Big changes are afoot for MDA's traditional Labor Day weekend show
It's still on Labor Day weekend, still features top entertainment and inspiring stories, and still urges viewers to support MDA’s missions of help and hope. But beyond that, MDA’s annual telecast is a whole new ballgame. Here’s the scoop:
What: MDA SHOW of STRENGTH is a three-hour entertainment special featuring original performances by A-list entertainers, and special stories about individuals and MDA’s research and services missions.
Why the change? With literally hundreds of entertainment options at their fingertips, TV viewers are looking for compact shows that tell a story. In addition, the new preproduced format is more attractive to top talent, who often had difficulty arranging to perform live on Labor Day weekend.
When and where: Sunday, Sept. 2, 8 p.m. Eastern and Pacific times, 7 p.m. Central and Mountain; on some 150 “Love Network” stations around the U.S. The show also will be streamed on mda.org. Online extras include exclusive backstage videos.
Who will be profiled on the national show? See MDA Matters for a complete list of children and adults who will be the subjects of video vignettes.
Will there still be local cutaways from the national broadcast? You bet. Local broadcasts will showcase individuals, families and MDA sponsors closer to home. In addition, members of the MDA community will make up the audience when the entertainers pretape their performances, bringing a “family feel” to the show.
Has the message changed too? Never. MDA is still raising money to provide hope (research) and help (clinics, camp, information and support) to people with neuromuscular diseases. And it’s still true that the generosity of the American public is what makes this lifesaving mission possible.
How can you help? Show your strength! Post about it on your Facebook page, Tweet about it, and tell all your friends to tune in on Sept. 2 and make a donation to MDA.
Among those bringing a new look and feel to MDA SHOW of STRENGTH is R.A. (RAC) Clark, longtime executive producer of the Academy of Country Music (ACM) Awards.
Clark — son of the late, legendary television host Dick Clark — is a television veteran who has produced, or executive produced, shows for ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, CMT, FX and VH1, to name a few.
As executive producer, Clark will oversee all aspects of MDA SHOW of STRENGTH, working closely with a handpicked team of top professionals whose credits range from “American Idol” to “The X Factor.”
Clark recently spoke with Quest about the new MDA show.
Q: You have a long history with MDA’s Labor Day weekend show, don’t you?
A: I grew up in Youngstown, Ohio, watching the Telethon. It was my annual ritual before going back to school, to stay up all night and fall asleep on the couch. I remember going to friends’ backyard carnivals. I am of that era. Then, in the 1980s and 90s, I worked as a stage manager on the show.
Q: How do you feel about overseeing this big change in the format?
A: The rich tradition that comes with this iconic show is not lost on me. I respect and honor it. But the fact is, the viewing pattern of the American television audience has become more fragmented. At most, they’re with you moment to moment, with a clicker in their hands. And MDA needs to develop a younger support base. So we’re going from a telethon to an entertainment special, with messaging. But our goal is to retain some of the homespun, personal feeling of previous broadcasts.
Q: How is this new show going to be different?
A: We’re only three hours, so every second has to count. We want to provide great entertainment. We want to appeal to everyone who watches in a way that touches their hearts. And we want to make sure we’re showing people how their dollar makes a difference when they give to MDA.
Q: Why did you take on this project?
A: I have a soft spot for MDA — I love the families, the people in the organization, and I appreciate the passion. Anytime there’s passion behind a project, that can translate onto the television screen.