A moment of silence, un minuto de silencio, for "Sábado Gigante," the Spanish-language variety show that, it has just been announced, will end its 53-year run this September.
Let me take that back. It would be more appropriate to the raucous spirit of the show, with its unique, durably antique mix of games, sketches, audience participation, celebrity interviews and scantily clad young women, to strike up the band, to cue applause, klaxons, gongs, crazy laughter, screams, cheers, balloons and confetti. And it is leaving not on its hands and knees, but while still champ -- not kicked from the air after a long diminishing slide, but as a still-conquering force in its Saturday-night three-hour time slot.
The longest-running variety show on television, it has been run and hosted from the beginning by Mario Kreutzberger, called Don Francisco, the Chilean son of German Jewish immigrants who fled the Nazis -- a historical and cultural inheritance that might be seen to inform the show's big embrace of life. Based originally in Chile and since 1986 in Miami, but seen in more than 40 nations throughout the Americas, it bests by 23 years -- the length of the entire run of "The Ed Sullivan Show" -- Johnny Carson's three-decade stewardship of
To repeat: It has been on as long as "The Ed Sullivan Show" and "The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson" put together. And when each of those series left the air, you would have thought, from the millennial hosannas and gnashing of teeth, that a chunk of the Earth itself had been broken off and kicked into space. Certainly, for millions upon millions upon millions of viewers, Saturdays will never be the same.
Added to this already extraordinary tenure is the fact that the show has never aired a rerun or, except in extraordinary circumstances, missed a week. Never before, and undoubtedly never again will one man have been responsible for so much television.
And yet "Sábado Gigante" has been something more than a television show -- it is a world of its own, a bubble, a place with its own customs and style and rites and rituals. It is old-fashioned -- the past reappearing in the present like a weekly Brigadoon -- and at the same time cross-generational, a wormhole joining 1962 to 2015.