Punky Brewster (Season 1, Ep 14): Play It Again, Punky

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:

Punky takes piano lessons from Tony Glen (Andy Gibb) and wants to help him sign a record deal. To that end, she goes with him to Dell Star Studios where Mr. Dell tells Tony, after listening to a demo, that he is a star. Unfortunately, Mr. Dell wants Tony to give him $2,500 in good faith money before he begins promoting him at their studio.

Henry shows up at the recording studio and realizes that Mr. Dell is a scam artist. He demonstrates this to Tony and Punky by letting them listen in on his own audition for a record deal. The episode ends with Tony thanking Henry for saving him $2,500 and Henry bargaining for free piano lessons for Punky in return for the good deed.

THE EXTRA DUSTY RECAP:

The episode begins with Punky badly playing Henry’s piano.

Henry: Punky you’re supposed to play the piano, not hurt the piano.
Punky: Henry this is no fun at all.
Henry: YES IT IS, IT’S A LOT OF FUN!

Henry modifies his tone and says that he wanted her to learn the piano so he rented this one as a fun surprise, Punky tells him that fun is taking her to Disney World. Henry tries to get her to play some more and she expresses a lot of confusion about notes, keys, and octaves while Henry grows increasingly frustrated. Henry decides that he should hire a teacher for her.

Sometime later, Punky and Henry are waiting in the living room for her new piano teacher to arrive. The doorbell rings and Cherie comes inside. Punky explains who they are waiting on and Henry tells Cherie that Punky’s new teacher comes highly recommended.

Henry: Cheapest lessons in Chicago.

Punky decides that her new teacher is likely a mean old lady and she prepares herself for the worst. Finally the doorbell rings and Punky opens it. To her surprise, her new teacher is a young man (Andy Gibb) who introduces himself as Tony Glen. [NOTE: Andy Gibb played himself four episodes ago in “Miss Adorable.”] Punky is dumbstruck, her attitude toward piano lessons changes immediately and she urges her new teacher to come in as they have “only got an hour.”

Cherie is also dumbstruck by Tony. She smiles goofily and her eyes cross.

Tony: Hi, I’m Tony.
Cherie: You sure are.

Punky asks Cherie if she has something to do and when her friend says no, Punky growls at her to find something and pulls her out of the apartment. Tony offers to teach Punky some contemporary music and she gets more excited about the idea of playing.

Tony proceeds to teach Punky which key corresponds with each note by naming each key after a person – Chuck, Dave, Ed, Fred, and Gus. As Henry watches Punky pick this approach up quickly, looking bewildered, Tony introduces Punky to the “girls down the street” and he provides girl names for those notes – Claire, Beth, Ann, Gail, and Fran. Tony tells Punky that once she knows where her friends live that there is nothing she cannot play.

Punky: I thought I hated the piano but now I love it. I guess it just takes the right teacher.

Henry has been listening at the door. He looks wounded by what Punky just said as he leaves and goes into the kitchen. A few moments later, Tony coaches Punky through a simple rendition of the first part of Jingle Bells. She is amazed and asks Tony how she did it. Tony tells her that it is simple and that she just has to know where her friends live. He then tells her that sometimes you visit more than one friend at the same time. He then plays a much more complex song and sings at the piano while she watches on in admiration.

From the kitchen, Henry listens and his demeanor changes from sadness to enjoyment as he listens. The camera cuts back into the living room where Tony is playing. We see Brandon come through the doggie door from the kitchen to listen attentively. Henry re-opens the door into the kitchen to listen as well. Henry is now smiling and is impressed. Punky seems smitten.

[The song goes on for about 5 minutes]

When he is done playing, the live studio audience and Punky clap.

Punky: That’s the best singing I’ve ever heard from a real person.

Punky asks him if the song is a big hit and he tells her that it is something he has been working on. She asks him if he wrote it and he says yes to her amazement.

Punky: You should make a record. All my friends would buy it.
Tony: Ah, it’s my dream to make a record. But the truth is Punky I’m not sure my songs are that good.

Punky stands up on the piano bench and tells him that he should be a star. She goes on to tell Tony that he is looking at the kid who is going to make him one.

Sometime later, Henry and Mrs. Johnson are in his living room. He asks her to look at the piano and she asks him why. He tells her that it is a signpost that says Henry Warnimont is old and over the hill. Henry explains that he tried and failed to get Punky interested in the piano but Tony Glen was able to succeed in garnering her interest by discussing Punky’s rock groups.

Henry: In my day we didn’t have a Boy George.
Mrs. J: Yes you did. He was chopping down a cherry tree.

After laughing at Henry, Mrs. Johnson tells him that both of them are victims of a generation gap. Henry is worried that if an eight year old Punky already thinks he is out of it, that when she is a teenager she believe he was never in it.

Some time later, Punky and her piano teacher at alone at a recording studio – Dell Star Studios. Punky goes to the front desk and tells the receptionist that she has her “new discovery” with her. The receptionist – who looks like an 80s Madonna – says “wow.” Tony tells the receptionist that they would like to see Mr. Dell. The woman at the desk tells them that she will let him know that they are there.

Tony and Punky go into to meet Mr. Dell. He is immediately friendly to both of them and he tells Tony that he likes his name. Punky says that Tony has written a great song. Mr. Dell asks Tony what his hook is and Tony is confused by the question.

Mr. Dell: Your hook. Your angle. The thing you wow them with. You break your guitar or set your hair on fire or sing under water?
Tony: Basically I just write a song and try to sing it as best as I can.
Mr. Dell: [disappointed] Oh.

Tony plays his song – this time on the guitar – and before he is finished Mr. Dell tells him that he blew him away. Mr. Dell tells his receptionist to cancel his recording session with Prince for tomorrow.

Mr. Dell: Prince is yesterday. Tony Glen is today.

Punky and Tony celebrate. Mr. Dell welcomes Tony to the Dell Star Stable. However, he asks for a full commitment from him. He also asks Tony to give him $2,500 in good faith money reasoning to both of them that he needs insurance against the large investment he will soon be investing into Tony.

Mr. Dell: What happens if Tony changes his mind about being a rock star?

Tony is unsure of paying that amount of money and asks Mr. Dell for reassurance of his talent. Mr. Dell says that he swears on his mother’s grave that Tony is the best he has ever heard. Henry shows up at Dell Star Studios and runs into Punky and Tony as they leave the recording studio. They tell him they are going to get $2,500 to pay Mr. Dell. Henry is confused as to why they are paying him. Punky explains that this is Standard Operating Procedure. Tony tells Henry that it’s good faith money. Henry is suspicious and goes into Mr. Dell’s office himself.

Inside, he sees Dell spray painting a gold record on the wall. Henry surreptitiously turns on Mr. Dell’s intercom while he talks to him so that Punky and Tony can listen in from the lobby. Henry tells Mr. Dell that he writes songs in his spare time. Mr. Dell launches into the exact same speech about seeing Henry’s potential music video that he gave for Punky and Tony. Mr. Dell tells Henry to thrill him. Henry says that he has no musical accompaniment. Mr. Dell tells Henry that he does not need any accompaniment because he has a hook – he’s old.

Henry then launches into a song that he has made up, on the spot, called “Just Say Cheese.” It is terrible. To the surprise of Tony and Punky in the lobby, they next hear Mr. Dell tell Henry that he is dynamite. They also hear him tell Henry that he is canceling his recording session with Prince because Henry is so red hot. Henry, hilariously, asks exactly how red hot he is.

Mr. Dell: Henry, by the time I’m finished with you, we’re going to have the whole country singing “Cheese.”

Punky and Tony listen in the lobby as Mr. Dell tells Henry that he swears on his mother’s grave that Henry is the best he has ever heard. Tony has finally heard enough and storms into Mr. Dell’s office again. Tony tells Henry not to listen to Mr. Dell and he announces to everyone that Mr. Dell is a crook. Punky follows them inside and tells Mr. Dell that he lies to people and takes their money.

Mr. Dell: I swear on my mother’s grave that I have never told a lie in my life.
Receptionist: [buzzes in] Mr. Dell you mother is on the phone.
Henry: Your mother?
Mr. Dell: That’s awful. They buried the wrong woman!

Mr. Dell runs out of the room. Tony thanks Henry for saving him a lot of money. Henry tells him that he does not have to thank him. Instead he suggests that Tony offer him ten free piano lessons. Tony tells him that it’s a deal. Henry says he’s not so bad for a guy that is old and out of it. Punky tells him that he is not old and out of it. She says that he is the most with it guy she knows. Tony then asks to hear his “Just Say Cheese” song again. Henry and Tony sing it together as all three of them leave Mr. Dell’s office.

REACTION:

This was a bizarre episode.

Punky gets piano lessons from Andy Gibb, err, Tony Glen. That’s fine. And it’s also fine that Andy Gibb – as himself – was a judge at the Miss Adorable pageant just a few episodes earlier. It’s a kids show and kids are not likely to make that connection.

HOWEVER… after one piano lesson, Punky becomes Tony’s actual manager. This is not a fiction in Punky’s mind. She actually goes alone with him to a recording studio. I mean… what? KIDS SHOULD NOT BE GOING TO RECORDING STUDIOS WITH TOTAL STRANGERS TO NEGOTIATE MUSIC DEALS. And Henry… Henry just sends his eight year old foster daughter off to a recording studio with a grown man who is essentially a total stranger? Really? Well, maybe Henry is not the one who did that. Someone else sent them off alone together, at least. Henry shows up at the recording studio after learning they are there together. Perhaps he had the good sense to realize someone else made a terribly inappropriate decision. It’s not otherwise clear exactly why Henry shows up there and in a bit of a huff.

While Henry is there, he sorts out in moments that they are not at a real recording studio at all… just a front for a scam operation to take people’s money. I can understand why eight year old Punky was taken in by Mr. Dell… but Tony could not see through this charade? Really?

After all of this is over (piano teacher takes Punky on as his actual manager, Henry learns that said piano teacher is perhaps not exactly very bright, etc.) the three of them just sing their way out of Mr. Dell’s office and out of the episode.

I think this one needed some re-writes before they filmed it.

The episode is not without its good moments. Mrs. Johnson tells Henry that *his* Boy George was George Washington was funny. Henry’s bizarre “Just Say Cheese” song was genuinely funny, too. Mr. Dell made an excellent Sleezeball Fake Record Exec. I laughed out loud when he said “they buried the wrong woman.”

All in all, this was a strange episode with a few good moments. If you’re a fan of Andy Gibb’s music, this is a great episode.

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