Today's Special is a children's television show produced by Clive VanderBurgh at TVOntario from 1982 to 1987. It also ran on Nickelodeon and the Faith and Values Channel (now the Hallmark Channel) as well as many PBS stations throughout the United States. It was set in a department store, based on the flagship location of the now-defunct Simpson's in Toronto. Many sequences for the show were shot at the Queen Street West and Yonge Street store after hours.
- Jeff (Jeff Hyslop): A mannequin with a magical hat that makes him come to life.
- Jodie (Nerene Virgin): The store's display designer.
- Sam Crenshaw (puppet, Bob Dermer): The store's security guard and a retired member of the merchant marine.
- Muffy (puppet, Nina Keogh): A mouse who speaks in rhyme and lives in the store.
Other main characters
- TXL Series 4 (Robyn Hayle): The store's computer system. The actress voicing TXL also did voiceovers during the opening credits and quiz segments.
- Mrs. Pennypacker (puppet, Cheryl Wagner): Stock room employee.
- Mort (puppet, Bob Stutt): Muffy's cousin from the farm.
- Waldo the Magnificent (Barrie Baldaro): Magician who originally brought Jeff to life.
- The Mime Lady (Nikki Tilroe): Mime character seen in quiz segments of the show. The actress playing the Mime Lady also provided voices for several other characters.
In the children's department of a major department store, each night when Jodie arrives for work, she carries a mannequin (Jeff) upstairs, where Muffy says the magic words "hocus pocus alimagocus!" This brings Jeff to life, and hilarity ensues.
Many early episodes focused on a tangible object as a subject, such as hats or costumes, with the show revolving around teaching about that subject. Later episodes dealt with more complicated subjects, such as the episode "Wishes" dealing with sacrificing one thing for another, or "Phil's Visit", which dealt with alcoholism.
For the 1984 season, the sets of Today's Special
were changed significantly. The Children's Department set was given a new color scheme, along with the addition of two large "Today's Special" signs. Muffy's apartment received a new entrance, complete with balcony and elevator. The Computer Room set was completely redesigned from the ground up, to give it a more futuristic appearance. Additionally, the rooftop set was transformed from a functional-looking appearance to a space designed for people to spend time, with the addition of large, wooden flower beds.
These set changes were introduced in the 1984 episode "Changes", where it was explained that the store was being redecorated. It is unknown what the real-life reason (if any) was for the set change. Viewers can determine if the episode they are watching was made before or after the set change by listening for two chimes (descending, then ascending) mixed into the start of the opening. If present, the episode was made after the set change.
The show was, for the most part, faithful to the history of the Simpson's location where some scenes were filmed. In the two-part episode "Our Story", the episode centered on locating a plaque that proved the building's historic value, which would, by law, bar anyone from demolishing the building. The mention of the destruction of historic records in a fire is consistent with the burning of a previous structure at the store's location. Additionally, the plaque shown in the show, while created for the show, is historically accurate, indicating that the present-day building was constructed in 1896.