Which is the longest running television variety show in the world?
It's Sábado Gigante, of course!
For non Spanish speakers, the direct translation is "Gigantic Saturday", and it's a Spanish-language variety show which currently airs on Univision but which started in Chile in 1962, where it was originally titled "Show Dominical" ("The Sunday Show"). And get this, the show's producers claim they've never aired a re-run.
Sábado Gigante was created by the only man who has ever hosted it, Mario Kreutzberger, the son of German-Jewish parents who fled to Chile to avoid Nazi persecution. Kreutzberger is better known around the globe by his stage name "Don Francisco."
Kreutzberger, was just 20 years old when he came to New York to study design at the behest of his father, who wanted him to be a famous men’s clothing designer. There he discovered a new passion -- television, reported The Los Angeles Times.
"I came to the Stanford Hotel at 32nd and Broadway -- without the language. I came into the room, and I saw a radio set with glass in the middle, and you pushed the middle and it was a radio with images," Kreutzberger told The Times in 2001. "Then I realized the future was the television, and somebody else would have to be a men's clothing designer."
Kreutzberger's dream was a weekly spectacle featuring contests, dancing, and entertainment, as well as human interest stories.
Last fall, Don Francisco was elected into the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences' Hall of Fame, according to Deadline. The 70-year-old TV star will be honored at the 21st annual induction ceremony on March 1, 2012.
Sábado Gigante has been broadcast every Saturday evening since Aug. 8, 1962, according to Guinness World Records. The program is currently one of only three remaining first-run primetime programs airing on Saturday nights on any of the American commercial broadcast television networks, along with CBS's 48 Hours Mystery and Fox's COPS.
In 2010, Don Francisco even interviewed Barack Obama with questions on immigration, Arizona's controversial anti-immigration law SB 1070, and healthcare reform.
Another recent and notable interview was with Mexico's first same-sex couple, David Gonzáles and Jaime López, who married in Mexico City in 2011.
Along with fame and success, there is often also parody, and Stephen Colbert is not one to let good opportunity slip by. From time to time, he plants tongue firmly in cheek and becomes "Esteban Colberto", a Latino version of his own TV caricature, now wearing a white suit and a fake mustache, while hosting "Colberto Reporto Gigante." The recurring sketch features "chicas" who prance around the host as he discusses serious issues such as immigration reform.
Some critics have blasted Don Francisco's show for its provocatively dressed dancers and presenters. One of his most famous segments is "Miss Colita," translated roughly as "Miss Cute Tail" a send-up of beauty pageants where women compete in swimsuits for the title of "Miss Colita." With contests like this, it's easy to understand why Sábado Gigante is not taken seriously in some quarters.
You can watch for yourself and draw your own conclusions. Sometimes it's hard to tell where the show ends and the parody begins, but after 50 years, Sábado Gigante must be doing something very right. After all, they've been on longer than Colombo, The Price Is Right, Law & Order, and Gunsmoke.
The show currently airs Saturday nights at 8 p.m. ET on Univision.
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