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Friday, December 06, 2013

"Yes, Punky, There Is A Santa Claus"

Hello, everybody. I certainly hope that you have enjoyed the first five days of “THE POP CULTURE ADDICT'S ADVENT CALENDAR. I know that I certainly have been having a great time trying to come up with holiday themed topics for the first 25 days of December.

We're now on Day #6 of the calendar, and I have a fantastic topic up for discussion.

But before I do that, I just want to take the opportunity to pay tribute to former South African president Nelson Mandela, who passed away on December 5, 2013 at the age of 95. Certainly Nelson Mandela's contributions to global peace are nothing short of extraordinary. A man who committed himself to eradicating the world of racism by going after South Africa's apartheid government, he spent over a quarter of a century behind bars, and when he was elected president of South Africa in 1994, he became the very first black president and formulated the Government of National Unity to diffuse racial tensions. His efforts to fight for people's rights and stand up against racial injustice earned him a Nobel Peace Prize in 1993, a United States Presidental Medal of Freedom, the Soviet Order of Lenin, and the Bharat Ratna.

He even earned himself honourary Canadian citizenship in the early 2000s.  Not that I needed to really add that in there, but I thought it was a neat piece of trivia.

Whatever the case, I do believe that Nelson Mandela did so much good for the world, and he certainly made a huge impact on not just the people of his country, but the rest of the world as well.  Nelson Mandela, you will be truly missed.

Now, I actually have a bit of a confession to make in regards to this particular blog entry.  I had most of this typed out already before the news broke about Nelson Mandela's death.  Had I started typing this blog out a little later, perhaps I could have chosen a topic that might have gone along more with the good that Mandela did while he was alive.

Of course, now that I look at it again, I think the subject that I picked has the ability to do both.  After all, the television show that I am featuring in this particular blog entry promotes friendship and respect between people of different backgrounds and races...two things that Nelson Mandela fought for during his time served in prison as well as his time as South African president.

And, besides...since we're already in the middle of the advent calendar, it's got a little bit of Christmas flavouring to it.

So, this month, I decided that I would do the Friday Night on TV theme a little bit differently.  Instead of doing blogs on television shows as a whole, why not feature a blog entry on a particular television show episode where the theme is all about celebrating Christmas?  After all, I'm sure most of us remember watching television sitcoms and getting excited about the rare occasion when they would air a holiday themed show.  I'm not gonna lie here, some of my favourite sitcom episodes are the ones that aired during the month of December, because I really liked how every single Christmas themed episode had a happy ending.

So for this and the next two weeks, I'm going to be talking yuletide episodes of sitcoms of yore, in hopes that the holiday magic will permeate through the screen and into your heart.

(Or, at the very least, you get some sort of warm fuzzy watching people on a scripted show.)

So, for today's first episodic spotlight, we're going to look at a show that I already did a general blog on.  But when I came across this holiday themed episode online, I knew that I just had to write about it in my blog.  

The show is "Punky Brewster".  And the episode is entitled "Yes, Punky, There Is A Santa Claus", which originally aired as a sixty-minute episode on December 16, 1984 on NBC.

Now, those of you who may have missed the blog on "Punky Brewster", or don't remember what Punky Brewster was all about, I'll offer up a brief summary.  You have this man named Henry Warnimont (George Gaynes), a gruff sixty-something who makes his living as a photographer in the big city of Chicago.  At some point during the series, Henry crosses paths with a little girl named Penelope Brewster (Soleil-Moon Frye), but she prefers to be called "Punky" instead.  Tagging along with Punky is her beloved canine friend, Brandon.  As the series proceeds, Henry moves Punky and Brandon into his home, and at some point, Henry legally adopts Punky as his own.  Part of the series revolved around Henry adjusting to life as a father in his sixties and the struggles he faces as Punky matures from a little girl into a teenager.  And, the other half of the series showcases Punky dealing with the social struggles of school along with her friends Allen, Margaux, and Cherie.  

The one thing that I love about this show kind of goes along with the ideals of Nelson Mandela, in that he hoped that one day, people could work together and be kind to each other regardless of what the colour of people's skin was.  And certainly, Punky and Cherie 's (Cherie Johnson) friendship had no colour lines.

Anyway, there are several episodes of "Punky Brewster" that could be considered great (and yes, I readily admit that I watched and loved the live-action series), and I really could have focused on any of them.  But since we're into the month of December, I really wanted to do a Christmas episode spotlight.

Before we talk about the special, let's post the link, so that you can watch it too (at least while it is still up, that is).  Now, because it's an hour long show, it is often divided up into two parts in syndication, so here's PART 1, and there's PART 2.  Enjoy.  We'll talk about it when you come back.

Comfy?  Good.  Let's chat.

Okay, so since the television series "Punky Brewster" ran from 1984-1988, and since this episode aired in December 1984, it's a safe assumption to make that this is the first Christmas that Punky and Henry are spending together.  And I can only imagine how excited Henry is about giving Punky her best Christmas ever.  However, little Punky is feeling incredibly down about the festive atmosphere, and when Henry presses her about it, Punky admits that she misses her mother.

(A little backstory before we continue.  The story goes that Punky's mother took Punky and Brandon to a shopping mall in Chicago under the guise that they were going on a trip.  But once they arrived at the mall, Punky's mother disappeared and never came back, leaving Punky and Brandon homeless.  Punky and Brandon squat inside a vacant apartment in Henry's building, where little Cherie keeps Punky's presence a secret while bringing her food and drink.  But of course, the secret gets out, and well...this leads to Punky being taken in by Henry!)

Anyway, Henry does his best to try and cheer Punky up, but Punky still misses her mother.  And of course, things aren't made any easier at school when the class jerk, Billy Bahootsas (played by Danny Ponce of "The Hogan Family"), cruelly informs Punky and Cherie that there is no such thing as Santa Claus.  When Punky and Cherie inform Henry of what Billy has told them, Henry tries to reassure them that Santa is real and that he is capable of making miracles happen.  Punky, however, isn't buying it.

So Henry decides that he will make the children believe in Santa by volunteering to dress up as Santa for Punky's school Christmas party (sigh...remember the days in which public schools still had Christmas parties...I miss those days).  And to Henry's credit, none of the kids even recognize Henry as Santa...not even Punky.

Of course, this leads to Punky going up to Santa and giving him a seemingly impossible request.

The only present that Punky wanted for Christmas was to have her mother back home.

And, Henry was more than determined to make Punky's wish come true.

Of course, this leads to a comedy of errors of sorts.  After all, Henry had zero idea as to where he was supposed to look, or even if Punky's mother was even still alive.  But at the same time, he didn't want Punky to continue believing that Santa wasn't real...especially after Punky went to all the trouble to make sure that her mother had a present to unwrap when she came by to visit.

Oh, the conundrum!

And, on top of all that, the private investigator that Henry hires to find Punky's mother tracks down the wrong woman!  How is Henry going to save Punky's Christmas now?

Well, as luck would have it, Henry finds himself outside of a particular store that sells all sorts of holiday knick-knacks.  In fact, this knick-knack store happens to be called "Nick's Nook", and the store happens to be run by an elderly gentleman named Nick.

Well, knick-knack at Nick's Nook, give the dog a bone!  

Strangely enough, Henry doesn't seem to recall there being a Nick's Nook store in the past, and of course Henry would know that as he has lived in Chicago for years.  But Nick insists that miracles have a way of happening.  

Now, I won't spoil it too much for you (after all, why would I post the link to the whole show and then reveal it all), but I'll give you a hint.  A jewelry box plays a huge part in everything.

So, I'll leave you be to continue watching the special Christmas episode of Punky Brewster and keep reminding you to keep on reading the advent calendar for this year.  Because coming up on Day #7, I talk about a really tasty treat that I was introduced to in elementary school.  And, naturally, it's Christmas themed.  

Hope you're hungry!