Quibi! It’s here, folks, and it’s ready to change the streaming service game – or so it hopes. Quibi, which stands for “quick bites”, wants to be your go-to streaming service when you only have about 5 to 10 minutes to kill. Rather than offering traditional half-hour or hour-long content, Quibi gives viewers content either in quick five-minute bursts, or split up over a series of 5 to 10-minute parts that add up to a whole. The streaming service has just launched with a surprising amount of new content – but is any of it actually worth watching? Is this a service worth subscribing to?
First thing’s first, some info: Quibi is intended to be viewed entirely on your phone. As a result, the shows are presented in both vertical and horizontal formats. I personally can’t imagine ever watching a movie or TV show in a vertical presentation, and sure enough, the vertical looks for several of the shows are quite terrible – cropping off huge sections of the frame. But to be fair, the creators of the programming had input in this, and in many cases, filmed their material two different ways – framed fort vertical, framed for horizontal. As a result, several of the vertical views aren’t just cropped by completely different shots.
Also: like podcasts, the content on Quibi can be taken in at different speeds – slower or faster. I have no idea why anyone would want to watch something this way, but this is Quibi’s world, folks, and we’re all just living in it. Beyond that, the material on Quibi is broken into three distinct categories:
- Movies in Chapters: Big stories told in chapters that are 7 to 10 minutes in length.
- Unscripted and Docs: This episodic category is food, fashion, travel, animals, cars, builds, music, sports, comedy, talk, variety, documentary and more. All with episodes in 10 minutes or less.
- Daily Essentials: Curated daily into 5-6 minute quick bites of news, entertainment and inspiration. Quibi’s Daily Essentials will quickly give viewers everything they need to know – and why it matters.
But what about the content? How do they stack up? I watched 25 of Quibi’s shows/movies in chapters, and I ranked them below from worst to best. The ultimate verdict for Quibi as a whole: there’s some quality stuff here! But you have to dig through a lot of junk to get to it. At the same time, the good material here still has the misfortune of being stuck on a damn phone screen. And the number one thought I immediately had every time I came across a Quibi show I liked was: “I really wish this were on a different streaming service.”
25. Nikki Fre$h
Abysmal, bottom-of-the-barrel stuff. Starring Nicole Richie, Nikki Fre$h has Richie pursuing her interests. That’s really it, honestly. It’s essentially a vanity project that’s supposed to be funny, but falls flat. Everything here feels completely staged and scripted, and perhaps that’s the point? If so, it doesn’t help the show in any way. The first episode (sorry, I mean Quibi) finds Richi going to some music producers and declaring she wants to make music for plants. It’s about as insufferable as it sounds.
24. Gayme Show
The ultimate conclusion I drew from Quibi is that I am not the target audience for most of their content. With that said, I can imagine people might get a kick out of Gayme Show, which is intentionally loud and over-the-top to the point where it felt like I was having some sort of seizure. On the series, straight contestants team up with celebrity “life partners” for a series of challenges, with the ultimate goal to be named “Queen of the Straights.” It’s meant to “uplift and celebrate” the LGBTQ+ community and its allies – at least according to the ad copy. But it doesn’t come across that way at all.
23. Singled Out
Remember the dating show Singled Out? Well, it’s back, and it’s louder than ever! Hosts Keke Palmer and Joel Kim Booster do their best to make this palatable, but watching people speed-date – even for a period of 5 minutes – is not compelling TV. This Singled Out attempts to change things up by making all the potential matches secretly be people the contestant looking for a date follows on social media. But the twist ultimately feels a little creepy.
Another show reboot, Punk’D has the same set up as the original: celebrities have very elaborate pranks played on them. Instead of Ashton Kutcher as our host, we now have Chance the Rapper. And while I have no doubt he’s a talented musician and all-around nice guy, he is not a very good TV show host. I don’t like pranks to begin with, but Punk’D ultimately made me feel very old, and very out-of-touch, because I didn’t recognize a single celebrity being punk’d here. Who are these people?
21 & 20. Skrrt with Offset & You Ain’t Got These
Remember what I said above about Quibi being loaded with content that is definitely not targeted towards me? You can throw these two titles onto that list. Skrrt with Offset is all about cars and car culture, and You Ain’t Got These deals with sneakers and sneaker culture. And let me tell you, these are subjects I have never been even mildly curious about. Of the two, You Ain’t Got These is the better-produced, but if you have next to no interest in sneakers, there’s really not much here. Neither shows try to make their particular subjects appealing to outsiders.
NightGowns follows drag queen Sasha Velour as she adapts her drag-revue into a full stage production, and the show has a lot of heart, and will definitely make fans of Velour happy. But again: like the shows mentioned before this, there’s not a whole lot here. The best of the Quibi titles are the ones that end after their short runtimes and make you immediately want to jump to the next episode, and you just don’t get that here.
&Music delves into the unsung art that goes along with live-music and music in general: lighting, choreographers, audio engineers, and more. That’s nice – in theory. But this material can’t sustain itself across the Quibi format. That might be a different story if this were documentary feature film you watched in one sitting. But it’s not.
17. Chrissy’s Court
Chrissy Teigen is a judge! And all her judgments are legally binding, somehow! And yes, husband John Legend pops in from time to time. The cases in Chrissy’s Court are unbelievably silly. Some might even say stupid. Not me, though. that would be mean.
16. Fierce Queens
Hey, did you know there are lady animals? It’s shocking, but true, and they made a Quibi about it. Fierce Queens is narrated by Reese Witherspoon and follows females in the animal kingdom – like a pair of cheetah sisters who have to learn to fend for themselves. Planet Earth this is not, but it’s ultimately harmless – although it does show several hunting sequences where animals are torn apart, so…there’s that, I guess. Slay!
15. The Sauce
The Sauce is a dance competition, and we’re talking out-on-the-street dancing. The type of wild and energetic dancing where people seem to be defying gravity. The “show” element almost feels like an afterthought here – like the filmmakers just stumbled upon a group of youths dancing and haphazardly edited it to resemble a series. Still, these kids have moves, let me tell you. I got winded just watching it.
Meet the sports stars of tomorrow! Handsomely produced – it’s chockfull of slow-motion shots of athletes doing their thing – Prodigy has an HBO Real Sports vibe to it, but it’s far too dry for its own good.
13. Thanks a Million
Thanks a Million is a pay-it-forward type show where a celebrity – Jennifer Lopez in the first episode – gives a hung chunk of money to someone in need. Sounds nice, right? But there’s a catch! That person then has to give half of that money to someone else – someone they appreciate in their lives. Look, on the surface, this is a pleasant scenario. But I couldn’t help wonder if the recipients of the initial money felt a sudden pang of sorrow when they learned they couldn’t keep all of it. It seems almost cruel to have J.Lo come out and tell someone, “I’m giving you $100,000!”, only to then say: “But you have to give half of that away.” Maybe I’m being greedy, though, and making a mockery of the Quibi spirit.
12. Most Dangerous Game
Most Dangerous Game plays out like an aborted NBC series – it’s not great, but the fact that it’s this high up on the list is an indication of how much crap you have to dig through. Christoph Waltz is clearly having a blast as a filthy rich guy who offers dying man Liam Hemsworth (playing the amazingly-named Dodge Maynard) a chance to make oodles of money. Here’s the catch: Jennifer Lopez takes half of it away. Sorry, wrong Quibi. The catch is that Hemsworth has to agree to be hunted for sport. It’s the very definition of fine.
11. Memory Hole
Like an updated and very Canadian I Love the ’80s, Memory Hole has Will Arnett covering cringe-worthy moments in history. The Superbowl Shuffle and other ill-advised hip-hopping takes center stage, and since the show is produced in Canada – just like Arnett himself – there’s a heavy emphasis on Canadian topics. That sounds niche as hell, and it is – but it’s also pretty amusing, and, like 90% of Quibi’s content, completely disposable. Which makes it perfect for the Quibi format: I could easily see this as something someone watches on their phone for a few minutes and then completely forgets about.
Will Forte and Kaitlin Olson are a married couple who want to reinvent themselves as home decorators. They get their big break when they stumble upon a hefty brick of cash and use it to immediately launch their own TV show. Unfortunately, that money belonged to a drug cartel. Forte and Olson are both extremely broad here, practically shouting their lines over one another, but there’s a silly vibe that helps make Flipped watchable.
9. Murder House Flip
Okay, now we’re talking. There are a handful of Quibi programs that sound like the fictional shows Jack Donaghy often mentioned on 30 Rock, and Murder House Flip certainly fits into that category. The show is exactly what its title suggests: a home renovation series where the homes were the sights of grisly murders. Rather than have each episode be its own individual house, one house is broken up into three parts – which hurts the show. But the premise is so ghoulishly funny, and the folks featured are so good-natured, that Murder House Flipped wins you over. Everyone here is aware of how goddamn bizarre this all is, and that goes a long way.
Another oddity: Dishmantled has chefs shot in the face with food cannons. They then have to try to recreate the food they ate. And you know what? It’s surprisingly fun! This is no Chopped. It’s not even Nailed It! But watching chefs get blasted with food, and then having them say stuff like, “I tasted cheese off my boot!”, is entertaining. This is trash TV, but it knows it’s trash TV. And sometimes, we all need a little trash.
A moody, dreary, often brutal show, Survive makes great use of its short-form content by having every episode end with a whopper of a cliffhanger. Sophie Turner is a suicidal young woman who survives a horrific plane crash, and then has to try to…survive (hey, that’s the title). Turner is a bit stiff here, and her American accent is shaky, but she and co-star (and fellow plane crash survivor) Corey Hawkins work well together as they traverse the harsh wilderness.
6. 50 States of Fright
With 50 States of Fright, Sam Raimi produces (and even directs some episodes) a horror series devoted to local urban legends. The episode made available was not scary in the slightest, but it was wildly entertaining and darkly comedic. It also gives Raimi an excuse to break out the gore – lots and lots of it. The wonky tone might throw some, but this worked for me.
5. The Shape of Pasta
Imagine Chef’s Table, but entirely about pasta. In The Shape of Pasta, Chef Evan Funke sets off on a quest across Italy to learn all about various obscure pasta shapes, and that may not sound like exciting TV, but this ended up being one of the most watchable shows available. It’s also incredibly laid-back and even slow-moving, which makes it an extremely odd fit for a streaming service all about quick bites.
4. I Promise
Tailor-made to induce tears, I Promise is an emotionally powerful docu-series about LeBron James’ I Promise school in Akron, Ohio. Watching kids – many of whom believe themselves to be stupid, and say as much – grow in this new environment is going to have you bawling in the five minutes it takes you to watch the first episode. In fact, this show feels almost too important to be on the service.
3. Gone Mental with Lior
Mentalist Lior Suchard is here to blow celebrity minds with his very impressive mind games. Best of all, he then backtracks and explains how (some of it) was done. Gone Mental with Lior is fast, fun, and works well with the Quibi format. I actually wanted more.
2. Run This City
There are two programs on Quibi that I would consider genuinely good – maybe even great. This is one of them, and the other is at number one. Run this City is a docuseries that follows Jasiel Correia, the youngest mayor ever in the history of Fall River, MA (home of Lizzie Borden). Correia was arrested (twice!) on charges of fraud and extortion while mayor, and Run This City is a down and dirty look at corruption and local politics. It’s funny and fascinating, and will hook you from the get-go.
1. When the Streetlights Go On
Dark and violent, When The Streetlights Go On is fantastic – and really belongs on a better streaming service. Kind of like a ’90s Stranger Things meets The Virgin Suicides, the series follows a small-town mystery involving a brutal murder. The story is seen through the eyes of local kid Chosen Jacobs, who just happens to ride his bike through a crime scene. This is one of Quibi’s “Movies in Chapters”, and while I have no doubt it plays better as one full film, the Quibi formatting doesn’t hurt the narrative. In fact, it actually makes it feel more urgent. The second an episode ends you might bruise your fingers rushing to start the next.
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