell,” will be back for Season 2. However, the loose adaptation of Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World” reached its own apocalypse and was also canceled. Meanwhile, Peacock’s slate runneth over with more regenerations of shows from generations past.

Another reboot of “Battlestar Galactica” is making its way to Earth. Plus there’s “MacGruber,” a series following the film that sprung from the “Saturday Night Live” sketches that parodied the ‘80s TV show “MacGyver,” which itself just ended its five-season reboot. (Phew!)

There’s also “Bel-Air,” which started as what seemed like a parody: a short on YouTube that reenvisioned “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” as a drama. Original “Fresh Prince” star Will Smith saw it, loved it and got behind completely reimagining the story in that vein with the short’s director, Morgan Cooper. After winning a bidding war, Peacock has already committed to two seasons.

Of “Punky” only getting one season, NBCUniversal Television and Streaming president Lisa Katz said in a statement, “‘Punky Brewster’ was a beloved series that tackled meaningful storylines with so much heart. It was a bright light for so many viewers and we are forever grateful to Universal Studio Group, the producers, the cast and crew and especially to Soleil Moon Frye for reigniting the Punky Power within everyone.”


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