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From left to right: Jodie, Sam, Jeff and Muffy.

"First it's a mouse who talks in rhyme, and then a computer, not to mention the mannequin upstairs with the magic hat running around!"
Sam Crenshaw, a "normal human" character... played by a puppet.

A Canadian children's TV series that ran from 1981 to 1987 and was originally produced for TVOntario. Although it ran on a number of PBS stations as well, it is best remembered in the U.S. for being one of the earliest staples of Nickelodeon's lineup — and at times, for being really freakin' weird.

The setting was a department store quite clearly set in Toronto, where the show was filmed. The show centered around the characters (human and otherwise) who worked there during the overnight shift. The employees of the store included Jodie, who set up the displays in the children's department, Sam Crenshaw the security guard (played by a puppet), and Mrs. Pennypacker (another puppet introduced in one of the later seasons). They were joined by the far stranger nocturnal residents of the store: Jeff the mannequin, Muffy Mouse (another puppet), who spoke in rhyme and had a little penthouse within the store, and TXL Series 4, Sam's Do Anything Computer and who also plays quizzes and participation games with the viewers in between segments. Another character in the show is the Mime Lady. While she is not an in-store character, she participates in TXL's games.

The aforementioned Jeff is such an unusual character, he deserves his own paragraphs. Every kid's show has an obligatory character meant to be the young audience's representative in the show's fictional world, but Jeff was an especially bizarre example. He is a mannequin, in the shape of an adult man, who was brought to life by wearing a magical hat created by a magician named Waldo The Magnificent. Thing is, his personality and mannerisms were that of a small child. So in other words, this show's Big Bird equivalent was a Manchild who lived in the store and was taught about everyday things and the world in general (ie, in one episode, the other regulars had to explain to Jeff what brooms were for, and in another, how umbrellas work).

Being a bit of a Cuckoolander, Jeff also had to be reminded not to remove his own hat, as this turns him back into a mannequin. Fortunately, saying the magic words "Hocus Pocus Alamagocus" brings him back to life. Unfortunately, Jeff could never leave the store, due to the conditions of the magical hat (it only works inside the store). In some episodes, it is said that if he ever stepped foot off the store grounds, he would stay a mannequin forever (but not always; it should be noted that the "rules" of the hat were fairly inconsistent). Any episodes that took place outdoors had to provide a Hand Wave to work around this.

For a certain generation of young adults, this show often comes right after Zoobilee Zoo and/or The Noozles in conversations that start, "Oh my God, do you remember...?"

More information can be found at this very extensive fansite.

Today's special is Tropes:

  • Alien Animals: XL7-Zed is the descendant of mice who traveled to the moon in search of green cheese (of course) and later colonized a planet they call Squeakonia.
  • All Animals Are Domesticated: To an extreme in Muffy's case. But there was also a strange episode where a police officer is looking for his department's mascot who is lost in the store — turns out he's a Mountain Lion...
  • Annoying Patient: Muffy becomes this in the episode "Help!" after she sprains her toe.
  • Arbitrary Skepticism: Jodie borders on a Flat-Earth Atheist at times.
    Jodie: There's no way a magical Blue Cow could appear in my store! Isn't that right, rhyming mouse and self-aware statue?
  • Artifact Title: Originally, the episodes involved learning about whatever product was on special when the store next opened, but as the seasons progressed, the storylines got more varied, and by the final season, the episodes' titles rarely had anything to do with the store's merchandise.
  • Artificial Human: Jeff, who could also count as an example of why A.I. Is a Crapshoot, depending on your point of view.
  • Audience Surrogate: In most of the earlier episodes, Jeff would learn about everyday objects alongside the viewer. In later episodes, Muffy assumed the role more when the topic of the week was An Aesop.
  • Bait And Switch Title: The episode "Dinosaurs" is about... a poster contest.
  • Barefoot Cartoon Animal: Muffy, which she lampshades in the episode about "Shoes": "I'm the only one without a pair, that's cause my feet would rather be bare!"
  • Bittersweet Ending:
    • The "Wishes" episode, ye gods...
    • The "A Visit To the Opera" episode counts as once more, Jeff gives up a (temporary) chance to leave the store to save his friends from firing.
  • Bizarre Taste in Food: Sam.
  • Call-Back: The lullaby that Jeff sings to the lizard in Adventure is the same one that Jodie sings to Jeff in Sleep, and that he asks her to teach to him in the same episode. Apparently she did.
  • Canada, Eh?: The show was made by the Canadian network TV Ontario, and was filmed in Toronto - and never tried to hide it. Furthermore, the department store used was of the Simpson's chain, a Canadian business that merged with, and was eventually subsumed by, the Hudson's Bay Company and Sears, with which the chain had a joint operation.
    • At one point, it was the second highest-rated show on the Nickelodeon lineup, behind only another (very different) Canadian series - You Can't Do That on Television.
  • Character Development: As the series progressed and Jeff learned more about the world, he outgrew his Naïve Newcomer ways and became smarter and more adult-like, sometimes even taking the role of Big Brother Mentor to Muffy.
  • Christmas Episode: And it's a two-parter. The show takes place at a department store after all.
  • Circus Episode: In the second-season episode "Circus", the characters put on their own circus in the store.
  • Clueless Aesop: "Phil's Visit," mostly for the casting of Gerry Parkes (at the time, best known as the kindly Doc), and also for... well, for being an episode of "Today's Special," a perfect example of a show that's in way over its head. Quoth Jodie, "Funny thing is, one hour ago, we all thought this was going to be one of the most exciting nights that we'd ever had in the store."
  • Cool Old Guy: Sam
  • Cousin Oliver: Muffy's country cousin Mortimer in Season Three, though he never became a regular. Mrs. Pennypacker later on.
  • Crowd Song: Along with Disney Acid Sequence and That Reminds Me of a Song, this trope is out in full force thanks to the innate musical theater talents of the human cast.
  • Cute Mute: The mime lady.
  • Death Is a Sad Thing: The ending of the above-mentioned episode "Butterflies."
  • Foil: In many ways, Jeff and Muffy are opposites. Jeff was Born as an Adult but initially knows very little about everyday things before spending an episode learning about them. Muffy already knows much more than he does but has the mindset of a child, so when an episode involves An Aesop, she is usually the one to learn it. To put it another way, Jeff lacks knowledge, while Muffy lacks wisdom.
  • Food as Bribe: In Trains, when Muffy is considering leaving the store, Sam offers her a bag of cheese sandwiches, hoping to convince her to stay.
  • Four-Philosophy Ensemble: Sam is the cynic (the most skeptical and a bit of a Deadpan Snarker), Jeff is the optimist (helpful, energetic and eager to learn), Jodie is the realist (the balanced and levelheaded Team Mom), and Muffy is the apathetic (usually wrapped up in her own subplots and priorities).
  • Furry Confusion:
    • Mice in the "Today's Special" universe are consistently portrayed as creatures of human-like intelligence who live in little houses, form popular musical acts, and even beat humans to the moon. And yet there are several episodes where Muffy is threatened by humans who "never saw a talking mouse before".
    • Things also get a little strange when we learn that butterflies are intelligent and able to speak.
    • Somewhat related: Jeff is occasionally frustrated by the fact that he is the only object in the store that is in any way self-aware.
  • Generic Cop Badges:
    • In the Christmas special, where the officer apprehending Sam for wanting to enter the store on Christmas Eve wears a generic shield-shaped cap badge and an inauthentic shoulder flash.
    • Averted in "Police", which has a vignette where Sam and Jodie visit the actual Metropolitan Toronto Police 52 Division and are shown around by real-life Officer Cathy McCormack. Even the actor playing Officer Hardy flashes an authentic-looking Metro Toronto Police badge.
  • Genie in a Bottle: In the episode "Adventure," where he transports Jodie, Jeff and Sam to Potion Land.
  • Get A Hold Of Yourself Man: Happens twice in Trash, in a scene where Jeff is frightened and Sam is out of breath.
    Jeff: Is it a muh— a muh— a muh—
    (Muffy slaps Jeff)
    Jeff: A monster?!
    Sam: No, it's a vah— a vah— a vah—
    (Jodie slaps Sam)
    Sam: Thank you. It's a vacuum.
  • Hand Puppet: Sam, Muffy, Mrs. Pennypacker and Mort.
  • Hat Damage: Jeff's hat in the episode "Trash". While it was, thankfully, not permanently damaged, it was very linty.
  • Haunted Castle: In the episode "Adventure".
  • If It Tastes Bad, It Must Be Good for You: Averted in the episode "Fruit", which discusses how fruit not only tastes good but is very good for you. Except for not-so-sweet fruits like lemons.
  • I Kiss Your Hand: Waldo does this to Jodie in the episode "Adventure".
  • Ill-Timed Sneeze: In "Babies," a runaway opossum hides on a shelf of stuffed animals...until she gives herself away with a sneeze.
  • Inept Mage: Waldo, who did make the hat that brings Jeff to life, but when he actually visits the store, the magic he displays tends to go comically wrong or create the problem the episode's based around.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: In the aforementioned episode "Wishes", Jeff had the opportunity to be permanently transformed into a human. Unfortunately for him, this came right when he had no choice but to use his wish to save his friends, as per the memorable line:
    Jodie: Jeff, I know how much your wish means to you. But really, how much fun could you have with two sandwiches and an invisible mouse?
    • There's a subtler example in "Adventure", where Jeff is the only one who won't quit in the effort to rescue Waldo, no matter how dangerous things get. After all, he owes his life to Waldo.
  • Innocent Innuendo: And it is painfully innocent, given that it's from Jeff, in the episode "Trash".
    Jeff: Well now, TXL, how do we turn you on? I've never done this before. What button do you suppose I press?
  • Kryptonite Factor: If Jeff loses his hat, he changes back into a mannequin. He also cannot leave the store or he'll stay a mannequin forever.
  • Living Statue: Jeff, if mannequins count as statues.
  • Magical Computer: TXL. Just make sure you press the right buttons or unsuspected chaos could happen.
  • Magical Incantation: Many, the most common being "Hocus Pocus Alamagocus."
  • Magical Land: Visited in the episode titled, naturally, "Adventure." The department store, to some degree.
  • Magicians Are Wizards: Waldo is a Stage Magician, but he can do real magic. He's the one who brought Jeff to life.
  • Manchild:
    • Jeff, in a good way. Having been brought directly to adult life from an existence as a mannequin, he shows wonder at the simple things he learns about the world.
    • Sam has his moments too, despite being a senior; not only does he have a playful side, but he is also seen being taught concepts (by Jodie or another adult) that are obviously meant for the young viewers of the show to learn, and even wondering at them. One explanation may be that with age setting in, he has forgotten some things that he learned when he was younger and is experiencing the lessons as if they were new.
    • Junior in the episode of the same name. He wears a baseball cap, short pants and even carries a stuffed skunk he calls Sweetums.
  • Master Computer: TXL is the security computer for the whole store.
  • Mouse World: Planet Squeakonia, which was colonized by the talking mice, is a very literal example.
  • Multi-Part Episode: The third season had a pair of two-parters, "Christmas" and "Our Story."
  • Naïve Newcomer: Jeff, due to only being alive during the overnight shifts, but somewhat subverted since he's one of the show's core characters.
  • The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: There seems to be a lot going on in the middle of the night, you wonder what Jodie and Sam's managers have to say. Sam's the night watchman, but Jodie supposedly should have a lot more work to do to justify her being there all night.
  • Please Keep Your Hat On: Jeff is a strange example. If he takes his hat off, he turns back into a mannequin.
  • Portrait Painting Peephole: These paintings are in the Haunted Castle in "Adventure."
  • Protagonist-Centered Morality: In the Christmas special, Jeff is regretful but resigned to the fact that he will spend Christmas in the store alone due to Jodie, Muffy and Sam going to spend the holiday with relatives. The others then all decide that they care about Jeff so much that they will cancel their holiday plans and return to the store to spend Christmas with Jeff. A very nice gesture, but is it fair to their families, who don't see them regularly and were looking forward to spending the holiday with them, whereas they see Jeff day in, day out?
  • Rhymes on a Dime: Muffy, who must have been painful to write dialogue for.
  • Running Gag:
    • Waldo never getting Sam's name right, and his magic always going awry.
    • Sam pressing the wrong buttons on TXL, resulting in hilarious havoc.
  • Series Continuity Error: Several. As mentioned above, it was inconsistent whether Jeff would supposedly become a mannequin permanently if he ever left the store, or if the magic hat just wouldn't work outside, and Jeff was repeatedly said to have never left the store even after episodes where he did temporarily leave thanks to magical loopholes. Whether Waldo the Magnificent could do wandless magic or needed his wand varied too, as did whether Muffy had ever gone to school or not, and in the four flashback episodes in Season 5, quite a few of the "memories" the characters described in the framing scenes were incorrect. Also, the events of "Live On Stage" were ignored in all subsequent episodes.
  • Series Fauxnale: "Live on Stage" was intended to be a Grand Finale for the series, where Jeff was finally able to join his friends outside the store, but then the series got uncancelled for another two seasons.
  • Shaped Like Itself: Jeff describes a hairbrush in the vaguest way possible in one song. In the same verse, he lampshades it by saying he knows next to nil about hairbrushes since he wears a hat at all times.
  • Sherlock Homage: Sam dresses up like Sherlock Holmes whenever he plays Cam the Detective.
  • Ship Tease: There was a little bit between Jeff and Jodie, and a little bit between Jeff and Muffy, but given that the target audience really wouldn't be interested in such things (and that Jeff is chronologically and mentally a child while Jodie is a real adult) it was never really mentioned.
  • Shout-Out: Quite a few. One of the best is in "Adventure", where a castle is warned to house "Dungeons & Dragons" (the whole episode plays out like a role-playing game).
    • Sam makes some of his own, also from "Adventure":
      Jeff: What do you suppose lives in this creepy castle, anyway?
      Sam: Oh, Dracula, Frankenstein, Darth Vader, they're all probably roommates.
  • Skilled, but Naive: Jeff can sing and dance, but has little to no knowledge of the outside world and how things work.
  • Slurpasaur: The "LIZARD" (super-sized pet of one of the show-runners) encountered in the aforementioned Magical Land. Jeff has to pet it to proceed.
  • Special Guests: Canadian children's music trio Sharon, Lois and Bram have made guest appearances in a few episodes singing songs like "I Am Slowly Going Crazy" and "Sur Le Pont D'Avignon."
  • Stock Animal Diet: Muffy's love of cheese.
  • Sweet Tooth: Sam.
  • That Reminds Me of a Song: In a typical episode, the characters will burst out singing a few times, so this happens often. Some examples:
    • "In the Twinkle" from "Hair". It has nothing to do with the episode's plot or subject (learning about hair) and is just an excuse for Jeff to sing and dance on the roof.
    • "When I Was Young" from "Halloween". As Jodie and Sam remember the past, they get off topic and sing about their childhoods, with nothing in the lyrics related to Halloween.
  • Third Line, Some Waiting: In many episodes, Muffy will get her own minor subplots separate from the rest of the cast. For example, in "Adventure", while the others are in the main plot to get the magic potion, she's back at the store looking after an ailing Waldo.
  • Tongue Twister: In the episode "Fun", tongue twisters are one of the ways the characters have fun when their work is done. Sam repeatedly fails "Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers".
  • The Tonsillitis Episode: "Hospitals" is this for Muffy.
  • Trademark Favorite Food:
    • Cheese for Muffy. She even has a song about it.
    • Jellybeans, doughnuts, and other sweets for Sam.
  • The Trickster: Several of the magical characters, but especially the rabbit in "Waldo's Hat."
  • Trap Door: There is one in the Haunted Castle in "Adventure."
  • Upper-Class Twit: The titular character in the episode "Junior"; he's the nephew of the department store's owner, implied to be rich. He acts arrogant towards Sam, Jodie and Jeff and also declares he wants to take Muffy home as his birthday present. It takes a prank, a fake disease called mouse fever, to get Junior to not take Muffy and even temporarily drives him off. Afterwards, Junior says he won't take Muffy out of the store and the other characters apologize for pranking him.
  • Vague Age: Muffy. Her age is never stated, and it's hard to tell by looking. Since she lives on her own, it's possible she's an adult, and the last episode had a flashback to her high school graduation which would imply as much, but she certainly acts like a mischievous child.
  • Wham Episode: The fact that several of them (e.g., "Butterflies", "Wishes" and "Phil's Visit") have already been mentioned means they certainly left an impact.
  • Welcome Titles: They take us through the store to meet all the major characters.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Muffy is deathly afraid of cats.
  • Wise Beyond Their Years: Jeff manages to be both this and a Manchild at the same time. While he just came to life and initially knows no more about the world than a child, he often shows more maturity and wisdom than Muffy, to whom he's an occasional Big Brother Mentor. This is because Waldo's spell made Jeff smart, but not knowledgeable. He's also a quick learner, and over the course of the series, he seems to outgrow his Manchild tendencies, though there are still hints of it here and there, as he comes to understand the world better.