Ask any kid who grew up in the '80s to recall their favorite episodes of "Punky Brewster" and two of them should easily come to mind: the one where Cherie got locked in a fridge playing hide and seek ... and the trippy, Halloween two-parter that took place in a cave.
"The Perils of Punky" Parts 1 and 2 aired back in October 1985, during the show's second season and followed the gang on a camping trip in the woods. The kids got lost and sought shelter in a cave, where Punky killed time by telling them a ghost story that not only freaked out her friends, but a generation of kids watching at home. The two-parter was truly wild, featuring body parts sticking out of cave walls belonging to a man the kids named Mr. Pieces, a spider-monster attack, evil versions of Punky's friends, a ghost with razor-sharp claws and magical tomahawk.
"Were your traumatized?" asked Soleil, now 44, when TooFab brought up the episode during the junket for the show's upcoming Peacock revival. "It's so funny because I've actually read stories from people who were traumatized by the faces in the caves."
"I remember, I believe, I fought off a big giant spider-tarantula thing," she recalled. "I mean, let’s just say, that was Punky's trip down the rabbit hole. I don't even think it was a dream right? I need to rewatch it."
She's right that she took on the spider, with the help of her dog Brandon, and, no, it wasn't a dream, but a campfire story. We asked Johnson about her experience filming that episode as well, where she also apologized for its lasting effect on young viewers.
"We're sorry that we traumatized you," said Johnson, now 45. "One of our favorite holidays, actually Soleil and I love Halloween. And so, the most memorable thing about me is when they made the mold of my head. I don't know if you remember that, but they actually put molding over my face. I had straws in my nose to breathe."
Johnson's likeness was used to create her evil doppelgänger, which had glowing red eyes, for the episode. "So, I remember things backstage more than I even do the show," she added. "Twitter brought it to my attention about the giant spider or whatever that came down. Like, I forgot all about that. I'm sorry!"
Another episode Twitter won't let Johnson forget: The Season 2 installment titled "Cherie Lifesaver."
The premise for the episode actually came from a story submission contest, after a young viewer suggested the kids learn about CPR in school, before having to put it to use in the real world. In the episode itself, Punky has to use it on Cherie, after she loses consciousness while locked inside Henry's discarded refrigerator during an outdoor game of hide and seek.
When we caught up with Johnson, "just a couple" other reporters had asked about the memorable episode, but she reassured them "it's all good" before pointing to her own appliances in the background. "That fridge back there, I don't even really go near it often," she joked.
"Who knew? To me it was so funny and it all started, I think, when I really realized what a big impact it made on Twitter," she said of having that be part of her legacy. "You know it wasn't until social media that I didn't get to speak to my friends I hadn't yet met, and so when they started bringing it up on Twitter I was amused."
"Remember me? I'm the girl who got locked in a fridge," she added. "We all have stories about someone from high school, right?"
Peacock's "Punky Brewster" revival, starring both Frye and Johnson, begins February 25.