By Terrence McCoy
By Allie Conti
By Chuck Strouse
By Scott Fishman
By Terrence McCoy
By Ryan Yousefi
By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
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As Sábado Gigante heads past its 50th year, the show's fate depends on two things: ratings and Kreutzberger's health.
In the ratings, the toughest figure is the 18-to-34 demographic, which sits at just 22 percent of the show's audience, down from a 20-year high of 31 percent in 2005. "My obligation now is to reinvent myself, do something new and different," Kreutzberger says. "I'm twice your age. How can I speak with you?"
There's little detail about strategy. The show's executive producer, Antonio Arias, speaks vaguely of the need to have "a production team constantly taking the pulse of the viewing audience." He also mentions closed captioning for non-Spanish speakers.
A recent University of Florida study, however, bodes ill for the show. The study notes that bilingual Hispanics under 35 are drawn more to English-language programming than Spanish content. Even worse, those younger viewers have little interest in variety shows from their grandparents' generation.
"Young, bilingual Hispanic audiences are more into sitcoms and reality shows, and that's a problem for Univision," says FIU's Alvarado.
The biggest question on everyone's mind, however, concerns Kreutzberger himself. He is a diabetic with two bad knees. "I'm not going to retire," he says. "They are going to retire me."
Even if that happens, he thinks the show would go on without him. "This format has been useful and modern for 50 years," he says. "Why can't it go on for 60 years? The Tonight Show has had six different hosts, but it's still on the air today."
Before the show reaches 60, however, it has to celebrate 50.
But the night is stormy and slow. When the taping begins at 8 p.m., select audience members fill three metal bleachers outside the studios. After repeated takes of less-than-newsy interviews — the most common question was a tie between "What are you wearing?" and "How much fun is it to be here?" — a torrential downpour begins. Audience members and celebrities alike crowd under a small overhang. After a short interlude, a second shower sends many people home. Maybe two or three dozen audience members out of an initial 100 stick it out. When Kreutzberger's limo finally arrives, the hardy remaining few cheer like mad.
Then, just as Kreutzberger steps into the studio, the sky opens for a third and final time that night. Everyone rushes home. But Don Francisco makes his way to the set.