Minisodes: For those who find 30-minute sitcoms too deep and drawn out

CNN reports on a streaming video channel that edits classic television sitcoms down to four-minute webisodes.

Josh Wolf
Josh Wolf first became interested in the power of the press after writing and distributing a screed against his high school's new dress code. Within a short time, the new dress code was abandoned, and ever since then he's been getting his hands dirty deconstructing the media every step of the way. Wolf recently became the longest-incarcerated journalist for contempt of court in U.S. history after he spent 226 days in federal prison for his refusal to cooperate. In Media sphere, Josh shares his daily insights on the developing information landscape and examines how various corporate and governmental actions effect the free press both in the United States and abroad.
Josh Wolf
2 min read
The average half hour sitcom runs about 22 minutes, but for some people that's simply too long. Most successful web videos average between 2 and 5 minutes, and the folks at Sony Pictures Television have found a new way to deliver classic television to this shortened-attention-span set. As highlighted in a recent story by CNN, The The Minisode Network is presented on Myspace and offers a swath of retro television episodes that have been carefully edited down to five minutes in an effort to update the old shows for the post millennium web format.

The network offers a variety of programming from Dilbert to Diff'rent Strokes, but is something lost in translation as the video editors slice and dice everything from the original that is considered not essential? Are these mostly ancient sitcoms even worth watching today in either form? While I can't be certain whether it's a result of the hack jobs or the dated material, most of the mini-episodes I watched felt incomplete and not really worth watching. The editing was clean and seamless, but the stories lacked any real development (something that's already a problem with the sitcom genre). The jokes were still there and the punchlines were also kept intact, but the timing was wrong and the humor was all but lost on me.

It's hard to do short-form content well. In fact much of the user-created content on the web shares the same pitfalls that Minisodes suffers from. The reality is that you can't tell the same story in four minutes that you can in 40 and Minisodes points out the downside to this new trend in video.

If a story is designed from day one to fit a short-form format it will be far less clunky than these cut-ups, but the format will still provide very limited room for character and story development. Despite producing short form content myself, I'm worried that this evolution towards shorter and shorter material is actually a trip in the wrong direction. I suppose it's a bit puzzling that my experiences perusing an abbreviated version of Who's The Boss was what snapped me into that realization.