A Labor Day Weekend television tradition will spend part of its 49th annual telecast revving up for its 50th.
The Muscular Dystrophy Association’s key fundraising event underwent a major change last year, downsizing to two hours from what once was an almost 24-hour broadcast … and moving exclusively to ABC after many years on an ad-hoc network of stations across the country. ABC will remain the sole outlet as the MDA Show of Strength Telethon gets a two-hour showcase again Sunday (Aug. 31).
Along with the appeal for funds for research and MDA services, the celebrity performances will encompass glimpses of telethon history. The top four favorite moments, determined by public voting in July and early August, will be shown; longtime telethon host Jerry Lewis’ impromptu reunion with his former performing partner Dean Martin (engineered by mutual friend Frank Sinatra in 1976) seems very likely to be among them.
R.A. “Rac” Clark, son of the late television icon Dick Clark, reprises his job from last year as the telethon’s executive producer. “We’re always looking to be better,” he tells Zap2it, “and with the publicity and marketing campaign the MDA has put behind it, and with the awareness that’s out there, I think we’ll only go up. That’s our goal.”
Among musical talents on the 2014 event are Rascal Flatts, Jason Derulo, Aloe Blacc, LeAnn Rimes, Fall Out Boy, Sara Evans, American Authors and Bret Michaels.
Presenters of what Clark terms “very emotional stories” include Derulo’s significant other Jordin Sparks, Tom Bergeron, Alyssa Milano, Susan Lucci, Charles Esten (“Nashville”), longtime MDA Telethon participant Nancy O’Dell (“Entertainment Tonight”) and recent “Rising Star” cast members Josh Groban, Kesha, Ludacris and Brad Paisley.
Clark allows “artist availability” is a major factor, especially when the occasion falls on a holiday.
“What we try to do is pre-tape,” he explains. “We decided to go a little earlier with that this year, in late spring or early summer. I think that really worked, because we were between the Wango Tango festival in Los Angeles and the Billboard Music Awards. We kind of drafted off those two events.”