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The Longest Party is Over: 'Sábado Gigante' Is Calling It Quits
September 19, 2015  | By Linda Donovan

There is a rather significant event taking place in the television industry this weekend. I’m not talking about the Emmy Awards ceremony. No, on Saturday, September 19, the longest-running variety show in TV history, Sábado Gigante, will end its 53-year run on the Univision network. That’s quite an astounding record. I, for instance, had only about a six-year run with Univision.

I worked in broadcasting for over twenty years, the last six with Univision. I never worked on the programming side of the network, but I certainly knew what was on our air. And when it came to Sábado Gigante, I knew from my first day there of the legacy, significance, and iconic status represented by the “Giant Saturday” show.

Sábado Gigante began in Chile in 1962 with host Don Francisco (real name, Mario Kreutzberger) and was brought to the U.S. by Univision in 1986 – with Don Francisco at the helm for all 53 years. It’s been reported he has missed only one show – upon the death of his mother.

To the uninitiated, Sábado Gigante, may seem like chaos at times, but it’s really just a party atmosphere. The show, which ran for three hours (live and some taped pieces) every week, was truly a variety show: game show segments, comedy, running gags and musical guests such as Selena (left), Marc Anthony, Celia Cruz, and Ricky Martin. And all of that is just a tiny example of the explosion Don Francisco contained for 53 years.

A long-held dream of mine, a Neil Patrick Harris-hosted variety show (Best Time Ever), came to fruition last week. His show keeps a rather frenetic, manic pace, one that isn't too far removed from the liveliness of Sábado Gigante. The Ed Sullivan Show brought us music, comics, and Topo Gigio for 21 years. It may not equal Sábado Gigante's 53, but it's not too shabby.

There are a number of shows that have been around for awhile that, while not the excitment-filled festival of Don Francisco's, their longevity is worth noting. Face the Nation will reach 61 years on the air in November, 60 Minutes will be 47, the Today show has been entertaining us for 62 years, and Meet The Press will soon celebrate birthday number 68. Sábado Gigante has kept good company.

For many in the Univision audience, Sábado Gigante, was a tradition, a time when they gathered with their families to watch TV and sing along, play along, and laugh. It will feel like someone’s missing from their homes on Saturday nights now, but what fantastic memories they’ll have.

Felicidades y buena suerte, Don Francisco…

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