Labor Day weekend 2011 bought all the familiar events: Family bbqs, relaxing days at the beach, and the annual MDA Telethon. Except this time, the telethon wasn't hosted by Jerry Lewis. For the first time in nearly half a century, the popular telethon did not include the legendary comedian. Would this year's event prove as successful without its long standing host? The answer is a resounding "yes."
The telethon raised $61,491,393, up from the $58,919,838 it bought in the previous year, about $4 million short of the record $65 million raised in 2008. That was when it was still a 21 1/2 hour event: This year's telethon was trimmed to six hours. Although Lewis was not at the show in person, he was very much there in spirit. The show opened with a tribute to him, and he was mentioned at various times throughout the broadcast. Still, the script made it clear that there was no going back.
With Lewis out of the picture, MDA turned to multiple hosts: Nigel Lythgoe of "American Idol" fame, Nancy O'Dell of "Entertainment Tonight," Alison Sweeney of "The Biggest Loser," Jann Carl, an Emmy-winning journalist, and Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter Ace Young (who replaced the long-time NY area host, Tony Orlando).
It is still not clear what changed between May, when it was announced Lewis would make one last appearance as host, and August, when it was announced he would not be returning as host or chairman. If any news breaks on that subject, we will be sure to bring it to you.