A weeknight soap can take so much commitment. Luckily for those of us too fainthearted to indulge in more than the odd sample, Shortland Street helpfully provided an abridged version this week, a handy little three-part recap of last year's action.

Watching Shortland Street, the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, the advantages of the cramming method immediately became apparent. "Murder and mayhem", "naughty nurses" and "dramatic doctors" - you get the alliteration over in one hefty dose, for starters.

There was no need to ponder the deep underlying themes when host Claire Chitham summed them up for us so succinctly: "Odd couples, queer couples, troubled couples, hot couples." No, Shorty has never been about nice, normal, single people sitting home alone.

Another advantage of committing to the soap in yearly recaps only is that you get all the snogging and dramatic revelations without the tedious bits in between - the scenes where they pretend to do medicine.

You can also track the trends and how the soap is mutating from year to year. Last year in Kiwi soap territory was the Year of the Lesbian, a fact which caused Dr Li Mei Chen so much grief.

Li Mei doesn't normally seem to suffer any doubts about her place in the pecking order but the chick-on-chick contingent definitely put paid to her usual swagger.

Indeed the local sudser turned on a topnotch storyline with the lesbians and Li Mei fighting over her dead boyfriend Norman's frozen sperm before the body was even buried.

But what started with such bravado ended in disappointing snivels and whimpers. Do soap scriptwriters realise how frightfully let down the straight world feels when it turns out that those who are blessed with an alternative lifestyle turn out to be obsessed about settling down, getting married and having babies? What is the point of subscribing to exciting and different sexual identities and practices only to turn out so homely?

The gay men got a more thrilling share of the action in the form of Hugo, the "nutbar everyone loves to hate". Hugo's obsession with Mark arrived at one of the most literal soap climaxes ever, with the evil one hanging over a cliff.

Elsewhere, a disturbing trend emerged in the form of violent femmes. While the men might have had the odd scuffle in the car park, it was the women who took the prize for best biffo.

Vinnie felt the force of female wrath, right on the chin. Even sweet Sarah went in for a bit of butch role-reversal, tackling her enemy Robyn in the car park and giving her a good kick when she was down.

Hm, don't think the men would have got away with being so physically abusive.

On happier topics, it was with great relief that we finally said good-bye to the show's longest-running character, the gormless Nick Harrison.

That he lasted so long is surely amazing: call it the Ken Barlow law of soap longevity by being the most boring bloke on the street.

Shorty Street also made its annual contribution to Kiwi colloquialisms: we learned how much value the average New Zealander places on simple rubber footwear with the phrase, "to give your left Jandal for ... " (something highly desirable, presumably).

In true Waverley style, Chitham's rundown also raised some interesting zoological possibilities: "Can a rat change its spots?" wondered our host, sighing over yet another heinous villain. Er ... it certainly could not if it were a leopard.

It's an exhausting business sitting through three episodes of this kind of concentrated melodrama. But happily for the recap addicts, we have a whole year to recover.