MDA Telethon reduced to two-hour ABC special -- with no Jerry Lewis

In recent years, the Muscular Dystrophy Assn.'s annual telethon has undergone dramatic transformations from its early days as a live Labor Day weekend broadcast spanning almost two days with an endless parade of stars, pleas for charity and the anything-goes antics of host Jerry Lewis.

The hours were gradually reduced, and the most jarring change came in 2011 when the MDA abruptly ousted Lewis as host and national chairman without much explanation.


The event continued without him, airing on local and cable stations, but lost much of its entertainment value, which had been tied to Lewis' unpredictable persona.

This year, the MDA's telethon will face its latest change: Instead of lasting several hours over Labor Day weekend, it will become a two-hour special airing on ABC on Sept. 1.

The "MDA Show of Strength Telethon," like previous telethons, will raise funds and awareness to support the MDA's mission to help children and adults afflicted by progressive and often fatal muscle diseases.

And no, Lewis will not be a part of the new-format telethon.

The special will mark the first time since the 1966 launch of the telethon that the event will air on a single broadcast network. The MDA had previously partnered with an ad-hoc lineup of network affiliates in markets throughout the U.S. In recent years, the majority of those stations have been ABC affiliates.

The association said it is in the process of booking artists for the telethon (all performers donate their time). The telethon, as always, will also include real-life stories of survival and hope in profiles of afflicted children and adults.