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Behind the Scenes

The Today's Special I Never Knew

Today's Special was designed to run for twenty-eight minutes and fifty seconds on a non-commercial network, like PBS or TVO.  As such, the show was not designed for commercials to be shown with it.  If you saw Today's Special on a network that shows commercials, such Nickelodeon or the Faith and Values Channel, you didn't see all of Today's Special.  While these networks did not interrupt the show for commercials, they did prune the show a little in order to show commercials afterwards.

A running time of 28:50 allows only a minute and ten seconds in between shows.  That's just fine for a network that doesn't show commercials, since all they have to do is tell what's coming up next and later on in the day, and station identification.

In making cuts, Nickelodeon's cuts were mostly seamless.  Nickelodeon rarely faded to black, and simply cut straight to the next scene.  The biggest giveaways were actually rather minor, such as hearing the tail end of music or a sound effect in the beginning of a scene, or a sound effect being cut off.  The best example of a sound effect's being cut off is from 1982's Friends where the sound effect used when Jeff becomes a mannequin was cut off after he removed his hat at the end of the "How Do You Do" song.  Unbeknownst to Nickelodeon viewers, there is a scene in between the time when Jeff removes his hat, and Gus enters the room.  In the Episode Guide, scenes that were trimmed by Nickelodeon are listed in italics.

The Faith and Values Channel made their cuts a little more obvious.  When it was time to trim the episodes, they often faded to black.  For instance, on Rich and Famous, just after Sam tells Jodie that he wants to "show Muffy Mouse that the name of Sam Crenshaw really means something", it fades to black, and then we see Jeff telling us how Muffy got Jodie to star in a commercial, while Muffy is fixing Jodie's hair.  On the full episode, after Sam tells Jodie that his name means something, Jodie tells Sam it means a lot to her, sings, "Sam, Sam, You're Such a Dear Man", and then Sam accidentally spills water all over her.  Then we see a quiz.  After that, we're in the children's department.  Muffy tells Jodie that she wants to fix her hair after Jodie questions why she agreed to do the commercial, and then Jeff explains what's going on.

Exactly what kinds of things were cut from Today's Special?  The answer is that songs, dances, quizzes, entire scenes... anything that wasn't essential to the show's plot and made the show too long for the broadcasters.  Usually, it was only one scene, or a scene and a quiz.

This kind of cutting is not limited to television, either.  We can compare this cutting of scenes to the Sunday comics in newspapers.  In a typical Sunday comic section, you'll see many strips.  Some are the full strip, with three rows of panels, complete with title logo.  Others have had the top row of panels removed to save space.  The only difference between Today's Special and the Sunday comics is that Today's Special's writers did not intend for the show to be cut, whereas cartoonists do make allowances for this (Bill Watterson mentioned in the Calvin and Hobbes 10th Anniversary Book that cartoonists must waste the top row of panels on "throwaway" jokes because they cannot count on the readers seeing those panels).  So many good parts of Today's Special were missed this way.

Would you like to see a little of what you missed?  Visit the Episode Guide to see descriptions of what you missed.

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