Today’s Special: Smiles

Nickelodean was started in 1979, so when I was a young child it was still in the early days of the network. This was well before the days of Nicktoons or game shows filmed at Universal Studios where the grand prize  was a trip to Universal Studios (seriously what was up with that?) No back when it was still socially understandable for me to pee my pants Nickelodean mostly consisted of shows that were imported from Canada. Unlike Degrassi:The Next Generation  these shows were good. There was the vaulted You Can’t Do That on Television where a young Alanis Morissette wowed the world with her comedic wonders, a revival of  Mr Wizard’s World, and my personal favorite and the subject of this review, Today’s Special

I don’t remember why exactly Today’s Special was my favorite show when I was young. Probably because kids are stupid and like random things. I also loved Perfect Strangers and turtles. Not Nunja Turtles, normal turtles. My love of turtles is why I got into Ninja Turtles. The concept of Today’s Special is that a magic hat makes a mannequin, Jeff, come to life at night. As he is a mannequin he doesn’t know much about the world. Jodie, a display designer for the store, hangs out with Jeff instead of doing her job. There is also night security guard Sam Crenshaw. Unlike Jeff and Jodie he gets a last name, but this privelage comes at the cost of being a puppet. There is also Muffy Mouse who is a mouse and has a first name that means vagina.

Starting off is the theme song of course. Its an odd sequence. It begins with Jodie and Sam discussing how the store is closed, and Jodie carries Jeff in mannequin form up to the children’s department. She better hope nobody notices her taking that mannequin from in front of the main windows to a secluded part of the store every night because they are going to assume its some weird sex thing. Muffy says the magic words to bring Jeff to life. Jeff grabs Jodie’s hand and they run towards the camera into a green screen backdrop of space where they jump into the air, freeze frame, and turn into a cartoon because that is the most 80s way to introduce a TV show. Then mother goose rides by on a goose trailing a rainbow for some reason.

The episode begins proper with Jodie playing Patty Cake with Muffie. Jodie is wearing an outfit that looks just like April O’neals yellow jumpsuit but in pink. Jeff comments that they are great at Patty Cake. How exactly does one perform Patty Cake poorly? Its Patty Cake.

Sam walks in and appears to be bummed out. Jeff and Jodie ask what is his problem, and Sam expositions that his friend Sourpuss Sal is coming by to visit and its going to suck because she hasn’t smiled in 20 years. Maybe she doesn’t smile because her friends call her Sourpuss Sal and dread spending time with her. Also why is she coming to visit him at work in a closed department store? Oh, maybe this is some sort of Ocean’s 11 thing and she is going to seduce Sam and rob the safe.

To prove just how much of a sourpuss Sourpuss Sal is Sam shows them the letter she sent where she describes her face as scowling and says she is coming to visit because she has nothing better to do. Then she says its been 20 years since she last smiled. How oddly specific. Jeff and Jodie make it their goal to make Sourpuss Sal smile. Muffy wants to split but gets roped into spending time with the unpleasant person.

Then there is a song about a smile being a frown just upside down. This may seem cliche but it was fresher in 1984, I assume. I don’t really know.

The night buzzer rings and Sourpuss Sal is let into the store. Sourpuss Sal has the same facial expression as Debbie Downer from those SNL skit. Remember that one? It was the skit that was sort of funny at first then got run into the ground. She is also wearing a paisley jumpsuit separated by a belt. Was this a thing women wore in the 80s? Was it some sort of feminist fashion statement where they wore the least flattering outfit possible?

Jeff asks Sal to confirm her time away from smiling which she does. I forget what she said, it was down to the minute amount of time. Jodie says she hopes that Sal finds something to smile about that night. Sal says she doubts it, its been so long since she smiled she thinks it would make her face crack. She then says that’s just the way she is. Well if kid shows teach us anything we can’t accept people for who they are, they have to be changed for the better! Unless the episode is about accepting them for who they are.

For some reason Muffy swings in on a rope in a super hero outfit. She calls herself Super Muff. I think I saw that porno once. Rather then smile, as I assume was the intention, Sal points out that the mouse speaks in rhyme and that is strange. Also Muffy speaks in rhyme, I haven’t mentioned that yet. Jodie and Sam say some horrible jokes that aren’t funny which don’t make Sourpuss laugh. I didn’t laugh either. Then Jeff does this bit where he is a ballet dancer who came back from camping and has mosquito bites so he itches himself while doing ballet. However the dance only makes Sal itchy.

Sam consults his talking computer about Sal’s problem. His talking computer’s monitor is an analog TV and a keyboard. The computer says it might not be the right time for Sal to smile. Smiling and laughing are nice but not always appropriate. The example the computer uses is if somebody slips on a banana peel. They could be hurt. It is however okay to laugh if a clown falls on a banana peel because they don’t have a soul. Sal might not feel its appropriate to laugh because her husband was killed in Vietnam. They never found the body so she can’t find closure.

We go back to Sal and Jodie. Sal comments that its dull and asks what they do for excitement. They go to the store when it is open Sal. Why would you expect their to be excitement in a closed department store? Seriously. Department stores are pretty boring while open. Plus there is a talking mouse and you don’t care. What even gets you excited if affronts against god aren’t enough? Jodie tries a lame riddle which Sal totally poo poos. Then Sal goes to find Sam who just abandoned her to talk to his computer.

Muffy tells Jodie that a tickle might make Sal… not be fickle? This rhyming thing is hard. Then Jodie comments how she can have so much fun with Muffy when nobody else is around and they keep it a secret from everybody. Then comes a song about how they lock all the doors and are “silly” together and nobody else would understand what they do together. I am unable to express how this song is such a strong expression of lesbian love between a black lady and a mouse.

Sal comes back into the scene and Jodie tries “tickling” her. Sal tells Jodie she is immune to lesbian attractiveness as she has not drunken and Smirnoff Ices that night.

Jeff has a plan to get Sal to finally fucking smile. He tries to tell her a knock knock joke but Sal doesn’t understand how knock knock jokes work. Jeff says how he can’t believe Sal hasn’t smiled in 20 years. Sal insightfully says she just hasn’t had a reason to smile. Then Jeff sings an annoying song. That won’t help things, nor will picking her up when she is clearly not comfortable with it. Sal says she is probably just different from everybody else and leaves to find Sam who has abandoned her around strangers that can’t stop touching her.

In the next scene Jodie, Muffy and Jeff are all moping about how they couldn’t make Sal smile. Sam and Sal enter the scene. Sam asks Sal how she likes the store. Sal says it is nice if you like department stores. Sam says “I wish this night was over,” under his breath. Kind of a dick thing to say Sam. Jeff Jodie and Muffy are standing on their heads. The reasoning is that if Sal won’t turn her frown upside down from them touching her then they will turn themselves upside down. This makes Sourpuss Sal change the need for her nickname because she starts laughing at how goofy they  look. Finally forcing their desire on her Jeff and Jodie declare a success and they all start singing as the credits run.


So What Did We Learn?

If you disapprove of how somebody acts then you must do everything you can to change them. Inversely the best way to get people to leave you alone and stop “tickling” you is to just agree to do whatever they want.

How Does It Hold Up?

Jodie talks like a kindergarten teacher on speed. Jeff is like an annoying hyperactive ten year old in a plaid vest. The plot is pointless and harps on one thing that isn’t even interesting. There really isn’t much to appeal to people who have any kind of mental capacity to judge quality. I feel bad for my parents now. I would apologize for making them watch this but they never answer when I call. This show is probably why.