“Life continues. And because of that, all I want to say in the end is: ‘Sábado Gigante,’ hasta siempre, buenas noches.” Those were Don Francisco’s parting words on Saturday September 19, 2015 after spending 53 years on the air as host of Univision’s Sabado Gigante. The show was titled, “Sabado Gigante Hasta Siempre.”
For some it’s hard to believe that the variety show Don Francisco (nee Mario Kreutzberger) created is over. The Chilean who fell hard for American TV while studying to be a tailor in New York invented a show in 1962 that became a staple in Latino households across the country for over five decades and throughout the world—at last count it was broadcast in 40 different countries. It had something for everyone from abuelitas to ninos. It melded musical and dance segments with sketch comedy, celeb interviews and audience games and giveaways.
Other folks are saying “adios al final!” They were tired of the frisky Don Francisco and the obvious objectification of women (usually scantily clad co-hostess and contests like “Miss Culito”), lack of racial diversity and crass comedy.
And yet its popularity, staying power and impact is undeniable. Two million people across the U.S. tuned into watch original shows every Saturday night while at its peak in rating it was closer to four million people. It was on air for 2,600 consecutive weeks on television without a single repeat in sight. During its live final episode The Guinness Book of World Records determined it was the longest running weekly variety show in TV history.