That Old Feeling: And the Feelie Goes to…

Richard Corliss hands out the fourth annual awards for the best in geezer culture

Posted Saturday, Feb. 26, 2005

2. Best Infotainment: Media Funhouse

“Yyyyyyyyyes, ladies and gents, you’re back in the Media Funhouse. Hi, I’m Ed your host. This is the Media Funhouse and we are the cable access show that’s proud to bring you everything from high art —to low trash and back again.” Ed Grant says this week in and week out, always with a practiced laugh on the “Hi,” and always delivers. Ed (who has also contributed pop culture pieces to TIME.com) is a champion spieler and smiling savant with more knowledge of the last 50 years of pop culture than one brain could conceivably contain. For 12 years now, he has offered New York viewers a half-hour potpourri unrivaled for its breadth and curiosity. Where else will you find a clip of Salvador Dali pushing his face through a hole in the “Mona Lisa” on I’ve Got a Secret, or clips from a Jack E. Leonard 007 spoof called The Fat Spy, or Brando forcing Larry King into a duet on “I Can’t Get Started”?

“Speaking at a rate fast enough to sell Micro-Machines,” as a 1996 article in Visual Opinion described his verbal shtick, Ed will play a silent clip from a foreign film (often French) as he Uzies data in an inset at the lower left of the screen. He also interviews actors (Peter Ustinov, Audrey Tautou, the unadorned and charmingly frank Carol Lynley) and such directors as Russ Meyer and Francois Ozon. Last month Ed did a tribute to 2004’s “deceased artistes” (his phrase, which I occasionally borrow) that had the show’s usual grand range: from Dayton Allen (the Steve Allen Show Man in the Street whose catchphrase was “Why not?”) to novelist Hubert Selby Jr. (with a reading from The Demon), and from Frank Nastasi (aide de camp to Soupy Sales) to super-spieler Spalding Gray (his porn movie appearance). I eagerly anticipate his tribute to one of TV’s master showmen of ennui, Dr. Gene Scott, who died this week.

Media Funhouse runs in the 2 A.M. Friday slot on low-resolution Manhattan Neighborhood Networks, where the night-shift guy doesn’t always pay attention. This week’s tape was abruptly aborted half-way through, and we were treated to a few minutes of a silent, still-frame corrupted tape. Ed deserves better. I’d give him the nightly half-hour after The Daily Show. Comedy Central doesn’t know what to do with it since canceling …

Honorable Mention: Tough Crowd