Univisions’s Sábado Gigante, the longest-running variety series in television history, will end its spectacular 53-year run September 19, the network said today. Host and creator Don Francisco — real name Mario Kreutzberger — will continue to have a relationship with Univision. In addition to hosting the annual TeletónUSA charity event for disabled children, Kreutzberger also will appear in TV specials and contribute to the network’s efforts to identify and cultivate new on-air talent.
Created in 1962 for Chile’s Canal 13 as Show Dominical (Sunday Show), the series was inspired by television programs from Argentina and the U.S. that Kreutzberger enjoyed. In its second year, the series was moved to Saturday nights and the named changed to Sábados Gigantes (Gigantic Saturdays) to reflect the move. It quickly proved popular throughout the region, reaching an 80 share in Latin American television during the 1970s. This afforded Kreutzberger enormous leeway in production, and some episodes from this era lasted as long as eight hours.
In 1986, Kreutzberger moved the program to the Univision network and relocated the production to Miami. With the move came several changes; the name was changed to Sábado Gigante, a series of co-hosts added and, for several years, two identical versions were recorded — one for Kreutzberger’s native Chile and one for international audiences.
Throughout its various incarnations, Sábado Gigante has had an unrivaled production schedule. A new episode has aired every week the show has been in production, it has never aired reruns in lieu of new episodes, and only rarely has it been pre-empted for other programming, usually for special events such as TeletónUSA that are hosted by Kreutzberger.
“I’m so grateful for the opportunity that Channel 13 of the Universidad Católica de Chile gave me as I was starting out, to Univision in the United States and also to the Televisa Network, which allowed us to bring our Sábado Gigante into the homes of millions of families in the United States and the world every week,” Kreutzberger said in a statement. “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. 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.”