Not even Punky Power can save Punky Brewster.
Peacock has canceled its Punky Brewster sequel series after one season. The series is the NBCUniversal-backed streamer’s first half-hour comedy cancellation. Sources say original star Soleil Moon Frye and the show’s exec producers all wanted to return for additional seasons and, while execs at Peacock including entertainment chair Susan Rovner liked the series, ultimately a decision was made to not move forward with a second season.
“Punky Brewster was a beloved series that tackled meaningful storylines with so much heart,” said Lisa Katz, president, scripted, NBCUniversal Television and Streaming. “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.”
The new Punky Brewster launched its entire 10-episode season on Feb. 25 to tepid reviews. The series, which THR chief TV critic Daniel Fienberg said was “[n]either ineptly stuck in the past nor cleverly inhabiting the present,” currently has a 57 percent rating among critics and softer 81 percent score among viewers on RottenTomatoes.com. (Peacock, like other streamers, does not release viewership data.)
Picked up to pilot in September 2019 by former Peacock head of originals Bill McGoldrick, Punky scored a series order in January, months before Rovner and Frances Berwick would arrive to oversee a portfolio that includes Peacock, NBC and the company’s suite of cable networks.
Moon Frye reprised her role as the iconic character, only now she’s a single mother of three trying to get her life back when she meets a young girl who, much like herself, was in the foster system. Cherie Johnson reprised her role as Punky’s best friend, with Quinn Copeland (Waitress the Musical) as the young Punky-like girl. Lauren Donzis, Oliver De Los Santos and Noah Cottrell round out the cast. Freddie Prinze Jr. played Punky’s ex-husband.
Steve and Jim Armogida penned the script and exec produced the Universal Content Productions and Universal TV comedy alongside Moon Frye. Original series creator David Duclon and Jimmy Fox of Main Event Media also exec produced alongside pilot director Jonathan Judge.
Punky Brewster was one of multiple reboots/revivals in the works at Peacock, the NBCUniversal-backed streamer that launched last year. Others include the Saved by the Bell update (which scored a second season) and the forthcoming MacGruber, Battlestar Galactica and Bel-Air. The latter series, a dramatic take on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, is already on its third showrunner. Peacock is also bringing some of Universal’s best-known films to TV with new takes on Field of Dreams and Ted as the streamer is still figuring out its strategic vision.
Punky Brewster becomes the second scripted original to get the ax at Peacock and joins drama Brave New World, which was originally poised to air on USA Network before being moved to the streamer. Peacock also axed Larry Wilmore’s talk show after its initial order.