Long-time readers of this blog know that my first and forever favorite horror host was and is The Ghoul, who aired here in the Boston area briefly in 1973. I thought horror hosts had disappeared from the airwaves forever, but sometime in 1982 local channel 56 – oddly, the station that had aired The Ghoul – ran then Son of Svengoolie on Saturday afternoons. I watched these every Saturday until the show was pulled from syndication. While Sven was different from The Ghoul, he still had many of the elements of horror hosting that I then – and still do – love! Unfortunately, much like The Ghoul’s brief run, Son of Svengoolie’s was also terminated all too quickly. The things I remembered most fondly about then Son of Svengoolie were: his bad puns, the rubber chicken throwing (usually at him and caused by his bad puns), song parodies based on the movie’s shown, his constant put-downs of Berwyn (a suburb of Chicago which Sven harassed much like The Ghoul made fun of Parma) and his then sidekick Tombstone (a talking skull that floated in mid-air and talked with a vaguely Bronx-sounding accent). Fortunately for me, Svengoolie (no longer Son of) is airing each Saturday night on MeTV at 10 pm and he still does almost all the same types of gags and skits that I loved from his show over thirty years earlier!
Here is Svengoolie’s Wikipedia entry and as far as I can tell, the information appears to be accurate:
Svengoolie debuted on Screaming Yellow Theater, which aired on WFLD (Channel 32) from September 18, 1970 until late-summer 1973. Svengoolie was played in this series by Jerry G. Bishop. In later seasons, Rich Koz—a fan of the show who used to send in sketch ideas—became one of the show's writers.
On June 16, 1979, Son of Svengoolie debuted on WFLD, with Koz in the title role. The show also aired briefly on other sister (i.e., Field Communications-controlled) stations in Philadelphia, Boston, San Francisco, and Detroit. This series ran until WFLD (at that time owned by Metromedia) was sold to Rupert Murdoch's Fox Television Stations Group in 1986 to become a part of the newly-created Fox network. The new management canceled the show after deciding it was not an appropriate fit for their new programming direction. After 334 shows, the final episode aired January 25, 1986. Koz later returned to WFLD in various capacities, mainly as the host of its Fox Kids Club and The Koz Zone weekday afternoon children's programming, even appearing as an announcer on the Fox network's 1988 New Year's Eve broadcast.
The series returned to the air on December 31, 1994 on WCIU (Channel 26), using just "Svengoolie" as its name; Koz took over the role of Svengoolie when Bishop told Koz that he "believed he was grown up enough now to no longer be just the Son." The show opens with a reference to early radio broadcasting: "Calling all stations, clear the air lanes, clear all air lanes for the big broadcast." Koz also hosts a weekly Three Stooges Stooge-a-palooza show on WCIU.
A running gag throughout the series is the repeated utterance of the word "Berwyn", the name of a Chicago suburb. (This was a parody of the way "Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In" and Johnny Carson would jokingly refer to "Beautiful Downtown Burbank.") Another recurring gag involves rubber chickens being thrown at Svengoolie after a cornier-than-usual joke—usually at the end of each episode's closing sketch. Koz and the show have won numerous regional Emmy awards, and Koz was admitted to the Emmy "Silver Circle" in 2004 for "outstanding contributions to Chicago television."
The series also airs on Chicago's WWME-CA ("ME-TV"), Milwaukee stations WBME-CD and WMLW-TV, and occasionally on WMYS-LP in South Bend, Indiana. All of these stations are owned by Weigel Broadcasting. Beginning on April 2, 2011, Svengoolie's show also became available nationally on the Weigel-owned Me-TV network.
Here are some fun “facts” about Svengoolie’s show from http://tvtropes.org:
Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Very much so over the years, with regards to Sven being Transylvianian, and how. It's pretty much gone straight into Not Even Bothering with the Accent, he'll start a segment with it or annunciation a word in it here or there but that's all.
Parody Commercial: Too many examples to count—Svengoolie's Jr. Grave Robber Kit, Vampire Carpets, Death perfume...
Passing the Torch: In the first episode of Son of Svengoolie, when the Son pop's out of Bishop's coffin on the old Screaming Yellow Theater set while Bishop, out of character, provides Opening Narration.
Bishop: Good evening. I'm Jerry G. Bishop, and this is the famed split-level dungeon studio where many years ago, the legendary Svengoola—Svengoolie first entered television prominence many years ago....What if there was the same situation as in the past with Son of Frankenstein, Son of Dracula, Sanford and Son? Could their exist—somewhere, somehow—a Son of Svengoolie?
Son of Svengoolie: Hey, dad, can I borrow the key to the Hearst tonight?
Named for Svengali from Trilby (and the subsequent reuse of the name as "a person who with evil intent manipulates another into doing what is desired") along with Ghoul, a common horror trope in its own right.
BER-WYN? is uttered whenever a city name, or a word that sounds similar is mentioned. Berwyn is a suburb of Chicago where they have an annual mushroom parade. Used as a gag similar to Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In's "beautiful downtown Burbank."
Song Parody: Once an Episode, usually changing the lyrics to reference that night's movie.
Tombstone's is superimposed onto the screen much more gracefully today than he was in the old days, appearing much more solid and his mouth lip-sinks almost fluidly.
Many characters are voiced by Koz, and dubbed in. Zallman T. Tombstone (a floating skull), Kerwyn (a rubber chicken who helps Sven with the Mailbag segment), and Durwood (a ventriloquist's dummy) are the three most often seen Non Human Sidekicks. Also "appearing" Once an Episode is "the guy behind the door," who interrupts Sven as he's saying his goodnights at the end of the show to tell him a bad joke. The hand is played by various people - mostly staffers at the station - but the voiceover is Koz.
Back in the Son of Svengoolie days you couldn't get through a month without at least one cheap shot at Alan Thicke.
Three Dimensional Episode: when SoS broadcast Revenge of the Creature in 1983. The effect didn't work well.
Vocal Range Exceeded: Regularly used when musical director Doug Graves arranges songs for Sven to sing, just a bit higher than Sven can sing.
The Artifact: Durwood the puppet looks just like Bishop's Svengoolie. When Koz took over with a different make-up design, Durwood retained his resemblance to the original and continues to today.
Audience Participation: Faked with using audio clips from various programs, most commonly Warner Brothers cartoons.
Award Show: Parodied in 1983 with The Worst of Svengoolie, which highlighted the worst elements of the various films that had been shown over the years.
When Doug speaks up, it's generally to get a joke in at Sven's expense.
Everything's Better with Chickens: Rubber chickens make frequent appearances on the show, especially at the end, when they're launched at Svengoolie.
Fan Nickname: Sven, short for Svengoolie. "Goolie" isn't his last name.
Hey, It's That Guy!: Svengoolie devotes one host segment a week to pointing out the actors' other roles.
Incredibly Lame Pun: Most of the jokes on the program.
Keep Circulating the Tapes: Unlike some horror hosts Sven doesn't rely strictly on Public Domain films, which makes for a wider variety of shows available but also makes officially releasing them to home video virtually impossible. Sven is OK with people trading copies of his old shows, but do not sell them.
The current Svengoolie started as the Son of Svengoolie; the original Svengoolie (played by Jerry G. Bishop) aired from 1970-1973 on Screaming Yellow Theater. Son of Svengoolie ran 1979-1986. When SoS returned to regular broadcasting in 1995 he received the blessing of the original to just be called "Svengoolie."
Koz's first show ran 1979-1986; his current show started in 1995. That's 27 years on the air, and 42 years overall.
I have been watching Svengoolie on MeTV every Saturday night since I discovered it on my local cable channel 292. To give you an idea of how much I love Svengoolie, this is the only program I watch regularly in standard definition! Since I bought my HD TV several years ago, I stopped watching the non-HD channels, because they look fuzzy compared to the stunning clarity of the HD channels. I have already watched some classic – and not so classic – movies on Svengoolie’s program like: House of Frankenstein 1944, Tarantula 1955, Ssssss 1973, Abbot and Costello Go to Mars 1953, Duck Soup 1933, Revenge of the Creature 1955, Island of Lost Souls 1932, Cult of the Cobra 1955, The Black Cat 1933 and The Wolf Man 1941! I have learned that Rich Koz suffered a heart attack November 3, 2012 and while he is recovering has been running repeats of past shows on METV.
Here is the news report at the time of the incident:
Rich Koz, the Chicago television icon known to generations of fans as the wise-cracking horror-movie host Svengoolie, is recovering from a heart attack. Koz, 60, was stricken at his west suburban home Saturday night and was admitted to a Chicago hospital, where he was being treated Monday. On his Svengoolie Twitter and Facebook accounts Sunday, the following message was posted: “After a very busy Halloween holiday season, I’ll be taking a short reprieve from updating my blog. Daily updates will return soon!” Koz, who has a history of heart problems, suffered a heart attack in March 2002. He returned to work two months later after undergoing two angioplasty procedures. “Maybe it’s a good thing that rubber chickens are cholesterol-free,” he quipped at the time.
Judging by this report and Ron’s history, he’ll be returning to the airwaves soon!
Anyone who is interested in finding our more about Svengoolie, should go to his current web site: http://svengoolie.com
To find out more about Svengooie on MeTV go to: http://www.metvnetwork.com/whoissvengoolie.php
To find out if there is a MeTV affiliate in your area, go to: http://metvnetwork.com/wherewatch.php
Below is the opening of the new Svengoolie show on MeTV in which he introduces a rare non-horror movie feature, Duck Soup!