Even if you never watched much Punky Brewster, some internet research is enough to know that the show was really creepy.
The basic plot, for those without access to IMDB: a girl gets abandoned in a grocery store. Then an old single gentleman with a penchant for cardigans takes her home and the show was somehow intended for children. I'm not saying that Henry had ulterior motives for adopting Punky. But I'm certainly suggesting it.
What a disturbing premise. That show would never be on the air now, since we have Megan's Law. And when I was researching this column, I found this under trivia: "During the whole run of the show, Henry's bedroom is not shown." That is just a normal quote, thrown in between trivia about where Punky's dog got its name and how the sets were changed mid-season. Oh yeah and the old single guy? We never saw his bedroom. I can only imagine how much leather was in there.
The best part of this column is that I'm taking a completely innocent show like Punky Brewster and ruining it for you.
Think I'm crazy? There are a number of lines in the theme song that make me think Henry was a long lost member of the Jackson family.
"Maybe the world is blind" could be a line about how little the world cares for the suffering of children. Or about how the world just doesn't understand the relationship a single, older man can have with a young girl. And leather.
Two lines later: "You may be lonely and then one day you're smiling again." Sure. Before Megan's Law.
And it gets even worse. "Every time I turn around, I see the girl that turns my world around." I could read TONS into this one. But I don't want to think about what Henry was doing in the same room with his back to that poor kid.
Punky Brewtser was not the only adoption show in the 1980s. Different Strokes featured an old single man adopting two boys, which would be even sketchier. Thankfully Mr. Drummond married Maggie and we knew things were okay. In fact, Different Strokes had a very special episode where the boys get kidnapped by a child molester dealing with the issue head on. Was there any child molester episode of Punky Brewster? Nope! Unless you count all of them. I for one, do not want to see a very special episode of this sick, sick show.
My parents adopted a baby girl before I was born, and I think adoption is a wonderful thing. I'm not saying that single men should not be allowed to adopt. But when an older gentleman who lives alone and seems to really like young girls shows up at the agency in a cardigan, more red flags should go up than in the stands at a Manchester United game.
The other main adoption show on the 1980s included Alvin and the Chipmunks, a show about a single guy who adopts three chipmunks and raises them as humans. You never saw his bedroom either.
I bet I am the first person to devote this much column space to detailing the creepiness of Punky Brewster. Maybe I'm the only one who thinks that a show where a lonely guy suddenly smiles at the thought of a young girl turning his world around is just icky. Maybe I'm the only one who sees it.
But maybe the world is blind.
Steve Hofstetter is the author of the Student Body Shots books, which are available at SteveHofstetter.com and bookstores everywhere. He can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.