If a press release from MDA is to be trusted, this year's Telethon won't feature many current hitmakers. Celine Dion and country singer Lorrie Morgan are probably the closest things to chart-toppers on the bill; the rest of the roster is dominated by stars whose luster faded long ago (Glen Campbell, Roy Clark, Englebert Humperdinck, Eddie Rabbitt, the Osmonds), or who never shined too brightly in the first place (yes, Charo is back). So why bother watching? Because you never know when Lewis will launch into a tirade so nakedly paranoid and self-serving as to strike you dumb. And you wouldn't want to miss the moment at the end of the program, after a new record for donations has been set, when Lewis belts out "You'll Never Walk Alone" (a song Levy describes as "staggeringly inappropriate") with tears streaming down his face.
Some observers will be either disgusted or amused by this carefully choreographed display, which blends phoniness and sincerity into a single gooey mess. But others out there in TV-land will be crying along. And that's what makes America great.
The Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon. 10 p.m. Sunday, September 1, KWGN-TV/Channel 2.