- The Washington Times - Friday, July 6, 2007

Longtime television screenwriter Del Reisman is under no illusions about where some of his work stands in the big picture.

“Nobody thought they were going to be honored for artistic achievement,” Mr. Reisman says of such programs as “Charlie’s Angels,” one of many shows for which he has written through the years. So he has mixed feelings over the news that Sony Pictures Television is editing down some venerable television shows and splashing them on the Web.

“I don’t think the full entertainment impact is there,” Mr. Reisman says.

The Minisode Network, available on www.myspace.com, edits down shows such as “Diff’rent Strokes” and “T.J. Hooker” to tidy five-minute segments. You may never look at “What’s Happening!!” the same way again.

In one online episode of the fluffy ‘70s sitcom, Rerun (the late Fred Berry) offers to marry a pretty Mexican girl (Irene Cara) so she can gain legal status in the U.S. (Who says the feel-good show never tackled the big issues?) We quickly see the gang drooling over Maria, watch her propose to Rerun and then witness how the judge presiding over the ceremony sets the youngsters straight. Done and done. A few chuckles later, the credits roll.

Such economy isn’t very satisfying for Mr. Reisman. “For many of us who wrote episodes for those shows, it’s the journey that’s the interest, what they go through,” he says of the programs’ leads. “I think webisodes would satisfy only people who really want just to know what it’s about.”

Sony introduced its Minisode Network late last month exclusively on MySpace. Miniaturized oldies such as “Fantasy Island” come with commercials that are just as wee as the programs. Expect more than 500 miniepisodes by year’s end. Sony Pictures Television President Steve Mosko says his company came up with the project after examining how Web users watched online content.

“People like short bursts of programming,” Mr. Mosko says of our YouTube nation. The new network includes not just old episodic chestnuts such as “Charlie’s Angels” but talk shows, including “The Ricki Lake Show.”

Mr. Mosko hints at a greater Web rollout down the road along with new online partners once the company’s deal with MySpace expires at the end of next month. That could mean people can download their favorite episodes on their cellular phones and then watch them while waiting at the bank, the mall or any other place.

Daniel Tibbets, executive vice president and studio chief for GoTV, a Calif.-based company that provides original and existing content for mobile technology, says such shows are a natural for mobile video. “You can have that ‘very special episode’ of ‘Diff’rent Strokes’ … the nostalgia element of it is great,” Mr. Tibbets says.

Mobile devices primarily attract an audience between the ages of 18 and 34 and sometimes higher, Mr. Tibbets says. His company has been working with ABC for the past two years offering recaps of the network’s shows for mobile users.

Mr. Reisman takes a pragmatic approach to how his decades-old work is appearing in the 21st century. “The industry is looking at what is real out there, the problem of attention spans, and feeding it,” he says.

A former president of the Writers Guild of America, West, Mr. Reisman wonders how the late programming giant and “Charlie’s Angels” executive producer Aaron Spelling might have reacted to the slimmed down version of the program.

“I didn’t know him that well, but if this was his baby, I think he would be pleased by a new audience being exposed to his shows,” he says. “I don’t know if he’d be happy about them cutting them to this extent.”

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