Those bemoaning the loss of Jerry Lewis’ Labor Day telethon may want to brew an urn of coffee and tune in for a Minneapolis takeoff featuring a lineup of colorful local characters.
“Movin’ On Up,” a telethon that kicks off its 24-hour run at 2 p.m. Friday, is primarily being held to raise at least $12,000 for the Minneapolis Television Network (MTN), which provides community entertainment and news for Comcast viewers on channels 16, 17 and 75.
But it’s also a chance to celebrate Minneapolis talents who have caught channel surfers’ eyes over the years.
Musician Mark Mallman, known for his own concert marathons, will pen a song for anyone who donates more than $100. Fancy Ray McCloney will stop by to remind viewers that he’s still the best lookin’ man in comedy. Former KMSP anchor Robyne Robinson will co-host for a few hours. There will even be a volunteer who will try to sleep in the studio with a phone by his head, only to be awakened whenever someone tries to call in a donation.
“And I’ll be wearing a real cheap tux,” said Ian Rans, host of MTN’s long-running comedy series “Drinking With Ian.” “This is going to be the low-rent Minneapolis version of Hollywood.”
Aside from the goofy fun, “Movin’ On Up” has a mission to help a nonprofit organization that’s barely breaking even.
Because of rising rent, the network is moving from St. Anthony Main, its home for more than 20 years, to more affordable digs in northeast Minneapolis. The switch to a new studio is being supported by a city grant and a loan from the city’s Department of Community Planning and Economic Development.
But that’s not going to be enough. Viewer support is essential, especially since the city forced a 35 percent budget cut in 2010-11.
“The Internet is run by a lot of big corporations, but public access TV is not,” said MTN executive director Michael Fallon. “We can’t be controlled. This is all grass-roots, and we want to exist as long as there are people who seek us out and want to express themselves to the community.”
Fallon said one of his future projects is figuring out who is watching MTN. He does know that the channels are available in 70,000 households, but MTN doesn’t have the money to research viewer demographics.
A 2013 report commissioned by the St. Paul Neighborhood Network suggests that the public access model is still healthy, with more than 40 percent of St. Paul cable subscribers tuning in for some portion of programming.
Viewership will most likely get a nice boost this weekend — especially if you want to watch a guy try to snooze through a ringing phone.