MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexico's longest-running TV show is set to end, marking the demise of a strange genre of Mexican TV comedy that featured adults — often very old — dressed up as children.
The Televisa network announced Thursday that "En Familia" would wrap up after a run of over 47 years on the air. The last show is scheduled to air Dec. 20.
Host Xavier Lopez has hosted the children's variety show since it started in January 1968.
Throughout the show's long run, he has always worn children's clothing — often short pants or kiddie overalls — and spoken in a squeaky childish voice, even though he is now 81.
Lopez is better known by his stage name, "Chabelo."
He confirmed the end of the program in a taped message, saying in his "kiddie" voice: "Everything in life has a cycle, a beginning and an end." Lopez said he might start another, unspecified project.
Mexican society came to question the sometimes grotesque figure of an octogenarian playing a child. Pundits dubbed him "Chabuelo," a play on his name and the word "abuelo," or grandfather.
The poet and novelist Homero Aridjis said that under Chabelo, "the mental education of Mexican children became stuck in the past," after decades of the program's treacly humor.
The announcement of the show's end comes almost a year after the death of Mexico's other big proponent of "adults-dressed-as-children" humor, Roberto Gomez Bolanos, who was widely known as "Chespirito."
Chabelo's program was not as famous in Latin America as Gomez Bolanos' "El Chavo del Ocho." In his 50s, Gomez Bolanos still performed — dressed as a child — as the innocent, good-hearted hero of the series, "El Chavo."
Other programs still broadcast in re-runs on Mexican TV feature classrooms full of adult actors dressed as unruly school children.
Aridjis said Mexico always has had a "love-hate" relationship with the genre, with some enjoying it and others finding it distasteful.
"Some adults in Mexico remain trapped in an infantile mentality, and perhaps they liked these shows more than the kids did," Aridjis said, adding, "I'm horrified that an adult could like it."