For more than 50 years, Univision’s ‘Sábado Gigante’ was truly a giant
By Carlos Harrison
DORAL, FLA. — An electric excitement surges through the crowd gathered in the Univision studios in this city just west of Miami. As Mario “Don Francisco” Kreutzberger steps out of the wings, the fans in the bleachers who’ve traveled here from Guatemala and Chile, California and Kansas City and beyond erupt in cheers and wild applause.
These lucky folks are experiencing history: They’re the last members of the general public to be the studio audience of “Sábado Gigante” (“Giant Saturday”), the hugely popular — and longest-running — variety show that has dominated Spanish-language television for more than half a century.
And like audiences before them for the past 53 years, they’re eating up the corny antics of Kreutzberger, the show’s creator and only host for its entire run. They laugh as he mugs in a variety of goofy hats during the signature talent competition, “El Chacal de la Trompeta” (“The Trumpet Jackal”) and howl at the sexual-innuendo-laden comedy sketches. When the first comedian’s mike gives off a static buzz, Kreutzberger hands him his own. “Since the show’s ending,” he deadpans to laughter, “they only give us half as many working microphones.”
Yes, sadly, the glitzy, zany hodgepodge that is “Sábado Gigante” — part game show, part talent show, part comedy show, part musical entertainment and, often enough, serious interview show with newsmakers and world leaders — ends Saturday, leaving mourning viewers in its wake.