The best thing I can say about "Jerry Springer: Ringmaster" is this: It's
not as bad as it sounds. Thankfully, the story spends relatively little
time with the slimy Mr. Springer, focusing instead on the comically lurid
stories of two groups of people who end up as guests on his daytime trash-
talk show. Unfortunately, Springer is the star of the movie, so viewers
are subjected to shots of a shirtless Jerry flexing his (ahem) muscles in
front of a mirror, Jerry having sex (under the covers, thank God), Jerry
half-singing a country tune in a honky-tonk bar, and Jerry delivering one
of the most phony, self-serving speeches in the history of B-movies.
While making the rounds promoting his show, his book and this film,
Springer's defensive strategy has been to beat potentially hostile
journalists to the punch. "Of course I have no talent," he says with a
hapless puppy-dog smile. He freely admits that his show is nothing but a
circus, telling an Entertainment Weekly reporter "Look, if I'm Satan,
then we're all okay - - because then Satan ain't that bad."
Springer isn't Satan. He's just another sorry huckster, shamelessly
exploiting poor, undereducated people. It's easy to sneer at Springer's
guests, but who is worse; those willing to sacrifice their privacy and
dignity in exchange for a free trip to the big city and a few minutes in
front of a camera or the guy who pays for their tickets?
People who watch Springer regularly will be happy to hear that the movie
captures the bizarro spirit of his "Too Hot For TV" videos, with fightin',
cussin' and bare breasts galore, plus a few sex scenes to boot. Those
dragged to the movie will be relieved to know that it's surprisingly
entertaining on a "guilty pleasure" level.
"Ringmaster" takes a farcical look at two dysfunctional couples and their
friends. Connie (Molly Hagan) works in a Florida donut shop. She suspects
that while she's away, her current husband Rusty (Michael Dudikoff) and
her 19 year old daughter Angel (Jaime Pressly) are having an affair.
She's right. When not boinking her naïve, dim-witted fiancée, Willie
(Ashley Holbrook), and the male guests of the motel where she works as a
maid, Angel indeed is sleeping with her stepdaddy. When Connie catches
Rusty and Angel, she does what any self-respecting mother would do: she
seduces Willie to get even, hollers at her husband and daughter, then
snags a booking for the whole group on Jerry's show.
Meanwhile, Starletta (Wendy Raquel Robinson) is livid. Her boyfriend
Demond (Michael Jai White) is having an affair with her best friend,
Vonda (Tangie Ambrose), not long after she caught him with Leshawnette
(Nicki Micheaux), another gal-pal. Again, using that special wisdom that
comes only to people who believe professional wrestling is real, she
decides the best way to handle the situation is to go on Jerry's show and
confront the wrongdoers on national television.
Once in L.A. for the show, all the characters meet up in a hotel the
night prior to taping, with predictably lusty and combative results. The
next day, they go to the studio for their fateful encounter with the
geekmaster and all hell breaks loose, even before the inevitable on-air
It's all plays like a sprawling, unusually spirited episode of "Three's
Company," except these people actually get laid. While most of the cast
are just strident stereotypes, a few manage to humanize their characters,
with Molly Hagan a stand-out as competitive mother Connie. She invests
the character with a survivor quality that makes her manic behavior
The most annoying moment in the film comes when an audience member
verbally attacks the guests for degrading themselves and Springer jumps
to their defense, making an impassioned, pathetic speech about the show
being a forum for the "little people," allowing them the same moment in
the sun that rich celebrities enjoy everyday. His righteous tirade is so
irritating that it made me wish I could slip past his bodyguards and take
a poke at the pompous ass myself.
Don't pay to see "Ringmaster." Sure, it has more than its share of fun
moments, but wait until the movie hits cable, because every ticket you
buy puts a little more money in the pants' pocket of Jerry Springer. And
you really don't want anything of yours to end up in Jerry Springer's
pants, do you?
Copyright © 1998 Edward Johnson-Ott