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"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 Canadian television show that ran in the 1980s. It ran from 1982 to 1987 and was broadcast on TV Ontario. It is best remembered for being one of the earliest staples of Nickelodeon — and at times, for being really freakin' weird.
The setting was a department store in an unspecified city (presumably Toronto, where the show was filmed). The show centered around the people (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 Man Child 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. (Pretty dark for a kids' show, eh?)
More information can be found at this very extensive fansite.
This show provides examples of:
- 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...
- 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 AI Is a Crapshoot, depending on your point of view.
- Audience Surrogate: Jeff
- Bait And Switch Title: The episode "Dinosaurs" is about... a poster contest.
- Bittersweet Ending: The "Wishes" episode, ye gods...
- Breaking the Fourth Wall
- Butterfly / December Friendship: Between the gang and Hazel the butterfly in "Butterflies". As you may have guessed, this episode has a Downer Ending.
- Canada, Eh?: The show was made by the Canadian network TV Ontario, and was filmed in Toronto.
- The Cast Showoff: Jeff Hyslop, who played Jeff the mannequin, is a triple threat entertainer. While he and everyone else sang on the show, he was the only one who danced, and did this on the show frequently. Nerene Virgin danced a little bit and was often paired with Jeff, but for anything more complicated they had to bring in outside talent to keep up with him. It should also be noted that Jeff Hyslop was also the show's choreographer.
- Christmas Episode: And it's a two-parter. The show takes place at a department store after all.
- 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."
- The Computer Is Your Friend: TXL seems to have a mind of "her" own and can have normal conversations.
- 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.
- The Danza: Jeff Hyslop as Jeff the mannequin.
- A Day At the Bizarro: No mean feat for a show with a cast of characters like this, right? But in general, things get weirder anytime Waldo or one of his magical friends shows up.
- 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. (But what about TXL?)
- Genie in a Bottle: In the episode "Adventure," where he transports Jodie, Jeff and Sam to Potion Land.
- 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.
- Magical Computer: TXL. Just make sure you press the right buttons or unsuspected chaos could happen.
- Magical Incantation: Hocus Pocus Alamagocus.
- Magical Land: Visited in the episode titled, naturally, "Adventure". The department store, to some degree.
- 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.
- Naive Newcomer: Jeff, due to only being alive during the overnight shifts, but somewhat subverted since he's one of the show's core characters.
- 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.
- Ship Tease: There was a little bit between Jeff and Jodie, but given that the target audience really wouldn't be interested in such things 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 and Dragons" (the whole episode plays out like a role-playing game).
- Sam makes some of his own, also from "Adventure":
- 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" (supersized pet of one of the showrunners) encountered in the aforementioned Magical Land. Jeff has to pet it to proceed.
- Stage Magician: Waldo
- Sweet Tooth: Sam
- Trademark Favorite Food: Cheese for Muffy.
- Jellybeans, doughnuts, and other sweets for Sam.
- 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."
- 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.