The show's first episode was on August 5, 1973 in black & white. It began as a variety show featuring music, dance numbers, teletheater, humor, mixed with a small amount of news. The following year, it began transmission in color. In September 1988, the program was shown live and has continued since. In 1993 the format was changed to a television newsmagazine.
The format of Fantástico is an open ended newscast. The hosts introduce the stories that are then reported by the same host. Some segments will include other reporters, typically when going live to a location.
The stories are introduced from a set where the hosts both stand up, backgrounds all relating to a theme named at the end of the program. The backgrounds change according to the story being presented as well, sometimes interacting with the hosts in a non-verbal way. The show undertakes its own investigations and follows up on investigations instigated by national newspapers, typically from O Globo, and other sources.
Topics for the show vary, some of the themes reported on are political scandals, environment, crime, health, science & technology, sports, religion and international news. Occasionally stories will be grouped into special sequences that span various weeks. These stories follow the same theme, usually going around the country to find examples and show how they work. Some of the past themes treated in this manner are, False Psychic, Indigenous Religions, Indigenous Baptism, the Crime Wave in São Paulo, a Voyage Around the World and African Tribal Customs. Sometimes the brazilian actors Otávio Muller and Heloisa Perissé presents "Lolô e Tavinho", and Ingrid Guimarães presents "Leandra Borges", a super Top Model.
The show has no fixed set of hosts as they travel around the world to report on various stories for the program. Some of the hosts now include: