In the series opener, in Chicago, 8-year-old Penelope ""Punky"" Brewster and her dog Brandon are found living in an empty apartment by the building's grouchy manager, photography studio owner Henry Warnimont. Punky tells Henry that it all started when her father walked out on her and her mother Susan Brewster, then a couple of weeks ago, Susan said they were going on a trip, so Susan, Punky, and Brandon piled up in their car and drove to a shopping center in Chicago, where Susan abandoned Punky and Brandon, who have been homeless ever since. In the vacant apartment, Punky always had food, because 8-year-old Cherie Johnson, who lives upstairs from Henry with her grandmother Betty Johnson, always brought food to Punky. Henry takes some memorable pictures of Punky, Cherie, Betty, Brandon, and himself at his photography studio. Later, Punky decides to clean Henry's apartment but when Henry gets home, he is furious because he liked everything the way it was before Punky cleaned the place. Hen
Henry calls the Division of Children and Family Services (DCFS), but Punky panics, saying that she doesn't want to go to an orphanage, so Henry promises Punky that she won't have to go to an orphanage. The DCFS sends Miranda ""Randi"" Mitchell, who takes Punky away from Henry. Randi takes Punky to Fenster Hall, a home for kids up for adoption. Randi later returns to Henry's apartment and tells Henry that there hasn't been much progress in finding Punky's mother Susan, who may not want to be found. Randi also says that in 72 hours, the DCFS will have a hearing to decide who gets custody of Punky, and Punky wants it to be Henry. Henry has shed a lot of his grouchiness, and he now loves Punky and would like to have custody of her, but Randi thinks Punky would be better off with someone else. At Fenster Hall, Punky is introduced to her two room mates -- Lisa is a girl who acts tough, and Mary is a girl who never talks. Punky wants to escape from Fenster Hall and go back to Henry's apartment,
Punky's fourth grade teacher is Mike Fulton. Mike's friend, boxer Marvelous Marvin Hagler, comes to Punky's class and talks about boxing. At lunch time, the school bully, Moose McGurk, takes lunches from Punky's friends, but Punky won't let Moose take hers, so Moose drags Punky into the restroom and beats Punky up. Punky wants to stand up to Moose, so Marvin trains Punky to be a boxer, but in the end, Marvin tells Punky that she can't box very well. Moose and Punky are set to fight behind the apartment building, and Cherie tells Moose that if she fights Punky, Moose will have to fight Cherie as well. And then all the other kids tell Moose that if she fights Cherie she'll have to fight all of them. Moose gets nervous and says that she can't fight everyone, so Moose runs home.
Punky has a dream that inspires her to plan to build a treehouse in the tree behind the apartment building. When Henry and Betty and the gang pull out of Punky's plan to build the treehouse, Punky and Mike use psychology to motivate the gang into helping, and the treehouse is built with a lot of different colors of paint being used.
Punky gets a D in geography on her report card. A big geography test is coming up and while studying with Allen, Cherie and Margaux, Punky just can't seem to get any of it. Allen says he's going to take the easy way out, and cheat by writing the answers all over his body. When the time comes for the test, Punky is stumped. When she sees Allen cheating, she cheats as well by reading the answers off of him. Punky and Allen are the only kids in the class to receive perfect scores. Mike thinks that his tests are not enough of a challenge for Punky and Allen, so he gives them extra work. Allen and Punky study hard with all the extra work they got. When report card time comes, Allen and Punky can't understand why they got a B in geography. They ask Mike, and he says that he knew they cheated on the first test, so he failed them on that test, but then the scores they got on the rest of their tests averaged out to a B. Punky tells Henry the truth, and he is very disappointed, but once he reali
Punky and Cherie want to open a babysitting service so they can earn enough money to buy Betty a birthday gift, and Henry reluctantly lets Punky be involved in it as long as Betty is the supervisor of the service. Punky and Cherie end up mixing up two babies, giving Mrs. Rafer's baby to Mrs. Darney and giving Mrs. Darney's baby to Mrs. Rafer. After solving this problem, Punky and Cherie close the babysitting service and give Betty a gift that they made for her -- a dress that they accidentally sewed a pair of pants to.
When it comes to tap dancing, Punky dances like she has two left feet, so she decides to quit tap dancing so she can keep from being embarrassed, especially after Jersey Janet, the instructor, calls her a klutz. Henry, who looks like he's falling for Jersey Janet, helps Jersey Janet find a role for Punky in a recital that Jersey Janet's class has been preparing for -- wearing a bee disguise and swinging over the other students, who are disguised as flowers in the recital.
Punky and Cherie are playing in the backyard when a girls club called "the Chicklets" show up. They say they love Punky's fashion sense and her treehouse. They also explain to Punky and Cherie how being part of a club ""is like everything"". Punky invites them up to her treehouse, and the Chicklets ask Punky and Cherie if they'd like to be a part of the Chicklets. On the next day, Punky and Cherie say the pact to get into the club, and the Chicklets want to celebrate this by doing drugs. Punky and Cherie say maybe another time. Punky goes to Mike and asks him what to do. Mike hands Punky a book for the "Just Say No" club, and tells Punky about the club. On the next day, when the Chicklets pressure Punky and Cherie to do drugs, Punky just says no and tells the Chicklets about the "Just Say No" club. Chicklets member Kate, who is fed up with Chicklets leader Emily, wants to join the "Just Say No" club with Punky. At the end of the episode, Soleil Moon Frye is in a "Just Say No" march in Ch
Punky is feeling a little down after Mike has assigned the class to each work on their family tree. It's making her want her mother Susan back in her life, and when she has a talk with Mike, Mike tells Punky something surprising -- Mike was born on November 23, 1955, and his mother gave him up for adoption when he was just a few days old, and he was never adopted, so he grew up in Fenster Hall. This inspires Punky and Mike to help each other search for their mothers. Only the search for Mike's mother, Lois Collins, is successful, and the fact that Mike has been happily united with Lois delights Punky, who is thankful that Henry found her and took her in after her mother Susan abandoned her a year ago.
On Halloween, Punky tries to play a trick on Isabelle Peavy, because Punky wants to get even with Isabelle for the way Isabelle treated Punky, Cherie, and Allen. Isabelle is a mean old lady, and Punky's friends think Isabelle is actually a witch. When Isabelle sees Punky trying to play the "flying foamie" trick on her, Isabelle takes Punky inside her apartment, and a terrified Punky runs back out, unintentionally leaving Brandon behind in Isabelle's apartment, and Isabelle may not want to give Brandon back. Punky gets Mike to go to Isabelle's apartment to get Brandon, and Isabelle explains to Mike the reason why she is so mean...she absolutely loved dancing. 12 years ago, in 1973, Isabelle was on her way to the Starland Ballroom to do some dancing, but before she got to the ballroom, a kid on a bicycle collided with her and didn't even stop, and ever since then, Isabelle hasn't been able to dance, and she has hated kids ever since that day. Isabelle becomes angry at Mike's attempts to
Punky befriends Linda, the school's mentally handicapped janitor, and she consoles Linda when Allen makes fun of Linda. Mike later brings Linda into the classroom to play a violin, and Mike teaches Allen and the other kids that people who are mentally handicapped can still be talented people, and Mike also teaches them that mentally handicapped people have feelings like other people do.
Henry invites Richard Whitney and his daughter Julie, the new neighbours, over for dinner. Punky, Cherie and Julie are making a cake for dinner when they see Julie's picture on the back of a milk carton, and it says her real name is Jennifer Bates. Jennifer storms to her apartment and shows Richard the milk carton. The next thing Richard knows, Jennifer runs away. Richard refuses to let anyone call the cops. Punky finds Jennifer in the treehouse. Jennifer's mad at Richard, but Punky tells Jennifer how lucky she is to have Richard. Jennifer comes back in with Punky and asks Richard why her picture was on the milk carton. Mr. Whitney tells everyone that after he divorced Jennifer's mother Roberta, Roberta got custody of Jennifer, and Roberta has cruelly been trying to lessen Mr. Whitney's visitation rights as much as possible in an effort to keep Richard out of Jennifer's life, and Richard loves Jennifer too much to be kept out of her life. Richard knew Roberta and her new husband were p
Punky wants Henry to stand up for her rights when Richmond Matzie and his father and the boys won't let Punky race the new remote control car that she won, just because she's a girl. It turns out that Henry feels the same way the boys do, until Mike has an eye opening talk with Henry, convincing Henry to stand up for Punky against Mr. Matzie and Richmond, who reluctantly allow Punky to enter her car in a championship race that she wins.
Henry's old refrigerator breaks down and can't be used anymore. Later, Mike teaches CPR to his class after sending Allen to the principal's office for repeatedly misbehaving and interrupting the lesson, as Henry is putting the refrigerator outside for the Salvation Army to pick up. Later, at home, Punky and her friends play a game of hide-and-seek. When it starts snowing as Henry is preparing to remove the door from the old refrigerator after buying a new one, Henry tells Punky, Allen, and Margaux to help him and Betty look for Cherie, who still hasn't been found in the game. Henry and Allen are shocked to find Cherie trapped inside of the old refrigerator, and this makes Punky and Margaux thankful that they learned CPR, and makes Allen feel bad that he was sent to the principal's office during the lesson. Henry and Allen decide to learn CPR together after watching Punky and Margeaux save Cherie's life with it.
In the beginning of a special 5 part: Henry shrugs it off when Punky sees fire trucks driving down the street outside the apartment building, then Henry gets a call that tells him why the fire trucks have been sent out -- his photography studio, his only source of money, is on fire. Henry and Punky rush to the studio, and they are told that the fire department thinks the fire was started by a short circuit in the studio's aging wiring. This is heartbreaking for Henry, who has been a photographer for more than 40 years and has owned the studio for 34 years. When Henry first opened the studio in 1952, he took out a fire insurance policy on it, but he never increased the coverage, even though he meant to increase the coverage in the early 1970s, but he thought it seemed too expensive to do it at the time. Henry worries that without a source of money, he won't be able to pay his bills. Henry worries so much that he collapses from the pain of a bleeding ulcer and is taken to Cook County Hos
Punky is devastated when Henry tells her that she'll be going to Fenster Hall because Chillings removed her from Henry's custody. Chillings takes Punky to Fenster Hall, where Punky traps Chillings in a closet and escapes. Punky goes to the school to tell Mike what's going on. Mike agrees to help Punky, but he needs to know which DCFS case worker has been handling Punky's case. Punky tells Mike that it's Chillings, who took over Fenster Hall after Mike left Fenster Hall to become a teacher. Mike has a talk with Chillings, and doesn't make any progress with Chillings, who cruelly won't let Punky temporarily stay with Cherie and Betty while Henry is in the hospital, just because Punky wouldn't have her own bedroom in Betty's apartment. Betty rightfully doesn't understand this rule, which means that Punky is not allowed to temporarily share a room with her best friend Cherie at Betty's apartment, but Punky has to share a room at Fenster Hall with four girls that she doesn't even know. Mike
Henry is rushed into emergency surgery after his collapse. At Fenster Hall, Mike brings Cherie, Margaux, and Allen to visit Punky, and they have a plan to help Punky sneak out so she can visit Henry at the hospital, and they get help from Punky's roommates Anna, Liz, Millie, and Weezie. They disguise Punky as Margaux and disguise Margaux as Punky. To make the plan work, they make sure Chillings can't wear his glasses. Mike goes along with the plan and takes Punky to visit Henry, who is unconscious. While Punky is in Henry's room, Punky overhears Mike telling Betty that Punky may not be coming back home to Henry because Chillings wants to put her with new foster parents. Sometime after Punky's visit, when Henry wakes up, there is a note from Punky, and the note tells Henry what Punky overheard Mike say to Betty, and Punky thinks it's her fault that Henry collapsed, because Henry was worried about how to regain custody of Punky. After reading Punky's note, Henry looks like he's about to
Henry spends much of the day trying to call Chillings. When Henry finally does get Chillings on the phone, Chillings tells Henry that Punky has been placed with new foster parents -- Tiffany Buckworth and her husband Jules Buckworth , who live in a mansion with a butler named Cuthbert, and Punky doesn't like this at all, because she wants to be with Henry, and while Jules is a kindly man who is always nice to Punky, Tiffany is snobby and mean. Two weeks later, after Henry is released from the hospital, Punky goes to the apartment building to visit Henry. When Punky tells Henry that she wants to return to Henry, Henry vows to regain custody of her.
Henry gets a loan from the bank's vice president, Oliver Greene, so Henry can open a new photography studio in a mall and have a source of money so he can regain custody of Punky. Oliver remembers Punky from when Punky tried to get a loan from Oliver a year ago. Punky is shocked to discover that Tiffany has bought a castle in the French Rivera, and plans for herself, Jules, and Punky to move to the castle, and it looks like Jules doesn't have any say in this situation, because Tiffany's word is always final. The plan to move to the French Rivera is put on hold when Jules stands up to Tiffany, refusing to allow Tiffany to bully him or Punky anymore. Jules leaves Tiffany and takes Punky back to Henry, who is overjoyed by this, and sometime later, while Henry and Punky are out signing the adoption papers, Mike is filling in for Henry at the new studio. Before Punky and Henry get to the studio, Chillings calls the studio to congratulate Punky and Henry, and Mike is surprised by what Chilli
Mike tries to help his class understand the Challenger space shuttle tragedy -- especially Punky, whose dream is to become an astronaut, and her classmates think she's crazy, then Mike introduces Punky to famous astronaut Buzz Aldrin. Henry is embarrassed when Buzz sees Henry wearing a dress. Henry is wearing the dress because Betty needed a dummy to put the dress on, so she could work on the dress.
Punky decides to write a gossip column in the school newspaper, and she soon finds herself in hot water with her teacher, her schoolmates, and Henry when the gossip column does nothing but cause problems, especially when Punky's column tells her teacher, Mrs. Winston, which class put a frog in Mrs. Winston's briefcase. Mrs. Winston thought it was her biology class, but it was her history class.
In a special episode: Allen is scared to death that his parents Andy and Annie are going to get a divorce because Andy and Annie have been arguing a lot lately, more than usual. It turns out that Allen is right, and Andy and Annie decide to get a divorce. Later, Punky finds Allen in the treehouse with a lot of his things. Allen says he's never leaving the treehouse, and Punky is shocked by the reason why -- Allen has to move to Kansas with Annie. Allen doesn't want to leave his friends and move to an unfamiliar place. Henry comes outside and tells Allen that Annie is looking for him. Punky and the gang say a tearful goodbye to Allen, and Punky tells Allen that she and the gang will always be Allen's friends, and that they will always stay in touch with Allen.
Punky and Cherie enlist the help of the other tenants to help keep Maude Firestein from having to move to a nursing home. Maude is a favorite neighbor among the tenants, and the only tenant who doesn't like the effort to keep Maude from moving is chronic complainer Pete "The Crank" Frank. With a lot support from the neighbors, it turns out that Maude doesn't have to move.
Punky tells Henry that she is afraid of being in any vehicle driven by her friend Joey Deaton's father Mike Deaton, because Mike has a drinking problem, but Joey and Henry are reluctant to believe Punky, even though she's telling the truth. When Henry and Joey see for themselves what Punky saw, they apologize for not believing Punky, and Mike decides to get help for his drinking problem.
Punky's friendship with Cherie is put to the test when Cherie falls for Donald Sotta, a new boy in the neighborhood, and Cherie begins to spend more time with Donald than she does with Punky, making a jealous Punky think Cherie likes Donald more than she likes Punky, until Cherie proves Punky wrong by telling Punky that Cherie loves Punky as her best friend, and Cherie doesn't like Donald so much anymore because all Donald cares about is baseball, basketball, and wrestling.
Henry tries to overcome his fear of public speaking when he helps Punky petition city council to turn a vacant lot into a park -- but another man, Mr. Arnold, wants to put a mall in the lot, not realizing that Chicago has too many malls already. Henry does speak for Punky in front of the city council, and the city council decides to turn the vacant lot into a park.
Punky is invited to the birthday party of rich kid Robert Whitney when Henry is hired to be the party's photographer. In order to keep from embarrassing Henry, Punky takes lessons from Margaux on how to act like a rich stiff. The lessons don't work -- Punky ends up wreaking havoc and has Robert wishing that his social secretary Charles hadn't invited any stiffs to the party, because Robert didn't want the party to be as boring and stiff as Charles wanted it to be.
In a saddening episode: Henry has bought tickets to the circus which is scheduled for the next day, May 9th. When Cherie starts acting strange and says she can't go to the circus, Punky remembers that Punky's diary says that Cherie acted the same way on May 9th of last year too. Punky wants to know why Cherie likes to be alone on May 9th of every year, so Punky decides to follow Cherie around on May 9th -- and discovers that May 9th is the anniversary of the day Cherie's parents, Ronald George Johnson and Elizabeth Marie Johnson, died in a car accident in 1981, and Cherie is still having problems coping with the tragedy, because she feels guilty, thinking that the accident was her fault because her parents were on their way to pick her up from school. Punky talks to Betty, who says that Cherie never talks about her parents, not even to Betty. Cherie has never even been to the cemetery where Ronald and Elizabeth were buried. Cherie has kept her feelings about the deaths all balled up in
While Henry is closing his studio for the day, he is approached by Matt Glossy, the owner of Glossy's, which is a multi-million dollar empire of photography stores. Glossy admits that his real name is Sam Glossy, and that the name "Matt Glossy" sounded better to use for business. Glossy wants to open a new branch of Glossy's in the mall that Henry's studio is in, and Glossy thinks Henry's studio is in the spot Glossy is looking for, so Glossy offers to buy Henry's studio for $100,000 so he can turn it into a branch of Glossy's. Henry accepts the offer and Glossy hires Henry as the manager of this branch of Glossy's. Henry, who has been a photographer for 43 years, feels so miserable working as the manager that he ends up quitting. Punky convinces Henry to take some of the $100,000 he got from Glossy and open up a new restaurant. Since it was Punky's idea, Henry names the new restaurant "Punky's Place".
When Henry's most valuable employee, Stanley, quits his job, Henry tries to find a replacement for Stanley, but to no avail. Punky tells Henry that she needs money to pay her own way into summer camp, so Henry hires Punky, then promptly fires Punky for wrecking havoc in the restaurant, starting a feud between Punky and Henry. Henry believes Punky should have taken the time to learn how to do some of the things that she made mistakes doing, while Punky just wanted to do a good job for Henry.
After discovering that Henry has become addicted to the sleeping pills that were prescribed for him six months ago when back pain kept him awake at night, Punky helps Henry realize that he has an addiction, and she helps him make the decision to stop taking the pills, because he doesn't need the pills anymore, and Punky wants him to be around for a long time.
Punky has a crush on 16 year old Kevin Dowling, who is helping Punky install a stereo in the treehouse. Punky tells Henry about Kevin, and Henry, who doesn't understand that Punky has a crush on Kevin, vows to break every bone in Kevin's body. Punky is crushed when she meets Kevin's girlfriend Gina.
Punky, Cherie, and Margaux go to summer camp, where they learn about such traditions as T-shirt raids, and the kissing rock, but Punky doesn't seem to have the same romantic visions about these things that Cherie, Margaux, and their roommate Marcie have -- until Punky is kissed by a boy named Jimmy. Also, Cherie is annoyed by Franco Grenolli, a fellow camper who has a crush on her.
When Margaux and her parents go bankrupt and auction off all of their belongings, Punky and Cherie use their skiing trip money to buy Margaux's favorite doll back for her -- a true showing of friendship that Margaux dearly appreciates. Margaux returns the favor by repaying Punky and Cherie's skiing trip money when her family comes back into having mega money again.
Brandon gets a shot at stardom when Churchill,the famous dog hired for a dog food commercial to be filmed at the restaurant, gets camera shy -- and so does Brandon, blowing a chance for $1000 and also messing up Punky's dream of Brandon becoming a star, and for this, Punky calls Brandon a bad dog. After Henry helps Punky realize that she was the one who wanted to be a star, Punky apologizes to Brandon.
While Henry is in Detroit buying supplies for the restaurant, Punky and Cherie decide to run the restaurant, and they panic when a customer named Ralph falls asleep because of narcolepsy. Punky and Cherie don't realize that Ralph is just asleep. They think Ralph is dead because of the secret ingredient Cherie uses when she makes hamburgers.
Punky wants to give Henry a pocket watch for Christmas. When rich businessman Horatio Lake is robbed of a briefcase just before Christmas, Punky solves the robbery and figures out that Mr. Lake's son Jerry Lake is the thief. Punky tells Mr. Lake what went on -- Jerry had a plan. Jerry figured he would take the briefcase and lay low with it for a few days, then when the police gave up, Jerry would say that he found the briefcase. That way, Jerry would be the hero, and maybe, just maybe, Mr. Lake would pay more attention to Jerry, who wanted attention from Mr. Lake after years of being ignored by Mr. Lake. Mr. Lake wonders how he could've let things get to a point where Jerry thought he had to do what he did. Mr. Lake realizes his mistake of ignoring Jerry all these years, and he vows to not let that mistake happen again. As a reward to Punky for solving the robbery and helping Jerry and Mr. Lake become closer than ever, Mr. Lake gives Punky a pocket watch, and Punky gives it to Henry as
Punky and Cherie sell cosmetics door to door for Lady Contempo Cosmetics, until they discover that Lady Contempo Cosmetics is a scam run by a con artist named Sidney. Henry washes his hair with Lady Contempo shampoo and wakes up the next morning with no hair on his head. Punky and the gang have to deal with angry customers who have also felt the various side effects of Lady Contempo products, and when they go to Lady Contempo to confront Sidney, they see that Sidney has cleared out, and it turns out that the reason why Henry is bald headed is because he washed his hair with Contempo furniture stripper that Sidney had disguised as Lady Contempo shampoo, and the reason why the blue face mask won't come off of Betty's face is because the face mask is actually kitchen floor wax that was disguised as the face mask cream. While they are in Sidney's office, A detective named Denko shows up looking for Sidney, who has cleared out.
One of Betty's favorite patients dies and leaves her a Texan car with big bull horns on its hood, but Betty doesn't know how to drive. Henry's attempts to teach Betty how to drive result in Betty crashing the car into a tree, and because of this, Henry and Betty decide to sue each other, and it's Punky and Cherie who help Henry and Betty put aside their differences and be friends again.
Punky and Cherie enter a radio scriptwriting contest sponsored by a local radio station that has just changed its format from rock music to radio stories, and Punky, Cherie, and Margaux hope to win the grand prize trip to Disneyland, unless their opponents Garth Goobler and Grant Goobler, the self centered sons of a radio star, stand in their way. Punky, Cherie, and Margaux outdo the Goobler brothers and win the contest.
In the final episode of Punky Brewster: Punky and the gang throw a wedding for Brandon and another golden retriever named Brenda, who is owned by Punky's friend Myron. As Punky and the gang prepare for the wedding and the wedding takes place, there are flashbacks, focusing on some of Brandon's scenes from past episodes.