Today's Special

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Today's Special
Created byClive VanderBurgh
StarringJeff Hyslop
Nerene Virgin
Bob Dermer
Nina Keogh
Country of originCanada
No. of seasons7
No. of episodes122
Running time20 Minutes
Original release
NetworkTVOntario (Canada)
Nickelodeon (United States)
ReleaseSeptember 1, 1981 (1981-09-01) –
July 1, 1987 (1987-07-01)

Today's Special is a Canadian children's television program produced by Clive VanderBurgh at TVOntario, originally broadcasting 120 episodes from 1981 to 1987. Much of the series was set in a department store, based on Simpson's then-flagship location in Toronto. Some store sequences were shot at the Queen Street West and Yonge Street store after hours. The show ran on TVOntario in Canada as well as Nickelodeon in the United States. Reruns of the series continued into 2000 on stations such as PBS affiliates (most of which stopped airing by the mid-1990s) in the United States and on Treehouse TV in Canada.


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 him to life.

Many early episodes focused on a tangible object as a subject, such as hats or costumes, with the show revolving around teaching about it. Later episodes dealt with more complicated ones, such as the episode "Wishes" dealing with sacrificing one thing for another, "Butterflies", which deals with death, or "Phil's Visit", which dealt with alcoholism.

Short films, often less than a minute long, were often inserted as breaks in the episode's main plot, narrated by Robyn Hayle (the same actor who provided the voice of TXL). These included Mime Lady segments, animated quizzes designed to test a child's observation, narrated storybooks, and popular nursery rhymes (which an unseen Muffy would introduce with "And now I'd like to introduce a nursery rhyme by Mother Goose").

Many episodes featured one or more one-time visitors to the store. Some would cause problems for the characters, while others would befriend them and help solve their problems. These visitors included the characters' friends or family, people coming to the store to do their jobs, people brought there by magic ("Treasure Hunts", "The Queen of Hearts"), bizarre, non-human characters ("Space", "Sam and the Robot"), and real-life celebrities ("Opera", "Trash"). Magic was important to many episodes, and the characters sometimes would have an adventure that involved it.

Cast and characters[edit]

  • Jeff (Jeff Hyslop): A retail store dummy with a magic hat that makes him come to life when someone says "hocus pocus alimagocus". If it comes off his head, he turns back into a mannequin. He can't leave the store or he will remain a mannequin forever (he can only go outside onto the building's roof or, in very rare episodes, when traveling by magic). Because he has not been alive for very long, he knows little about many everyday objects (at least in earlier seasons). However, he is often shown to be a fast learner, a deep thinker, and a source of ideas. He is also a very talented dancer, which he demonstrates at some point in nearly every episode. Though he wishes that he were not bound by the rules of the spell that keeps him alive, he puts his friends' needs first.
  • Jodie (Nerene Virgin): The store's display designer. Portrayed as a sweet, level-headed woman, she functions as a mentor and teacher to Jeff, who is relatively new to the world. He often works as her assistant in setting up the displays. Although she has no established authority, she usually takes a leadership role among the characters. Her words are often comforting to others, and she is always ready to help her friends with their problems.
  • Sam Crenshaw (puppet, Bob Dermer): The store's security guard. Born in 1919,[1] he is the oldest of the four main characters. He is a generally laid-back individual, as the years have worn him down. He often fails to notice or realize certain things around him at first, though when he does, he is known to get hysterical about it. He doesn't seem particularly bright and is sometimes clumsy, but he means well and is capable in his job. He also has a pet cat named Penelope that Muffy is afraid of. He sometimes uses the TXL Series 4 computer to mind the store. He also carries a Scottish accent.
  • Muffy Mouse (puppet, Nina Keogh): A mouse who speaks in rhyme and lives in the store all the time. She plays the piano, rides a scooter, and wears a feather boa around her neck like a lasso. She also plays tricks on people, and enjoys mischievous acts. As a mouse, she is obsessed with cheese and other snacks. She's young, naive and her fear of cats makes mention of them a pet peeve. She is usually the first one to get upset or frustrated over a situation, and her cousin, Mort, visits her on occasion.

Recurring characters

  • TXL Series 4 (Robyn Hayle): The store's computer system. Sam operates it from the security room. It appears to have a feminine persona. Despite being a machine, it is suggested that it is capable of human emotions.
  • Mrs. Pennypacker (puppet, Cheryl Wagner): An employee who runs the stock room at night. She is an elderly lady who shows her age in terms of physical appearance more than Sam does, but often appears more enthusiastic and full of energy than him. Her motto is "I know where everything goes" and the others sometimes call upon her knowledge of the store's layout to find obscure or special items.
  • Mort (puppet, Bob Stutt): Muffy's cousin from the farm. His country lifestyle tends to contrast with her city life. He, like her, speaks in rhyme, and often comes to visit.
  • Waldo the Magnificent (Barrie Baldaro): The magician who originally brought Jeff to life. A rather wise but somewhat inept man, the spells he casts with his wand often go awry, and it may take multiple tries to get it right. A running gag is his tendency to call Sam by the wrong name.
  • The Mime Lady (Nikki Tilroe): A mime character seen in quiz segments of the show. Tilroe also provided voices for several other characters.


Season 1[edit]

No.TitleOriginal air date
S01E01"Hats"1981 (1981)
S01E02"Snow"1981 (1981)
S01E03"Noses"1981 (1981)
S01E04"Family"1981 (1981)
S01E05"Camping"1981 (1981)
S01E06"Pets"1981 (1981)
S01E07"Sleep"1981 (1981)
S01E08"Balloons"1981 (1981)
S01E09"Soup"1981 (1981)
S01E10"Costumes"1981 (1981)
S01E11"School"1981 (1981)
S01E12"Games"1981 (1981)
S01E13"Trains"1981 (1981)
S01E14"Water"1981 (1981)
S01E15"Books"1981 (1981)
S01E16"Fruit"1981 (1981)
S01E17"Gardens"1981 (1981)
S01E18"Shoes"1981 (1981)
S01E19"Hair"1981 (1981)
S01E20"Hands"1981 (1981)
S01E21"Brushes"1981 (1981)
S01E22"Night"1981 (1981)

Season 2[edit]

No.TitleOriginal air date
S02E01"Dance"1982 (1982)
S02E02"Movies"1982 (1982)
S02E03"Circus"1982 (1982)
S02E04"Halloween"1982 (1982)
S02E05"Opera"1982 (1982)
S02E06"Television"1982 (1982)
S02E07"Food"1982 (1982)
S02E08"Summer Camp"1982 (1982)
S02E09"Building"1982 (1982)
S02E10"Work"1982 (1982)
S02E11"Eyes"1982 (1982)
S02E12"Records"1982 (1982)
S02E13"Homes"1982 (1982)
S02E14"Play"1982 (1982)
S02E15"Birthdays"1982 (1982)
S02E16"Soap"1982 (1982)
S02E17"Friends"1982 (1982)
S02E18"Music"1982 (1982)
S02E19"Wood"1982 (1982)
S02E20"Flight"1982 (1982)

Season 3[edit]

No.TitleOriginal air date
S03E01"Cousins"1983 (1983)
S03E02"Police"1983 (1983)
S03E03"Moving"1983 (1983)
S03E04"Tears"1983 (1983)
S03E05"Pianos"1983 (1983)
S03E06"Our Story (1)"1983 (1983)
S03E07"Our Story (2)"1983 (1983)
S03E08"Travel"1983 (1983)
S03E09"Newspapers"1983 (1983)
S03E10"Cookies"1983 (1983)
S03E11"Dinosaurs"1983 (1983)
S03E12"Adventure"1983 (1983)
S03E13"Imagination"1983 (1983)
S03E14"Temperature"1983 (1983)
S03E15"Smiles"1983 (1983)
S03E16"String"1983 (1983)
S03E17"Wild West"1983 (1983)
S03E18"Space"1983 (1983)
S03E19"Christmas (1)"1983 (1983)
S03E20"Christmas (2)"1983 (1983)

Season 4[edit]

No.TitleOriginal air date
S04E01"Changes"1984 (1984)
S04E02"Dreams"1984 (1984)
S04E03"Lost and Found"1984 (1984)
S04E04"Boxes and Boxes"1984 (1984)
S04E05"Hospitals"1984 (1984)
S04E06"Butterflies"1984 (1984)
S04E07"Sharing"1984 (1984)
S04E08"Storms"1984 (1984)
S04E09"Babies"1984 (1984)
S04E10"The Sea"1984 (1984)
S04E11"Vacations"1984 (1984)
S04E12"Cars"1984 (1984)
S04E13"Treasure Hunts"1984 (1984)
S04E14"Wheels"1984 (1984)
S04E15"Ears"1984 (1984)

Season 5[edit]

No.TitleOriginal air date
S05E01"Songs"1985 (1985)
S05E02"Daisies"1985 (1985)
S05E03"Jeans"1985 (1985)
S05E04"Hello Friend"1985 (1985)
S05E05"Waldo's Hat"1985 (1985)
S05E06"Letters"1985 (1985)
S05E07"Heroes"1985 (1985)
S05E08"Grandmothers"1985 (1985)
S05E09"Being Alone"1985 (1985)
S05E10"Help!"1985 (1985)
S05E11"Buttons"1985 (1985)
S05E12"Sam's Speech"1985 (1985)
S05E13"Dancing Shoes"1985 (1985)
S05E14"Storybooks"1985 (1985)
S05E15"Going Out"1985 (1985)
S05E16"Fun"1985 (1985)
S05E17"Jeff"1985 (1985)
S05E18"Jodie"1985 (1985)
S05E19"Muffy"1985 (1985)
S05E20"Sam"1985 (1985)
S05E21"Live on Stage"1985 (1985)

Season 6[edit]

No.TitleOriginal air date
S06E01"Stuffies"1986 (1986)
S06E02"Late"1986 (1986)
S06E03"The Blue Cow"1986 (1986)
S06E04"A Date for Sam"1986 (1986)
S06E05"Teeth"1986 (1986)
S06E06"Trash"1986 (1986)
S06E07"Wishes"1986 (1986)
S06E08"Phil's Visit"1986 (1986)
S06E09"Junior"1986 (1986)
S06E10"Secrets"1986 (1986)
S06E11"Moods"1986 (1986)
S06E12"Fire"1986 (1986)

Season 7[edit]

No.TitleOriginal air date
S07E01"Mrs. Pennypacker's Problem"1987 (1987)
S07E02"The Queen of Hearts"1987 (1987)
S07E03"A Runaway Spell"1987 (1987)
S07E04"A Visit to the Opera"1987 (1987)
S07E05"Sam and the Robot"1987 (1987)
S07E06"Mrs. Waldo"1987 (1987)
S07E07"Rich and Famous"1987 (1987)
S07E08"Ice Cream"1987 (1987)
S07E09"Bedtime"1987 (1987)
S07E10"Locks"1987 (1987)
S07E11"Memories"1987 (1987)


  1. ^ "Sam and the Robot". Today's Special. Season 7. TVOntario.

External links[edit]