Sábado Gigante: A non-Latin perspective
Recently I had the opportunity to sit down for a few hours with a few other noders and watch Telemundo. Being that it was about 1:00AM on a Saturday, the programming was of course Sábado Gigante Classíco, which I guess is a rerun block of "best of" episodes of Sábado Gigante.
We were able to watch for about two hours before we decided to turn it off, as we longed to regain our collective sanity, and further exposure to Sábado Gigante would just keep depriving us of it. Allow me to explain.
Sábado Gigante (hereafter refered to as SG) is kind of an amalgam of all the worst of American television, amplified by a magnitude of 65536², lumped into four-to-six hour blocks and thrown at you all at once. The most specific I can get is this: combine The Price is Right, Barney, Benny Hill, The Sonny & Cher Show, and Donnie & Marie ("Who could that be at the door on Christmas Eve? Why, it's a person wearing a penguin suit and a group of Mexican cheerleaders!"). It is by far the most annoying, mind-scrambling television show I've ever seen, and I say this with absolute certainty after growing up watching TV in the late 1970s and the whole of the 1980s.
SG consists of several main themes that are simply recycled throughout the length and breadth of the show, listed below for your consideration:
- People in oversized plush costumes, a la Barney
- Annoying, seemingly generic musical numbers, from salsa, to folk, to nu-metal, to Jimmy Buffett-like musical comedy and everywhere in between
- Don Francisco (the host; kind of a cross between Ed Sullivan and Captain Lou Albano, only Latino)
- Benny Hill-style sketch comedy
- Game show-like contests with cash prizes and excited, often elderly contestants
- An overly enthusiastic audience, every member of which (it seems) Don Francisco talks to at one point or another during the show
- Etc., etc.
All of the above is, of course, spoken in rapid-fire Spanish.
There are a couple of hostesses, though they seem to stick largely to the interview and game show segments. All two or three of them are exceptionally hot Latinas in their early-to-mid-20s. (By contrast, Don Francisco has got to be pushing 60.)
Here's a loosely-translated example of one of the game show segments:
Hostess: Hello, Raul! We've heard you can speak like Donald Duck!
Raul: (unintelligible Spanish quacking noises)
H: (enthusiastic laughter, audience erupts into uncontrollable giggles as well) Ahahaha! That was excellent! What else do you have to say, Raul?
R: (more unintelligible Spanish quacking noises)
H: (more laughter) Ahaha, OK, here's $500!
Raul returns to his seat. Cue Don Francisco introducing a nu-metal band.
The nu-metal band goes on to perform a standard-sounding nu-metal number, with the main lyrics in Spanish and the chorus in English. The chorus seems to consist, strangely, of the verse ...and Jews want to destroy my life!... repeated ad infinitum. We tried to work out what he was saying and that was the closest approximation we could come up with, despite it being sung in English. When the song finally ends, Don Francisco interviews the lead singer, a tall, sunglasses-wearing Latino chap who wouldn't look out of place as a member of the Crips.
Cut to a Benny Hill-style sketch. A man that resembles "Weird Al" Yankovic feigns blindness and dons a pair of large sunglasses. He goes for a walk in the park. He takes a seat on a park bench and furtively watches as short-skirted Latinas repeatedly bend over in front of him. This is all done in the sped-up Benny Hill fashion, which I guess is supposed to make it look funnier than it actually is. After the guy watches a few women, the women inexplicably start kung fu fighting with a gang of suddenly-appearing ninjas. Yes, ninjas. The Latinas kick the ninjas' asses. Then the show cuts to the women and the not-blind guy doing a musical number on stage in the SG studios; the not-blind guy repeatedly hops up and down while singing and generally acting like a total flake. The women continue their bending over/kung fu routine and sing backup to the not-blind guy. The women are all dressed in cheerleader-like spandex outfits of varying color and style. All the while, the Spanish lyrics are scrolling along the bottom of the screen, complete with bouncing ball.
Next up, one of the saucy hostesses is interviewing some star of a Telemundo soap opera. This goes on for 10 minutes or so, to the wild cheering of the vast audience. After it's over, the cycle repeats itself, with the odd creepy-looking puppet-interviewing-street-people skit thrown in for flavoring.
Finally, at the end, all the stars of the sketches and musical numbers come out onto the main stage, as well as the game show winners, and, for some reason, a person dressed in a plush pig suit. Don't ask me, I have no idea why.
I was scarred by my SG-watching experience for a number of weeks afterwards. One conclusion I came to (which I have since rejected) was that it must broadcast subliminal messages to people of Latin lineage that makes them want to watch it above all else that's on TV, because I find it extremely difficult to believe that anyone, even Latin people, could glean any entertainment value out of watching it, despite that fact that every Latin person I've ever known has done no less than sing its praises when asked about it. It is so godawfully annoying, so mind-numbingly simple, and so stereotypically Latin that the possibility of anyone actually enjoying it is so remote that it may as well become a paradox in its own right.
The only conclusion I can logically come to is that SG can be enjoyed only by the following types of people:
Somehow, I just can't imagine an average Latino family living in, say, Miami, watching it and proclaiming "¡Sí, Sábado Gigante es excelentissimo!"
SG left me wanting a fifth of Jim Beam and a prescription for Prozac. If nothing else, it has given me cause to use the parental filtering that my TV came with, so I can block Telemundo from my channel-surfing activities.