A Canadian children's TV series that ran from 1981 to 1987 and was originally produced for TVOntario. 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
- 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?
- 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: Jeff.
- Adorkable: Jeff again.
- 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...
- Bizarre Taste in Food: Sam.
- Butterfly / December Friendship: Between the gang and Hazel the butterfly in "Butterflies". As you may have guessed, this episode has a Downer Ending.
- 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. 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.
- 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 it's 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."
- 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.
- 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.
- 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".
- I Kiss Your Hand: Waldo does this to Jodie in the episode "Adventure".
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- No Fourth Wall
- 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."
- Rhyming with Itself: 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.
- Shaped Like Itself: Jeff describes a hairbrush in the most vague 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.
- 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 Naïve: 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.
- Stage Magician: Waldo
- Stock Animal Diet: Muffy's love of cheese.
- Sweet Tooth: Sam
- The Tonsillitis Episode: "Hospitals" is this for Muffy.
- Trademark Favorite Food:
- Cheese for Muffy.
- 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."
- 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.