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37 Years Ago: ‘Ringo’ TV Special Airs

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In April 1978, Ringo Starr was behind an hour-long TV special simply called Ringo. Built around a Prince and the Pauper-style premise, the show looked a lot like many other variety programs from the era, right down to its eternal cheesiness.

The special begins with a mock press conference featuring George Harrison, whose first line — “I think it was the trousers” — references All You Need Is Cash, the recently aired TV movie starring the mock Beatles group, the Rutles. Harrison says he’s there to clear up any rumors surrounding Starr’s upcoming concert. He battles a barrage of questions from “the press,” setting the stage.

The show’s lead character, played by Starr, is named “Ognir Rats” (get it? That’s “Ringo Starr” backward, missing one of the “r”s). He’s a lonely guy, but the real Ringo proposes that they swap lives. And from there, Ringo takes a decidedly cornball path, introducing a C-list cast worthy of The Love Boat.

For the next hour, various song-and-dance numbers — and lots of very bad acting — parade by. They all feature Ringo, who runs through Beatles songs, solo hits and more. Have you ever wanted to hear Carrie Fisher duet with the former Beatle on “You’re Sixteen?” Neither did we! And did you ever think one show could contain the star wattage emitted by Art Carney, Angie Dickinson, Mike Douglas, Vincent Price and John Ritter?

If you’re waiting for some big cosmic point to all this, well, there isn’t one. Other than the obvious lesson learned by both Ringo and Ognir that each was happier being himself.

The other lesson learned is that 99.2 percent of variety specials from the ’70s weren’t very good. Exactly what were people on during that period? Don’t tell us. We really don’t want to know. But the real question here is, Why did Ringo want to present this 1978 monstrosity? We love Ringo. We really do. But this TV special? Not so much.

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