|“Today’s Special, it’s for everyone,
Today’s Special, come join in the fun,
With magic everywhere, worlds for us to share,
And friendly faces, hoping that you’ll want to meet us there…”
Today’s Special served up daily helpings of singing, dancing, comedy and more, delivered hot and fresh from a cast of humans and puppets to pre-school aged children everywhere. Produced by Canada’s Ontario TV, the show was designed for public television, but it is best known to most U.S. viewers for its highly popular run on cable’s Nickelodeon.
Set in a big city department store (and actually filmed in one-“Simpsons” in Toronto), the show centered on a quartet of friends from all walks of life. Jodie and Jeff were the two human regulars, which is only half-true. Jeff was actually a store mannequin, but thanks to a plaid hat and a little magic from the wizard Waldo the Magnificent, Jeff came to life. Once the store was shut for the night, one of Jeff’s store friends would say the magic words, “Hocus Pocus Alamagocus,” and as long as the hat was on his head, Jeff could sing and dance with the best of them. Jodie was all-human, a store display designer who could match Jeff note for note and step for step.
The two humans were joined by a pair of puppets: security guard Sam Crenshaw and cheese-loving mouse Muffy. Sam kept the place secure, but he was just as often the cause of trouble, accidentally setting off the store alarm by bumping the red button. He kept tabs on the place with the help of a female supercomputer named TXL. She was the real brains of the operation, delivering each show’s theme and providing a quiz for the kids at home. Muffy was a mouse who lived in the store and spoke only in rhymes. And like their human co-stars, these three (including TXL) were prone to burst into spontaneous singing at any moment.
Joining the four main stars were a small cast of supporting characters: stock room worker Mrs. Pennypacker, Muffy’s cousin Mort, Sam’s cat Penelope (a genuine kitty), the Mime Lady, who often mimed an accompaniment to TXL’s quizzes, and Waldo the Magnificent himself, who made occasional visits back to the store to create new magic adventures for the group.
Since Today’s Special was designed to run for nearly a complete half-hour block, Nickelodeon was forced to cut small portions of each episode to make room for commercials. The edits went unnoticed by the show’s army of young fans, who made Today’s Special an early hit for the kids’ network. The full episodes could be seen both on Canada’s public television and later on local PBS stations in the U.S.
Ontario TV produced seven seasons of Today’s Special, a total of 121 episodes. And every single one met the recommended daily allowances of early childhood education and sweet, joyful entertainment. In short, it was something special.
“Today’s Special, shout it loud and clear,