Saturday, June 22, 2024

Pathetic MDA Telethon: No Tote Board, No Jerry, And Lots of D Listers


The MDA telethon: if you fast forward the six hour show to its last few minutes, there’s a very brief and pathetic montage of Jerry Lewis clips. There’s no voice because the producers decided to set it to an instrumental version of Charlie Chaplin’s “Smile.” Sad. It makes it seem, like the aborted tribute at the front of the show, like Lewis died. What was worse: just as the end credits roll, the show’s announcer tries to say “We missed you, Jerry” and is cut off by the director. The six hour telethon, cut down from overnight and 21 and a half hours, was a bland parade of D listers and taped segments. All the personality that Jerry Lewis gave MDA over 45 years was just chucked out the window.

The show was so badly produced that the end credits started to run 46 minutes before the show was supposed to end. The hosts looked like they’d been embalmed. The women were bad enough, but what the heck was “American Idol” producer Nigel Lythgoe doing? He did manage to get taped messages from Randy Jackson, Ryan Seacrest and Steven Tyler. But no Jennifer Lopez. Maybe she’s a Jerry Lewis fan. And for the first time, no tote board. Did they make money? Who knows? The drama, the pathos, the investment in any of this — all gone.

Instead we got a frightening rock band of soap actors, Maureen McGovern, and audience that looked like they’d been worked on by taxidermists. One bright spot: Richie Sambora was great singing “Livin’ on a Prayer.” He looked good, too.

The Labor Day telethon was always cheesy but in the end, it had heart. This was a soulless exercise. And from the looks of the mail we got, MDA has set itself back tremendously. However Lewis feels about how he was treated tonight, I’m sure he is torn: he loved those kids.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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