Calling all stations! Clear the airlanes, clear all airlanes for the big broadcast!
— Opening line for Son of Svengoolie and Svengoolie
Svengoolie is the eponymous Horror Host of a long-running series in Chicago, where he shows movies (often, but not always, Horror Films). During commercial breaks he'll crack jokes, tell some history of the film being screened, sing songs, do sketches, etc. A popular feature is "SvenSurround," where he enhances the original audio track of the film with sound effects and dubbed in dialogue.The character has gone through many incarnations throughout its run, starting in 1970 on Chicago's WFLD as a part of Screaming Yellow Theater, where the character was played by Jerry G. Bishop, and a key writer was Rich Koz. When WFLD was bought out by a network with it's own Horror Host, SYT was cancelled. It was resurrected in 1979, with Koz portraying "Son of Svengoolie" in a show of the same name. Said show was cancelled when Fox bought out WFLD in 1986, but returned as simply Svengoolie (with Bishop's blessing) on stations in Chicago and Milwaukee in 1995 and has been running since.On April 2nd, 2011 Svengoolie went national when the MeTV network expanded out of Chicago and Milwaukee and became a full-fledged nationwide network. Find out more here.
Svengoolie provides examples of:
Art Evolution: Bishop started out with a plain white coffin lying on a table, which would be signed by the episode's special guest if there was one, before painting it to become the more ornate one with his face on it. (The coffin-signing tradition was succeeded by a guest book.)
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, mixed with stock audio created by Bishop and Koz. The preexisting material gets rotated out as pop culture marches on, but you can still here the same "ow ow OW" stock audio from the '70s in a lot of sketches.
Author Avatar: Koz's run as Sven depicts Koz himself as the show's "head writer" whenever the show gets introspective about its past or wins an award of some sort. Despite his humble and pleasant demeanor, Sven views Koz as an attention monger trying to take credit for Sven's hard work. However, the show makes no quibble with the fact that Bishop and his Sven are the same person, with Koz!Sven frequently referring to Jerry G. Bishop as his predecessor—even as Bishop himself fervently denies it.
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.
Book Ends: Son of Svengoolie, bizarrely, begins and ends with a Take That to failed sitcom Hello, Larry: Jerry G. Bishop, introducing the first episode, sarcastically quips that "many fondly remember Svengoolie providing the same classic entertainment as such time-honored shows as Hello, Larry"; and the "Cancelled" song in the finale claims the show's been cancelled "like McLean Stevenson".
Butt Monkey: Sven is frequently the butt of jokes: Doug constantly complains about working for him, Kerwyn the rubber chicken takes constant potshots during the mail segments, and Tombstone seems pathologically incapable of referring to Sven by name (usually opting to call him "dummy" instead.) However, whenever "head writer" Rich Koz turns up, Sven makes him the butt of all the jokes instead, and constantly accuses him of trying to steal credit for the show's success.
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.
Legacy Character: 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."
Limited Wardrobe: Bishop!Sven's headband, sunglasses, red shirt and striped pants; Koz!Sven's black top hat, green neckerchief and black suit; Doug's fedora, sunglasses and blue collared shirt.
Long Runners: Screaming Yellow Theater ran from 1970-1973, Koz's first show ran 1979-1986; his current show started in 1995. That's 27 years on the air, and 42 years overall.
Mad Libs Catch Phrase: "The time has come for scary things, like monsters, ghosts and vampire wings..." from the Bishop era. Each week, the next line would be changed to reflect that week's guest or film.
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?
Promoted Fanboy: Koz began his career as Svengoolie by being a fan of the original Svengoolie and sending in some sketch ideas. He then became a writer on the show and for Jerry G. Bishop personally. When auditions came up for a new horror host he got permission from Bishop to become the "Son of" Svengoolie.
Pun Based Name: 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.
Running Gag/Phrase Catcher: "BER-WYN?" 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."
Sven getting rubber chickens thrown at him for making bad jokes.
The reason the original Svengoolie show was canceled in 1973 was that the local TV station he originated from was bought by an out-of-town TV station that had it's own local Horror Host, which it then syndicated in the Chicago area in Svengoolie's timeslot. Said show didn't last six months in the Chicago market but by then the original Svengoolie had moved on with his life.
In 1986 the fledgling Fox Network, which bought the local channel Son of Svengoolie originated from (notice a pattern?) decided to cancel the show because it didn't fit with their vision of how the nascent network should present itself. That and they wanted the timeslot for The Joan Rivers Show.
Shout-Out: Rich Koz did not hide the fact that he was a huge Doctor Who fan during the classic series' run, and sometimes worked Who-related jokes into his comedy sketches. His other fandoms make themselves known via the stock audio he chooses to interact with: if it's not something recorded during the Bishop era, it's likely ripped from the Three Stooges, the Marx Brothers, or Warner Bros. cartoons.
Special Effects Evolution: 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 lipsynchs almost fluidly.
In his earliest days, Tombstone had a cigar in his mouth. He lost the cigar after it was found to practically disappear in the chromakeying process.
Special Guest: Very frequent during the Bishop days. Koz managed to swing a few as well during his initial run, his second run dispensed of them almost entirely.
Talking to Himself: 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.
10-Minute Retirement: Doug Graves takes one of these in this musical bit from 1984. With no context, it can't be determined whether this was a one-off sketch or an episode-long plot, but considering that Doug's still around almost thirty years later it clearly didn't last long.
Throw It In: The origin of Svengoolie. Staff announcer Jerry G. Bishop was announcing the night's film and deciding as a gag to do it in a Transylvanian accent.
Un-Canceled: Came back in 1995 after being cancelled in 1986. Some people who were fans of his 1980s show still don't know that he's back, and that he's been back for 16 years.
What the Hell Is That Accent?: While Koz does a more typical Transylvanian one, Bishop's for a long time could only be described as "familiar" and was later described by him as a cross between Transylvanian and Yiddish.
Vocal Range Exceeded: Regularly used when musical director Doug Graves arranges songs for Sven to sing, just a bit higher than Sven can sing.