Don’t think of the Minisode Network as a brand-new Web site. Think of it as a long-overdue public service.
That is, who among us hasn’t felt the double-edged sword of our media age: So much video from TV, DVDs, the Internet and even cell phones … but too little time to watch it all?
The Minisode Network has a solution.
Launched last week as a broadband channel on the MySpace site, it offers, for our streaming pleasure, episodes of vintage Sony Pictures Television series like “Silver Spoons,” “Starsky & Hutch,” “Diff’rent Strokes” and even Ricki Lake’s talk show.
But the, um, sparkling array of programs isn’t what makes the Minisode Network a cultural godsend. It’s the convenient packaging: Each episode has been pruned from its original half-hour or hour length down to a handy running time of somewhere between four and six minutes.
“The shows you love – only shorter,” boasts Minisode Network, which only asks us in return to watch a very short commercial before each program.
Dialogue and action are abbreviated by a team of skillful Sony specialists, providing time-strapped viewers with on-the-fly TV fare.
This means we can enjoy “Fantasy Island” as never before: Mr. Roarke transports guest star Joan Collins to 49 B.C. so she can sit on Cleopatra’s throne, and learn an important lesson, all in just 4 1/2 minutes (including opening titles and closing credits).
Here’s a minisode of cop drama “T.J. Hooker” whose climactic chase scene ends with (spoiler alert!) the bad guy dangling from a bridge as he calls for help from his pursuer, Hooker (series star William Shatner).
“You’re not gonna let me die,” the bad guy declares.
“You’re right,” says Hooker. “That’s what separates the rest of us from scum like you!”
All in six minutes.
The sitcom “What’s Happening!!” originally aired in the late 1970s. But it anticipates the current hot-button issue of immigration reform when roly-poly teenager Rerun agrees to do a favor for his new friend, Maria.
“Maria and I had this serious talk,” Rerun later tells the gang.
“The wedding’s Tuesday!” Rerun replies.
Next scene: A judge’s office as the ceremony begins. But when the judge learns Maria is an illegal alien, he kindly explains that marrying Rerun won’t solve anything.
“There are other ways to come into this country legally,” he adds. “I’ll help you any way I can.”
So Rerun and Maria decide to just stay friends. Comedy and a complex social issue, all dispensed with in only 4 1/2 minutes.
On a 14-year-old edition of “Ricki Lake” where brothers confront their trampy sisters, Matt says his sister had sex inside the steeple of a church during which she kicked out a stained-glass window.
“Is THAT the lowest, audience?” Ricki marvels.
The pilot episode of “The Partridge Family” explains how this sitcom family band came to be. Thanks to the Minisode Network, it’s garage-to-Caesars-Palace in just 4 1/2 minutes.
And on the minisode of “Charlie’s Angels” aptly titled “Angels in Chains,” Jill, Kelly and Sabrina go to prison to bust a prostitution ring.
“How does it feel to be out from behind bars, Angels?” Charlie greets them through his speakerphone just six sexy, crime-busting minutes later.
The Minisode Network might be only the beginning for a world with too much media and not enough time.
NBC aired a breakthrough of its own months ago on an episode of its comedy, “30 Rock”: Make-believe NBC exec Jack Donaghy (series star Alec Baldwin) demonstrated the amazing new 10-second Internet sitcom.
Unfolding on a computer screen, “Makin’ It Happen” began with a title sequence. Then the husband entered the living room.
“Honey, I’m home!” he announced. His wife, on the couch, sneered, “Oh, great!” A flash of canned laughter.
Then a reprise of the jingle (“He-e-e-e maaaade it!”) while the credits rolled, complete with an NBC Universal logo.
All in less than 10 seconds.
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