One year ago, we handed out Weasel ears to the people in charge of the Muscular Dystrophy Association for the clumsy, disrespectful manner in which they bade farewell to longtime telethon host-founder Jerry Lewis. This year, MDA will soldier on, but they have once again reduced the amount of time allotted for their annual special, now known, as of last year, as the MDA Show of Strength.
This year's edition won't be in syndication. Rather, for the first time, the program will be aired on a national network---ABC. MDA must've made some sort of sweetheart deal with Disney for this to happen, after being able to function independently for decades. Show of Strength will air from 9-11 pm (ET) on September 1, but to me it will once again be a joyless affair, looking more and more corporate with each passing year. It just isn't the same.
On the homefront, CBS affiliate WRGB, which has broadcast the telethon since its inception in the late 60's, will carry on with a locally produced special, Capital Region Cares, airing on August 29. The promos aired relentlessly, twice per commercial break, during Sunday's Mets-Tigers broadcast on sister station WCWN, the CW affiliate, and during all of WRGB's programming as well. This should've been a sign to me that there was something amiss. Why do this on a weeknight before Labor Day weekend? As I found out earlier today, it's because the station is no longer part of the "Love Network", as Lewis so fondly referred to the stations that carried the telethon for years.
MDA is slowly distancing itself from the common folks, the people who've given so much from day one, preferring instead to build their telethon around the corporate entities that have been a part of the equation, if you will, from that same day one. MDA broke the traditional business model two years ago by cutting the telethon to a measly six hours, three last year, and now, two. The ratings will tell ABC & MDA if this was a gamble worth taking. I seriously doubt it.