Don Francisco is getting a send-off worthy of a giant when Sábado Gigante (Giant Saturday) airs its final episode on Sept. 19. The longest-running variety show in history, created and hosted by 74-year-old Chilean TV icon Mario Kreutzberger (universally known as Don Francisco), comes to a close after an unparalleled 53-year cycle.
The network confirmed to Billboard and The Hollywood Reporter exclusively that the lineup of talent for the finale includes global superstar Shakira, Spanish heartthrob Enrique Iglesias, Colombian rocker Juanes, Mexican pop diva Paulina Rubio, Italian pop singer Laura Pausini, Latin urban king Daddy Yankee, salsa icon Marc Anthony, regional Mexican acts Espinoza Paz and Intocable, pop balladeer Luis Fonsi, bachata idol Prince Royce and the original crossover queen, Gloria Estefan. Their participation will be a mix of live performances and other surprises, the details of which will be revealed by Univision in the coming days.
Many of those artists have a unique attachment to Don Francisco, who gave them a platform long before they became household names. Upon hearing the news in April that the show was coming to a close, many prominent members of the music community shared heartfelt messages on social media dedicated to Kreutzberger, who will continue his relationship with Univision by hosting specials.
At the time, Yankee told Billboard, “Don Francisco was the first person who gave me a shot on national television. I’ll always be indebted to him. His contribution to — and influence in — the Latino community has no limit. He is an example and a true leader.”
Likewise, Royce told Billboard, “Don Francisco and Sábado Gigante have been hugely important in my career. It was the first show where I performed on television even before I was known. Mario opened the doors to Chile for me by inviting me to be a part of his beloved telethon and I’ve joined him for two years in that beautiful labor of love which he puts on from the heart for the kids and families of his country. He has a giant heart and that’s why he’s so big, our dear Don Francisco.”
Iglesias, who first visited the show in 1995 when he was still a relative newcomer (see video here), reacted to the news by saying, “Fifty-three years on TV is easy to say, but it’s an incredible record. Don Francisco will always be unique and irreplaceable. I am so grateful because I started my career on the show and I’m sure a lot of my colleagues will agree with me that he has been like a father figure to all of us. Thank you Don Mario.”
Promos for the special “Sábado Gigante: Hasta Siempre” (Giant Saturday: Until Forever) will start airing on Univision starting Sept. 12 leading up to the grand finale.
In the meantime, you can relive some of the show’s most memorable musical moments here, like this one from 1997, when Don Francisco surprised Marc Anthony by having his dad as a guest on the show and the two sang a beautiful ballad called “El Último Beso.”