It’s after 3:00 AM here in the East, but it’s late everywhere across America. I just turned on the Jerry Lewis Muscular Dystrophy Telethon. Jerry’s nowhere to be found.
Please don’t get me wrong. MDA is a great charity. Helaine makes sure we give every year. But right now, this looks like “Parents Night” at my folks’ condo!
Currently hosting: Norm Crosby. Norm will be 80 in a few weeks.
Ed McMahon is there too. Ed is 84.
They both look great for their ages, but if I see either lick their lips one more time, I’ll scream. They both just act and sound old.
There’s music, but I don’t see any musicians nor Lou Brown, the perennial band leader. Maybe he’ll be on later. He’s 86.
Unfortunately, from a production standpoint, the telethon has a very dated look. It’s as if they haven’t caught on to the fact they’re competing in a 100+ channel environment, reaching viewers with remote controls at the ready. Having this geriatric crew as the face of the telethon only goes to reinforce that feeling.
B.B. King just appeared on a promo. He seemed sharper and younger than Ed and Norm, but even B.B. will 82 in a few weeks.
Year-by-year it’s harder for MDA to do what they do. Stations are reticent to pay to staff, then give away nearly a full day of airtime (and I suspect MDA might be paying to get on in some markets).
Here in Connecticut, the telethon moved from its long time home at WFSB to WTIC. A decade ago, that switch would have been unthinkable. It was a high profile event on Channel 3 with their front line anchors hosting. I suppose telethons aren’t as special any more.
At some point MDA will have to make a decision to go younger. As long as the hosts are getting older, so will their audience. Over time, that becomes unsustainable on both ends.