The annual Labor Day Jerry Lewis telethon to raise money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association is undergoing a major change for 2011, reports the AP.
Instead of the 20-plus-hour grind that has characterized the event throughout its history, the 2011 MDA Labor Day Telethon will be downsized to a six-hour prime-time program.
Jim Brown, a spokesperson for MDA, said that by giving the telethon a more focused broadcast window, the group is hoping to get bigger and better stars to appear.
The 2011 event is scheduled for Sunday, Sept. 4, and will reportedly air from 6 p.m. to midnight in each time zone, with stations in the Eastern time zone carrying it live.
The MDA collected $58.9 million to fund research through the 2010 telethon, the second year in a row that donations were down from the previous year.
According to the a New York Times account of this story, Tom Shales, the Pulitzer Prize-winning TV critic of The Washington Post [and former TVWeek columnist] wrote a critical review of the telethon last month that gained a substantial amount of attention. "The telethon has aged, of course, just as Lewis has; he looked eerily dissipated," Mr. Shales wrote. "Ed McMahon, who played stooge for years, is gone now, and Lewis misses the foil. Assistant Jann Carl is charming but can’t really trade rakish insults with the comic. Big stars like Joan Crawford (seen in a clip on the MDA Web site) don’t come on anymore, but then, there aren’t big stars like Joan Crawford anymore, are there?"
Not mentioned in either article is the fact that Lewis himself is now 84 years old, and a shorter show would certainly allow him to perform at his best without as much concern about his endurance.