Punky Brewster (Season 1, Ep 12): Yes, Punky, There Is a Santa Claus (Part 1)

Hi. Welcome back to my re-watch of Punky Brewster. If you want to read my prior reviews, you can check them out HERE.

I will provide a short episode summary here at the top, then a long and detailed summary just below that. There’s a sub-section near the bottom (scroll down) labeled “reaction” if you just want to get right to my thoughts about the episode.

[NOTE: This episode is one of the episodes that was not included on the NBC App. It *is* on the Peacock app, which I now have. I’ll review this episode and the other episodes I missed and re-number my episode guide.]

THE QUICK AND CLEAN SUMMARY:

After a kid at school tells Punky that Santa is not real, Henry dresses up as Santa for Punky’s class to prove that he is real. After convincing the class that Santa is real, Henry takes gift requests from the children. Henry is stunned when Punky asks “Santa” to bring back her mother.

THE EXTRA DUSTY RECAP:

Punky, Cherie, and Margaux perform a holiday show for her 3rd grade class called “The Loneliest Raindrop.”

Margaux: Starring America’s sweetheart, Margaux Kramer.
Class: Booo!
Margaux: Peasants!

Dressed s rain drops, Punky, Cherie, and Margaux discuss what they are going to do when they fall. Margaux gleefully says rain drops get to ruin parades and destroy expensive hair-dos. Cherie points out a car blow them that a man just washed and says she plans to land there. Just then, Allen shows up, not knowing whether has a line or not, dressed as “The North Wind.” Punky whispers to him that he is just supposed to blow.

A few moments later, the girls say they are feeling cold and that something is happening to them. Just then, they flip their costumes around and announce that they are turning into snowflakes.

Punky: Isn’t it wonderful? I used to be the saddest rain drop now I get to be the happiest snowflake.

Punky’s class cheers. Her teacher, Mrs. Norton, says that she has not been so moved by a theatrical performance since she saw Oklahoma. She then tells the class that she has been trying to get Santa to pay them a visit but she informs them he has been very busy. She says she will keep trying after the class voices disappointment. Mrs. Norton then tells all of them that Christmas is a time of sharing. She encourages them to think of something that they can share with their parents during the holiday season.

In the next scene, we see a montage of Henry, Punky, and Brandon attempting to take a Christmas Card picture in Henry’s studio. After seeing several that do not quite work – usually because of issues with Brandon – the sequence finally stops on a picture of the three of them that is what they wanted. The camera pans away from the scene and it becomes a Christmas Card in Punky’s hand.

We learn that last year, Henry sent out three Christmas cards and only received two in return. Punky is not impressed with his numbers.

She suggests sending cards to everyone in the building. Henry almost immediately suggests putting a “you are behind on your rent” notice in the first one they plan to send out. Punky says that he cannot do that at Christmas. Henry agrees but says that if they are not caught up by Valentine’s Day, they will be getting an eviction notice with their card then.

Henry finally apologizes for being grumpy and he says that he is not accustomed to having the Christmas Spirit because before she came along, he was always alone on Christmas.

Punky: Then I’m glad I’m here.
Henry: Me too.

Henry says that they will have the best Christmas ever. He tells Punky that they can do all the things he did at Christmas time when he was a boy. Punky exclaims surprise that they had Christmas way back then. He replies that the Three Wise Men lived on his block. He tells her that when he was a boy growing up in Massachusetts, he and his grandfather would go out into the woods to cut down their own Christmas Tree.

Punky: Wow!
Henry: Until I was twelve. That’s the year grandpa got attacked by a moose.

Henry says that they bought their trees after that. He continues on saying that Christmas Eve was his favorite. He tells Punky that they sang carols, drank egg nog, and hug up their stockings. Henry asks Punky if she knows why he went to bed early on Christmas. She guesses correctly that the earlier one goes to bed, the earlier Santa comes to visit. Immediately after, Punky jumps up and begins jumping and yelling that she cannot wait for Christmas and that she wishes it was today.

Henry tells her to slow down and reminds her that they have much to do before Christmas. Among other things, they have not decided what they will eat for Christmas dinner, yet. Punky asks about cranberry pudding. Henry does not know what that is. Punky explains that her mom used to make it for them at Christmas.

Punky stands up as sad piano music begins playing. Henry asks her if something is wrong. She tells him that she is missing her mom.

Punky: I hope wherever she is that she’s okay.
Henry: I’m sure she is and I bet she misses you, too.

Henry tells her to think about the fun time they are going to have this Christmas. He has to tell her that three times before he gets an okay that is cheerful.

At school, Allen is with Margaux, Cherie, and Punky. He tells them that he hopes Santa comes tomorrow and he says that he has a few things he is going to ask for. He proceeds to pull out an extremely long folded sheet of paper that stretches from his head down to the floor.

A few moments later, an older boy named Billy. He tells all three kids that they are babies and that Santa is not real. To illustrate his point, he says that Santa is too fat to fit down a chimney and he reminds all three of them that none of them have chimneys at their house.

Allen: My mom says he goes through the little hole in front of our dryer.

Billy says “that tub of lard” could not fit in a dryer. He also asks them where Santa gets the money to buy all of those toys. Punky replies that Santa does not have to buy the toys because he and the elves make them. Billy asks who pays the elves and Margaux adds that the elves might work for nothing and she suggests that they are just happy to have a roof over their heads.

Billy: Nobody works for free. Even an elf has to get paid minimum wage.
Cherie: He’s right, Punky. That’s the law.

Punky suggests that Santa may pay them using his American Express card. Billy next ridicules the idea of Santa flying through the sky on a sleigh pulled by reindeer. Punky says that she does not care what he says, their parents told them Santa is real, so he must be rel. Billy says that their parents have been lying to them and he says that there is no Santa Claus.

Billy: And there’s no Easter Bunny either. [laugh maniacally and walks away]

When he’s gone, all the girls are completely dejected.

Allen: Cheer up, at least we still have the Tooth Fairy!

Sometime later, we see Henry and Eddie the building repairman interact in the hallway. Henry asks the dirty Eddie what happened to him this time. Eddie tells him that he has been cleaning the furnace and that it is really hot in there. Henry tells him that it is customary to turn it off first before cleaning it. Eddie next says it is also customary that Henry give him a Christmas present. Henry tells him that his present will be living until Easter. Eddie laughs awkwardly and then scurries away.

Punky then arrives looking sad. The score starts playing some piano music that seems fitting for a horror movie.

Henry: Hello Punky. How was school?
Punky: Lousy. I found out that there’s no Santa Claus.

The two of them go inside. Henry puts the Christmas wreath he has been holding around Brandon’s neck after they go inside. Then he asks Punky what she is talking about. Punky tells Henry that Billy, a fifth grader, told her. Henry asks what exactly he told her.

Punky: He said reindeer can’t fly, fat people can’t go down chimneys, and elves have to get minimum wage.

Punky tells Henry that Billy said parents made up Santa Claus. She asks Henry to tell her the truth. Henry sits down on their couch.

Henry tells Punky that there is a Santa Claus but that he’s only real to the people who believe in him . He goes on to say that if you believe in Santa Claus, he can do anything – including getting reindeer to fly, going down chimneys, and making enough toys for every single boy and girl in the entire world.

Just then, Mrs. Johnson and Cherie knock on the door. Mrs. Johnson says that she got Henry’s Christmas Card. She tells him that she has the rent. Henry tells her that he is glad she is here and that he has a little girl with a long face. Mrs. Johnson says that there is a lot of that going around. We see Cherie looks just as dejected as Punky. Henry suggests that the four of them go out and get two big beautiful Christmas trees. Punky says she does not feel like it right now and she then invites Cherie into her room so that they can go inside and then not play.

After the girls are gone, Henry tells Mrs. Johnson that he is not going to let that little Scrooge ruin Christmas. He says this is Punky’s first Christmas without her mother and their first Christmas together. He says that there must be a way to prove to Punky that Santa Claus is real. Mrs. Johnson tells Henry that their teacher is having a hard time finding someone to dress up like Santa for their class.

Henry: Hold it, I hope you’re not thinking about me.
Mrs. Johnson: Why not, you’d make a perfect Santa. You’re as old as he is.
Henry: Yeah. And you can be the bag I carry the presents in.

Mrs. Johnson says that the only way to get the girls to believe in Santa again is for them to see him. Henry suggests Mr. Whopperman who is always jolly. Mrs. Johnson says that by the time they sober him up it will be New Years. Mrs. Johnson tries to get Henry to say “ho ho ho.’ He does it halfheartedly. She asks again and he puts only a little more vigor into his ho ho ho. She offers to sit on his lap, to help him, and he finally gives a robust “ho ho ho.” Henry says that they will never get away with it. Mrs. Johnson says that they will and she says that she will make the costume right away. Henry finally relents.

Henry: But I want your word that you will never tell anyone about this .
Mrs. J: It will be our little secret. [She steps into the hallway] EDDIE! GUESS WHAT?!

As Henry looks horrified, Mrs. Johnson sticks her head back in through the door and laughs at him.

The next day at school, Punky’s class is exchanging presents. Punky gives Margaux a mirror. Margaux is elated.

Punky: I knew you’d never get tired of looking at yourself.

Margaux gives Punky a poster sized picture of herself. Punky looks at the poster of her friend and thanks her, saying that she has always wanted a poster of Miss Piggy.

Margaux: I don’t look like Miss Piggy! [checks her face in her new mirror to reassure herself]

Allen gives Cherrie a present… a box of teeth. As she looks at them, horrified, he tells her that the teeth are his grandma’s teeth. He reassures her by saying that his grandma bought new teeth. She tells him to open his present. He finds a toy spider inside. Allen is so happy and excited that he kisses her on the cheek. After, they both look shocked and confused about what he just did.

Finally, Santa Claus arrives. Henry is hardly recognizable in the costume. Most of the kids run up to hug him, however, Punky and her friends hang back. Henry “proves” that he is Santa Claus by sharing information that he knows about each of those children that a fake Santa Claus could not possible know – such as their names, where they live, the color of their bikes, the names of siblings, etc. Punky says that she believes Henry is the real Santa and that she will never listen to Billy again. Henry/Santa asks if she is referring to the little boy who is getting nothing for Christmas? Punky and her friends cheer.

Mrs. Norton brings over a chair for Henry to sit on. She suggests that the kids can tell him what they want for Christmas. Henry points at Allen and says that they can start with him. Allen begins listing toys. He goes on. And on. And on. The camera pans up to the clock to show us that he lists presents for fifteen minutes. Finally Mrs. Norton asks if he should give someone else a chance. When he says he is not finished yet, Santa/Henry says that yes he is. Henry/Santa next calls on Punky. She sits on his lap and says that she only wants one thing. Surprised, Henry/Santa says that if she only wants one thing, he will make sure that she gets it. Punky, with her eyes filled with tears, tells him that she wants him to bring back her mother. Henry and Mrs. Norton look at her in a stunned silence after.

REACTION:

This is one of the few instances where I am not going to give Henry a hard time for missing something that should have been obvious. I did not see that request coming, either, though in hindsight I do not see how I missed it.

This episode is mostly just an elaborate set-up for Part 2, but it did have a few great moments.

Margaux is delightful as the classroom’s uppity rich girl. Her moment of angrily calling her class “peasants” after their Raindrops play was funny. Her reaction to getting a mirror was even better.

Allen giving Cherie… teeth. LOL. I don’t know to describe Allen – such that it might be relatable to a current audience – but the best that I can come up with is that he reminds me very much of a long lost American cousin of the Weasley family from Harry Potter. He just has Malfoy-ish blonde hair instead of the Weasley red.

Henry was outstanding as Santa. It stretches my ability to suspend disbelieve, a little, that Punky did not recognize his voice. But he genuinely looked different with the large belly, glasses, and beard. That might plausibly be enough to fool an 8 year old.

As usual, my favorite aspect of this show is the banter between Mrs. Johnson and Henry. Susie Garrett’s portrayal of Mrs. Johnson is just so warm and caring, even when she is teasing, or being teased, the scene plays well as if between two dear old friends.

I’m looking forward to Part 2 of this one. Henry may have bitten off more than he can chew.

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