MeTV expands ‘Svengoolie’ franchise with fishy friend ‘Sventoonie’

"Sventoonie" and Rich "Svengoolie" Koz (Photo: MeTV)

“Svengoolie,” the monstrously popular horror movie series starring Chicago treasure Rich Koz, is about to get some company in the form of a talking fish puppet dressed like him.

Premiering this weekend on MeTV is “Sventoonie,” a new half-hour companion show airing at 9 p.m. Saturdays — following the usual two-hour “Svengoolie.”

Billed as a limited-run series, “Sventoonie” will be hosted by Toony the Tuna, known to MeTV viewers from the morning cartoon show “Toon In With Me,” hosted by Bill Leff. Toony is voiced by the supremely talented Kevin Fleming.

Kevin Fleming

On “Sventoonie,” the wise-cracking fish transforms himself into a piscine version of the famous host.

"In the debut episode, our talking fish puppet learns how to be a horror host with his very own show," according to MeTV's description. "The fanatical fish then swims through classic horror films with quippy insights, trivia, 'Oopser Bloopsers' movie mistakes and more."

So what would Sven tell viewers about his would-be doppelgänger? “I think it’s important for them to know that he’s the first host who actually has come out of the water — other than Jacques Cousteau and SpongeBob SquarePants,” Koz replied. Any advice to the fish? “I think I told him to make sure the audience is reacting in horror to his movies and not to his jokes.”

For Chicago-based Weigel Broadcasting, parent company of the top-rated classic television network, the spinoff marks the first expansion of the “Svengoolie” franchise since it began on local TV more than 50 years ago.

Earlier this year MeTV signed a major licensing deal with San Francisco-based Firefly Brand Entertainment to step up merchandising of the “Svengoolie” and “Toon In With Me” characters. Look for a Svengoolie action figure or a Toony the Tuna plush toy before long.

The original “Svengoolie,” launched in 1970 at WFLD-Channel 32 by the late Jerry G. Bishop, has been hosted since 1979 by his onetime protege Koz, a Park Ridge native who deftly turned a corny caricature into a beloved national icon and aficionado of B-movies.

Since it went national on MeTV in 2011, the show has been drawing millions each week — generally ranked at or near the top of the ratings for all cable networks.

For now Saturdays will feature “Svengoolie” at 7 p.m., followed by “Sventoonie” at 9 p.m., the 1960s’ “Batman” at 9:30 p.m., and “Star Trek” at 10 p.m.

Thursday’s comment of the day: Kar Uchima: If Studs Terkel was alive he would be joining the WTTW picket line. I remember when we picketed the Chicago Tribune and a cop on horseback almost ran me down. Studs would not cross the Tribune picket line.