Who ever thought that I would be researching, among other things, Canadian mannequin manufacturers?

6 minute read

December 25, 2012, 1:35 AM

So I’m working on creating my new Today’s Special wiki, and I’m “deep in the weeds” in fleshing out what articles and other titles should exist, and creating the categorization scheme.  If it tells you anything, I have titles for nearly every character that was on Today’s Special (though most of the one-off characters will be redirects to the episodes where they appeared), and did a lot of research on filming locations that were used.

By the way, for those of you who aren’t familiar with Today’s Special, you may get a tad lost in this, because I’m about to get very detailed.  For a basic overview of Today’s Special, check out my existing T.S. site, which this wiki is going to replace.

Probably the biggest bit of research that I’ve done for this so far is the filming locations.  I quickly discovered that almost all of the location filming done for Today’s Special was done in the Toronto area.  I believe that the furthest afield that they ever went for a location shoot was the Trent-Severn Waterway, for the episode “Sam“.  Just about everything else was done right in Toronto.  In researching locations, I looked into any public place that I had a good chance of locating.  Thus I did not bother to research location scenes shot in private homes, such as the home of Jodie’s Aunt Millie in “Being Alone“, nor did I research places like the doctor’s office in “Soup” or the barber shop in “Hair“.  The likelihood that I would never find them was too great.  But I did have quite a bit of success in other areas.

In rooting out these locations, I first watched Today’s Special.  Now mind you, I didn’t just sit down and start with “Hats” and watch through to “Memories“.  I know which episodes have location scenes in them and which ones don’t.  Once I got to a location scene, I looked and listened for any distinctive details that would help me with finding the identity of a location.  Today’s Special didn’t go out of its way to obscure a location’s identity, but at the same time, they also didn’t explicitly promote a location’s identity in most cases.  In the case of the store, they never referred to “Simpsons” specifically by name, but they didn’t hide the name of the store in any shots, showed the logo on the building several times, and Jeff was once seen carrying a stack of boxes with “Simpsons” on them in the Children’s Department.  So I would be able to look for clues in a scene, and then go to the Internet to do research based on what I found, and then positively identify using Google Earth.  It’s quite similar to what I do with photos that I’ve taken in and around Washington DC where I need to pinpoint the exact location.  I look for clues in the photo, do a little research, and then confirm with Google Earth.  The difference, however, is that I’m not as familiar with Toronto as I am with DC, plus Today’s Special ended 25 years ago, and things understandably change over time.

In doing my research, I am pretty proud of a few of the results that I came up with.  One of my big finds was discovering the identity of the fish market seen in “The Sea“.  In that case, the only thing I had to go off of was this:

The fish market seen in Today's Special

So basically, I had a “D”, a partial phone number, and the fact that it was inside a larger building.  Going on that, I first came up with Diana’s Seafood Delight.  Photos did not confirm a match, unfortunately, and so I had to keep looking.  I eventually landed on Domenic’s Fish Market.  Inside another building, “D” name, and phone number match!  Awesome.

Another one I was pretty pleased with myself about was finding Smiling Jack’s, from “Cars“.  Smiling Jack’s was filmed at a real car dealership in Toronto.  In that case, all I had to go off of was “Peter Burdon”, visible on a wall in the background:

Peter Burdon logo on the wall of a building adjacent to Smiling Jack's

When I first looked up “Peter Burdon”, I came up fairly dry.  I eventually was able to land an address, but when I searched on Google, it was a very different-looking location than what I was looking for.  It also appeared to be closed down.  Then I came up with an unusual find: The Big Carrot.  Turns out that “Smiling Jack’s”, really Peter Burdon Pontiac Buick, moved a few years after “Cars” was filmed, because their location was bought out by The Big Carrot and redeveloped.  They renovated and expanded the Peter Burdon building so thoroughly that you would be hard-pressed to tell that it was once a car dealership, but the photos do not lie.

And then I’m also proud of my work finding locations from the episode “Jodie“.  In finding all of the various locations we saw Jodie in, I found out that it was filmed in a Toronto neighborhood known as Cabbagetown.  I became very familiar with Cabbagetown in a hurry in the process of identifying this laundromat:

Village Cabbagepatch Laundromat

You would have thought that with the name right there on the building that this would be easy.  And you would be wrong.  See, I could make out “village” and “laundromat” fairly easily.  But that middle word was the problem – I couldn’t make it out at typical 1980s television resolution.  You don’t know how many Toronto-area laundromats I looked up and then looked for in Google Street View.  My goal was to look for features on the building, because the name might be different after so many years.  Every one I found was ruled out because it didn’t look right.  Looking around the area at all of these different laundromats, by the way, was how I discovered the name of the neighborhood (i.e. Cabbagetown), and how I finally had a breakthrough on the name.  A closer look at the mystery word looked a lot like “Cabbage”.  That’s how I was able to find it: the Village Cabbagepatch Laundromat.  According to Google Street View, however, the facility is no longer the Village Cabbagepatch Laundromat.  It is now Ever Clean Laundromat.

I also had a surprising miss – I couldn’t locate the mannequin factory from “Our Story Part 2“.  I got a name for it, but I couldn’t locate the building.  This is the building:

The mannequin factory

Turns out that, based on the sign, this facility actually did manufacture mannequins in real life.  Morgese-Soriano was at one time the largest manufacturer of mannequins in Canada.  However, things didn’t check out with the address.  The building seen in the show was already old at the time of filming in the 1980s, but the address that I got from Google showed them literally across the street from Pearson International Airport.  But the buildings there weren’t the building pictured above, and the one-story commercial structures that I found looked like they had been there for a while – long enough to have been there in the early 1980s.  In other words, this wasn’t the location I was looking for.  Unfortunately, I have nothing else to go on for this, with my not being all that familiar with Toronto.

In doing all of this, I have a list of eleven locations that I’m missing that I think I can find.  Morgese-Soriano is one of them.  Some of them are parks, and being unfamiliar with Toronto, I have no idea what I’m looking for or at.  I can’t find the location where Sam hooked his “beaut of a boot” in “Camping” on account of that.  Likewise I can’t find the dock where Sam was fishing for Old Walter in “Being Alone”, though I suspect that this may have been filmed near the Trent-Severn Waterway, since they were already out there with the Sam puppet for “Sam”.

Then I also started to think about how to handle certain characters.  Those familiar with Today’s Special may remember that Jodie has mentioned the names of two aunts: Aunt Millie, and Aunt Margaret.  Aunt Millie came to the store in “Family“, played by Phyllis Marshall.  Aunt Millie was later referenced in “Music“, “Travel“, “Letters“, and “Being Alone”.  Aunt Margaret appeared in an illustrated story in “Christmas Part 1“, and was later referenced in “Travel”.  The question of how to handle Aunt Millie and Aunt Margaret comes up due to the way the names were handled in “Travel”.  There, the names “Aunt Millie” and “Aunt Margaret” were used fairly interchangeably, and Aunt Margaret is never mentioned again after that episode.  This poor handling of the names makes me wonder if Aunt Margaret was intended to be a separate entity from Aunt Millie, or if Aunt Margaret was really supposed to be Aunt Millie, but the writers used the wrong name by mistake.  In other words, “Aunt Margaret” is a continuity error, meaning that there is no Aunt Margaret, and all references to “Aunt Margaret” should actually refer to Aunt Millie.  Nothing short of “Word of God” from people involved with the production will definitively settle this question, but it’s interesting to think about.

And you know, I have barely even scratched the surface of all of this.  Wait until I really get into actual writing.  Right now, the new site is just a collection of empty pages as I come up with all the topics that need to be discussed.  Just you wait.  It’s going to be a lot of fun.

Categories: Today's Special