Spanish-language TV staple ‘Sábado Gigante’ to end run after 53 years on air
By Yvonne Villarreal
The days of oddball sketches, leggy models and impressing El Chacal are about to bid adios: Long-running Spanish-language TV staple “Sábado Gigante” will end its run after 53 years on the air.
Univision is turning out the lights on its top-rated variety show.
The campy show, which has aired for 3,000 Saturday nights without interruption, features Chilean ringleader Mario Kreutzberger, better known as Don Francisco. He is known for going from wearing silly hats during madcap contests to earnestly interviewing First Lady Michelle Obama. While the show is scheduled to run its final episode Sept. 19, Kreutzberger isn’t quite ready to hang it up.
The 74-year-old showman will host entertainment specials on Univision and help develop future projects for the network, as well as continue to host “TeletonUSA,” a telethon that is held every year to raise money for disabled children.
“Sábado Gigante,” which means “Giant Saturday,” is Univision’s longest-running program. With more than five decades under its belt, it is the longest-running variety show in TV history — and elicits the feel of a bygone era.
The show airs in more than 40 countries and boasts tens of millions of weekly viewers, including about 2 million in the United States, most of them in Miami, New York and Los Angeles. That’s a feat, in part, because the show is broadcast on a traditionally difficult night in American television.
The show has helped Univision to rank No. 6 in the advertiser-coveted demographic of adults 18 to 49 on Saturday nights, regardless of language.
For many Latinos — Spanish-speaking or not — Don Francisco and “Sábado Gigante” have been a form of entertainment comfort food. And how could they not be? Most Latinos can’t remember a time when the show hasn’t been on the air.
Alberto Ciurana, president of programming and content for Univision, lauded the way in which the program has established itself as a veritable family member.
“For so many in the Spanish-speaking community, Don Francisco’s weekly three-hour show defines Saturday evening entertainment, and I want to thank him and the incredible team for their outstanding work,” Ciurana said in a statement released Friday.
Non-Latino Americans are just as aware of the show’s “institution” status — it has been spoofed by Stephen Colbert regularly parodied it on “The Colbert Report.”
“Sábado Gigante” had its origins in 1962, when Kreutzberger launched a loud and flamboyant program on Sundays called “Show Dominical” in his native Chile. It soon gained traction and moved to Saturday nights with a name change. It eventually landed at Univision in 1986.
In a statement, Kreutzberger thanked the network and the show’s dedicated fans.
“From the start we made sure to ask, ‘What does the audience want?!’ And we have worked tirelessly for precisely that audience, with the utmost dedication, humility and deep respect,” he said.
He continued: “To all those who joined us by tuning in to ‘Sábado Gigante’ with their constructive criticism, work and loyalty, I would like to say from the bottom of my heart and in capital letters, THANK YOU VERY MUCH.”
Source: Los Angeles Times