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Big Chuck and Lil' John

Big Chuck and Lil' John

CAB Legacy Honoree: Big Chuck and Lil' John

Chuck Schodowski started as a producer/engineer at WJW-TV (and before that at KYW) and became a close friend of Ernie Anderson. When Anderson's previous sidekick, eventual Hollywood actor Tim Conway, was fired for a fabrication on his résumé, Schodowski was hired as Conway's replacement. Schodowski worked closely with Anderson (as Ghoulardi) on Shock Theater, and was instrumental in bringing in the blend of blues and polka music that helped define the show, adding comic audio drop-ins to enliven the often awful movies, and immortalized The Rivingtons’ tune "Papa Oom Mow Mow” by marrying it to the image of an old man gurning.

When Anderson left Cleveland for California in 1966, his popular Ghoulardi character was retired, and a talent search ensued to find a replacement. Schodowski agreed to help Bob Wells (WJW's "Hoolihan the Weatherman") with his audition, and the management decided they liked the way the two performed together. They became co-hosts of The Hoolihan and Big Chuck Show, which launched on December 23, 1966. In addition to screening horror films, the duo soon started filming comedy skits interspersed within the host segments.

After Wells left the show in 1979, John Rinaldi, a jeweler by trade who had already been featured on many of the program's skits, took over as co-host. The show itself was relaunched as The Big Chuck and Lil' John Show, and while effectively a separate and distinct show, the familiar Catch As Catch Can theme was retained, among other show elements. Moreover, taped skits from the preceding show often would be rerun on The Big Chuck and Lil' John Show through various "oldies nights".

For many years, the show aired at 11:30 p.m. on Friday nights before moving to 11:30 p.m. on Saturday nights starting on October 1, 1988 (to accommodate The Arsenio Hall Show, which WJW was airing following their weeknight 11 p.m. newscasts), then back to Fridays following WJW's affiliation switch to Fox in 1994.

After Fox acquired WJW in 1996, the movies selected for The Big Chuck and Lil' John Show were no longer done by either host, and began to deviate from the original horror/science fiction genre into more conventional movie fare. 

Along with the Saturday night shows, Schodowski and Rinaldi hosted a companion Couch Potato Theater program airing from 10 a.m. - noon on Saturday mornings, which featured at various times Three Stooges shorts, episodes of The Abbott and Costello movies, cartoons, or (due to schedule conflicts) an hour long skits only show.

On December 2006, Schodowski announced he would retire in June 2007. As part of his farewell, WJW broadcast the hour-long retrospective Big Chuck and Lil' John: The End of an Era. This also marked the end of The Big Chuck and Lil' John Show, with the last regular episode airing the afternoon of June 16, 2007 and again in the early morning of June 17.

During the summer of 2011, it was announced that Big Chuck and Lil' John would return to TV on WJW every Saturday morning at 11 a.m. (this time, in a 30-minute all skits show similar to the Couch Potato Theater format). This version of the show began on September 10, 2011. In 2015, the show was moved to Sunday nights at 11:30 pm

 

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