When Sony announced a couple months ago its plan to re-purpose a chunk of its library of TV reruns as online “minisodes” — old episodes of kitschy dramas, sitcoms, and even Ricki Lake’s daytime talk show, edited down to just five minutes each — we thought it was a clever and fun idea. We imagined the results might look like the now-classic “Seven-Minute Sopranos,” which brilliantly and hilariously shrank several seasons worth of violence and agita into a bite-size ravioli.
Sadly, in execution, the Minisode Network isn’t nearly as compelling as we’d hoped. It’s not the fault of the editors, who’ve managed to distill old episodes of Diff’rent Strokes, The Facts of Life, Police Woman, What’s Happening!!, and other vintage shows into 300-second morsels without sacrificing plot coherence. In fact, what’s remarkable is that, even at five minutes, many of these shows are still draggy; how on earth did they manage to fill out the rest of the half-hour or hour? Slate had a curious review last week that claimed the re-cut shows are so choppy that they manage to turn the original kitsch into something almost avant-garde, but that seems like wishful thinking to me.
The shows that work best in this format are the ones that were 100 percent filler to begin with — namely, the Aaron Spelling-produced programs like Charlie’s Angels, Starsky & Hutch, and T.J. Hooker. Check out this delightfully campy 1980 episode of Spelling’s Fantasy Island, featuring a pre-Dynasty Joan Collins. It’s one of the few clips I’ve watched on the Minisode Network that actually left me wanting more.