Sábado Gigante, the longest-running variety show in television history, is shuttering production. Hosted by the 74-year-old Don Francisco, the Chilean son of Holocaust survivors, the Spanish-language program’s 53-year run will come to an end on Sept. 19, Univision has confirmed. (Francisco will continue to develop content for the network.)
“Alberto Ciurana, president of programming and content for Univision, lauded the way in which the program has established itself as a veritable family member,” reported the Los Angeles Times:
“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.
In 2012, on the 50th anniversary of Sábado Gigante, Tablet profiled the show’s star, Don Francisco, whose real name is Mario Kreutzberger Blumenfeld:
On the air, Don Francisco is known to his audience as a kind of jovial “gordito,” a bit of a fat macho, always laughing, always poking fun at himself and at others.
Part reality TV show, part Saturday cartoon, part Barbara Walters, Sábado Gigante is packaged to provide viewers with escape and comfort from labor and reconnection with countries left behind. It is designed to smoothly assuage the intangible yet recognizable feeling of being in the precarious position of belonging to an embattled minority in the United States. Kreutzberger excelled at this task in part because he had seen his parents struggle with the same feelings in Chile.
Related: The Giant of Sábado Gigante
Jonathan Zalman is a writer and teacher based in Brooklyn.