After 53 years, Don Francisco will finally put down the mic. Univision says it will stop making the legendarily unpredictable variety show Sábado Gigante in September, ending a run that began in 1962 when Chile’s Mario Kreutzberger started entertaining viewers as Don Francisco.
Sábado Gigante has been a ratings and cultural phenomenon, captivating viewers with a three-hour blend that included comedy, amateur talent shows, interviews, games, and music performances.
Viewed in more than 40 countries, its pace has often been called frenetic. The show’s absurd props, peppy music and scantily-dressed women have been spoofed countless times by other TV shows and comedians. Along the way, Sábado Gigante set a Guinness World Record as the world’s longest-running variety show.
In the thousands of consecutive weeks the show has been on air, Kreutzberger, 74, has famously missed only one broadcast — due to his mother dying.
The Emmy-winning Kreutzberger was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame in 2011. At the time, he told the organization that an encounter with a TV was enough for him to know what he would do in life.
“I thought my dad was wrong,” he told the Television Academy. “[Being a tailor] was not the future. This thing was the future…and I wanted to be a part of it.”
His parents had emigrated to Chile from Germany in the lead-up to World War II. Mario Kreutzberger Blumenfeld was born in 1940 in Chile.
Univision says Kreutzberger will remain involved with the network, primarily to host TV specials and its TeletonUSA charity drive.
“I’m excited to share with the audience this announcement, with which we’re starting to bring to a close the 53-year cycle of ‘Sábado Gigante,’ 30 of which were possible thanks to Univision in the United States,” Kreutzberger said in a statement from Univision.
More from the show’s creator:
“I have no words to thank our viewers for the support, loyalty and enthusiasm with which they have honored us through the years and which have allowed the show to become an unprecedented success in the history of this medium.”
….”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. I have no words to acknowledge all the recognition and applause that we have received over the years. When we began in the United States in 1986, we told them that we were ‘separated by distance and united by the same language.’ Today I can say with great pride and satisfaction that that distance turned into closeness and affection.”