Punky Brewster (Season 1, Ep 19): Punky Brewster’s Workout

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.]


Henry buys an expensive new video camera to use with his photography business. He warns Punky not to touch it. Punky, under the influence of peer pressure from her friends, plays with it and makes a workout video for kids. When they are done playing with it, the camera is dropped and the lens cracks.

When Henry returns home, Punky has done her chores and is preparing to tell Henry what happened. Before she can, Henry drops the camera himself. Punky lets Henry believe that he is the one who cracked the lens. That night, filled with guilt, she calls Henry into her room and finally confesses. Henry is pleased with her for telling the truth and allows her to set her own punishment.


Our episode begins with Cherie, Punky, Mrs. Johnson, and Brandon sitting at the kitchen table. Suddenly Henry bursts into the room holding a video camera.

Henry: Lights. Camera. Action!
Punky: Holy macanoli, a movie camera!

Henry tells her that it is better than that. As she and Cherie are posing for said camera, he tells them that it is a video camera and that it goes with new his VCR.

Cherie: VCR? What’s that?
Punky: You know Cherie. It’s a video castanet recorder!
Henry: Video cassette recorder.

As the audience looks at everyone through Henry’s camera perspective, Mrs. Johnson tells Henry to turn it off as the video camera adds ten pounds. Henry jovially continues selling the virtues of the VCR and says that he can use it to record whatever television programs that they want. When Mrs. Johnson praises Henry for spending money on something that is actually fun, he corrects her to say that it is a business expense.

Henry: Nowadays people do not just want photographs of their weddings. They want a video tape of the whole shebang.

Punky approaches the video camera and Henry tells her not only that she should not touch it, he tells her she should not even go near his expensive new camera. She reluctantly agrees.

Sometime later, Margaux and Allen have come over and they are with Punky and Cherie in Henry’s kitchen. The children stare at the camera – now on a tripod – and Margaux tells Punky that she is a prisoner in her own home. Punky decides that maybe they can at least go near the camera. The children then all run toward it. Punky stops them and says that they are not allowed to touch it. Her friends complain that they want to be in television as Punky explains that the camera is for Henry’s work.

Margaux: But it sure would be fun to make a video. ‘A Day in the Life of Margaux Kramer.’ Can’t you see it?
Punky: No. I’m not allowed to see horror films.

Punky tells Margaux that if they were going to make a video, it is her camera, and her apartment, so she should be the star of the video. Margaux asks her what kind of video she would like to star in and Punky says she really likes Jane Fonda’s Exercise Video.

Punky: Maybe we could make one for kids.

After some debate about how using the camera would be wrong, Punky finally tells the others that Henry will not be home until 5:30 and that they should go for it.

Sometime later, on Henry’s TV, we see the children rewinding their efforts. The camera zooms in on the TV as they press play. The children and Brandon all have a poster board name card introducing themselves within the video. Then the girls begin their workout routine.

When the video ends after several minutes, the camera zooms out from Henry’s TV.

Margaux: You know, watching that made me realize something about myself.
Others: What?
Margaux: I’m incredibly beautiful.

Allen tells Cherie that she made a great guppy face during the face workout portion of the video. She thanks him, makes the face again, and then quickly gives him a kiss on the cheek. Margaux tells Punky that they should make another movie. She says no and that if Henry catches her with his video camera, she will be history. Allen insists that they have time for one more. Punky tries to take the camera from him, but he pulls it away from her hands. She yells at him as they both drop it to the floor. Dramatic music plays as the children stare in horror at the camera on the floor.

Allen picks it up and tells the girls that the lens is cracked. He gives Punky the camera and tells her that she is dead meat. Allen suggests that they might be able to get it fixed but none of the children have accessible money (Margaux’s money is in T-bills.) Punky says that maybe Henry will understand when they explain it to him.

Others: We?
Punky: Yeah.
Others: Bye!

Even Brandon hops off of his chair in the living room and flees through his doggie door into the kitchen.

Later when Henry returns home, Punky recites to him a long list of household chores that she has done. He is surprised and asks her why she did all of this. He asks her what she did wrong. She pretends to take offense that he assumes she must have done something wrong so Henry apologizes. He says that in appreciation of her hard work, he will take her picture with he new camera. Punky protests that she does not look good enough for that right now. Henry insists. However, as he is insisting, he trips and drops the camera.

Henry: Of for Heaven’s sake, I’ve cracked the lens!

Henry berates himself as a clumsy idiot. Punky consoles him and says that accidents happen. Henry tells her that he already spent more than he can afford with the new equipment. He says that now he will have to break down and photograph Mrs. Wopperman’s Pekinese.

Henry: It’s like looking at a rat with hair.
Punky: Dogs can’t help how they look.
Henry: I was talking about Mrs. Wopperman.

Henry tells her that he feels doubly foolish because he ordered her to stay away from the new equipment when he ends up as the one who breaks it. Punky asks Henry if she can help him pay for the new lens. He says no. He says that since he broke it, he should pay for it. He then tells her that she is the best daughter a father could ever have.

Later, Punky is in her room with Brandon. She tells him that she knows she is a worm and that she is lower than the lowest low. They have a conversation wherein Punky continues responding to Brandon’s silent admonition for her to tell Henry the truth. After a long conversation, she finally agrees with Brandon that she should tell Henry the truth. She calls out to him.

Henry: Punky? Why aren’t you asleep?
Punky: I can’t sleep. I’ve got the auntziety.

Henry is confused. She explains her symptoms and Henry understands that she means anxiety. She describes the sensation of a bubble inside of her and she tells Henry that it is talking to her.

Henry: A talking bubble? What does it say?
Punky: it says “Fess up, Punky. Tell Henry the truth.”

She confesses to Henry that she is the one who broke his camera. She apologizes and says that she feels terrible. He asks if there is anything else she wants to say. She checks her inner bubble and says “no, that’s it.”

Henry tells her that he is proud of her for confessing. He tells her that if she had not confessed, she might have gotten away with it and that would have been wrong. Henry tells Punky that since she has shown she is grown up enough to tell the truth that he will let her be grown up enough to choose her own punishment. After suggesting initially that she have no TV for an hour, and then suggesting that she be forced to swim across Lake Michigan with tractor tires tied to her ankles, Punky finally decides that her punishment should be doing extra chores to help pay for the camera.

Henry tells Punky that a few minutes before she called him in, he found out that she had been playing with his camera. He tells her he had been wondering if she was the one who broke it. She asks how he found out and he tells her not to worry about that and that she should instead go to sleep.

On Henry’s way out of Punky’s room, he asks her if he has a double chin. She says no. He says that he does not want to get one so he better do some guppy faces. He makes guppy faces at her as he leaves the room and turns off the light. Punky finally realizes that he watched her workout video and lies down.


This was a perfect episode of this show. The kids were cute and funny. It has a moral lesson. The stakes are relatively within the range of what a normal child should face (rather than a lot of the life and death that Punky Brewster typically addresses.) Punky made a mistake. Punky learned a lesson. Henry responded rationally rather than in an unhinged way.

The star of this episode was Margaux. Her self-admiration cracks me up.

Margaux: You know, watching that made me realize something about myself.
Others: What?
Margaux: I’m incredibly beautiful.

Punky’s “conversation” with Brandon was also great. Soleil Moon Frye was a supremely talented kid actor.

The Thing That Makes Me Feel Old:

This episode was essentially Hollywood’s way of selling the idea of VCRs to the little kids who watch this show. “Hey little kids, you can be on TV, too! You can make your own videos!” I suspect that message may have taken root a little too deeply.

And oh man… that technology was brand new in 1985? The level of technological advancement in this one area kind of blows my mind. My cell phone is more advanced than anything that was on earth a mere generation ago.

This was a good one. If you want to re-watch an episode of this show without being emotionally scarred in the process, this is probably the go-to episode.