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I have reached a milestone…

September 11, 2018, 4:08 PM

I recently reached a milestone when it comes to my overhaul of my Today’s Special site.  I last wrote about this project in 2013, at which time I had settled on a platform for the site (WordPress) and had written a few articles, mainly as proof of concept.  The build plan has always been to start with “Hats” and work my way through to “Memories“, adding content in the order that it appears in the show.  After I get through all 121 episodes and the content related to those, I will then write the articles for the content that doesn’t necessarily tie neatly into an episode or episodes, like the articles for the main characters, the various sets, and so on.  Then once all of the articles are written, I just need to write the “business” pages like the main page, privacy statement, etc., give everything a final check, and then launch.

Since I announced the project in 2013, the project has made good progress, though that progress has happened in fits and starts over the intervening years.  I completed the articles for “Hats“, “Snow“, “Noses“, and “Family” in late 2013, and then set the project aside for about two years.  I suppose that other matters took precedence during that time.  Then when I picked it up again in late 2015, I got a lot of prep work done for the episode pages, such as all of the writer, director, and sequence information, and then by March 2016, I had completed things through “Games“, i.e. the twelfth episode.  I then picked it up again in December 2016, and finished up the first season in February 2017.  I picked up on the second season in September 2017, starting with “Dance“, and finished it up exactly one year later, taking approximately six months off from it from December 2017 to June 2018.  That work on the second season also included writing seven brand new episode synopses, to replace some temporary short synopses written in the nineties.  You know what they say: there is nothing more permanent than a temporary solution.  That said, the new synopses are the same length as the standard ones.

In finishing the 1982 episodes, and a number of other articles related to that, I believe that I have reached a significant milestone as far as Today’s Special goes.  Going into the project, I was concerned that I would get bogged down in those early episodes and the project would stall indefinitely.  But now I’m done with them.  I have completed the early material, and am now moving into the middle of the series.  Starting in 1983, the series really “grew out its beard“, as the show definitely hit its stride during that period.  The 1981 episodes were fairly light on story, focusing mostly on teaching about the various concepts that the show covered, such as hats, snow, camping, fruit, and so on.  The 1982 episodes were built around an actual plot, but still had a lot of teaching and explaining in them.  Starting in 1983, the concepts are taught through the storyline, with less direct explanation of concepts.  There’s also more conflict, as 1983 has five episodes where characters get very upset with each other for very valid reasons.  In addition, the characters are far more developed in 1983, as all of their origin stories are shown.  The show also changes its appearance slightly, as this is when Jodie begins wearing her third uniform, which is the version with the long sleeved button-down shirt and pocket on the right side, rather than the short sleeved jumpsuit that she wore previously.

Now, for 1983, I will have my work cut out for me.  The way I complete the episode pages is typically in two waves.  The first wave involves work on the synopsis itself, as I clean up the writing and make sure that it’s up to modern quality standards, or write a new synopsis, whichever the case may be.  I can knock out a cleanup job fairly quickly, but writing a new synopsis from scratch typically takes several hours to complete and requires a lot of concentration.  I will be writing 17 new episode synopses, i.e. everything except “Christmas Part 1“, “Christmas Part 2“, and “Adventure“, for 1983.  Then after that, the second wave of work is an analysis of the episode, noting first appearances, last appearances, new concepts, credit formats, and a lot of things like that.  That’s also when I write the articles about things like filming locations.  As far as filming locations go, I am eternally grateful to the folks at /r/askTO, as they have been great in helping me with filming locations that I wasn’t able to identify myself.  1983 doesn’t have as much location footage as the earlier seasons did, but I still have a good bit of homework to do.  I’ve already identified a bunch of filming locations, but there are some more that I still need to turn up.

Then after 1983, I have to do 1984 almost entirely from scratch.  It was a 15-episode season, and all of the synopses are the short style, meaning that they will all have to be rewritten to full length.  That season also introduces a massive change in the sets, as well as Mrs. Pennypacker, a new puppet character.  Once I finish 1984, things will be pretty straightforward.  All of the full-length synopses for 1985 through 1987 are written, and they just need to be cleaned up and have all of the supporting material placed around them.

Unfortunately, however, I don’t have a date for when I will be finished with this project.  I work on things when I can, and try to do one episode function (a synopsis or an analysis) per week.  So just for 1983, I figure that it will take about 37 weeks, or about nine months, to complete.  I come to that figure by figuring that I’m going to write a new synopsis for 17 episodes, and do an analysis of all 20.  Plus figure another week or so on top of that for “Our Story” because of all of the location shooting that was done there.  Just know that I am being very thorough here, and I would rather take a long time and do it right than launch a poor or incomplete product.  I don’t care if the new page for “Hats” sits for a decade before anyone besides me gets to see it.  I will do it right.

And meanwhile, the old site looks a bit dated by now.  It’s a situation where I know that I’m replacing it, but it still has a niche to fill in the meantime.  So it’s not getting many updates because I know that it’s getting replaced, but the new site isn’t ready yet to replace it.  About the only thing that I’ve done with the old site is include the new episode synopses as they are written.  It probably could use a refresh in the interim, but we’ll see.

So all in all, much has been done, and still a lot more to do.  And I’m looking forward to doing it.