Let me start off by saying: this is not an advertisement. I feel I should preface with that, considering I am about to fangirl over Quibi for a few minutes, and some people out there may feel a bit conflicted. Sadly, nobody has offered me any money to make this post, but here I am anyway to bring the news to you.
If you have absolutely no idea what I’m talking about – or why you’re reading this – allow me to elaborate. Released just a couple weeks ago on April 6, Quibi is a new streaming service created by filmmaker and co-founder of DreamWorks Animation, Jeffrey Katzenberg. Designed for millennials with a short attention span, Quibi offers content in the form of “quick bites” – episodes with a runtime of 10 minutes or less. This format breaks feature-length cinematic experiences into television-, nay, Snapchat-esque releases, with new installments coming every day.
There’s so much to love about Quibi, but before I get into the features I love the most, I thought I would make a short list of the content I’ve been watching. From genuine blockbuster movies to independent television series to reality shows and exclusive news programs, Quibi has it all. There was a surprising abundance of content on offer from day one, and each day brings new quick bites that add to the stunning variety of Quibi’s lineup. In lieu of reviewing each series on its own, I figured I’d make a little Top 10 to describe just how diverse the platform is. So in no apparent order, let’s get to it!
Most Dangerous Game
I found out about Quibi through Facebook ads, and this series was the most prominent amongst my news feed. I truly wanted to try out the service for this film alone. At least, I thought it was a film when I started, and who could blame me? Most Dangerous Game features a brilliant cast including Christoph Waltz and Liam Hemsworth. The story follows a man who, after being informed of his cancer diagnosis and impending demise, offers himself to be hunted for sport over a 24-hour period, in exchange for enormous wealth to leave behind for his pregnant wife. Imagine my surprise when I downloaded Quibi, learned of its mission statement, and 15 days later I’ve finally wrapped up the series (or perhaps, season?) This show kept me wanting more, and its quick bite format allowed for endless cliffhangers that held my attention to the bitter end. Most Dangerous Game is a “system seller” for Quibi, without a doubt. Nonstop action, a plot full of countless twists, and Hollywood-quality cinematography make this a series you simply cannot miss.
Another series that had me intrigued by Quibi from the get-go, Survive stars the incomparable Sophie Turner, fresh off her run on Game of Thrones, taking on a story that tackles depression, suicide awareness, and the importance of teamwork in hard times. After making it through a plane crash, Sophie finds that the only two survivors were herself and the man sitting next to her. They set out on a course to find their way back to civilization, all the while enduring the harsh climate of the mountains and learning more about each other, and themselves. The focus on the mental illness Sophie’s character suffers from, as well as the demons of her past, make this one of the most gut-wrenching series Quibi has to offer. I found a lot of her struggle to be tragically relatable, and as the series concluded after 12 episodes, I was nearly in tears through its final moments. Survive could be considered a film, or perhaps a miniseries, but whatever the Academy may deem it, it’s certainly worthy of multiple awards.
Moving on to the less serious side of Quibi, one of the few game shows on offer is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Dishmantled is essentially the reverse-engineered version of the popular Food Network Show Chopped. Contestants are first tasked with donning a body shield before getting covered in a food dish, which is shot at them through a high-speed cannon. They must then use their senses, including going as far as licking their own clothing, to reconstruct what they think just hit them in the face. After a half hour (their time), contestants present their dishes to three judges – usually consisting of a celebrity and a food connoisseur, as well as host Tituss Burgess of Kimmy Schmidt fame – who will then announce the winner. Winners are based on a checklist of ingredients in the initial dish, compared to the recreated dishes, and $5,000 are on the line! Dishmantled is certainly a fun escape from the dismal world we’re living in, as well as an escape from basic cooking shows. However, I wouldn’t recommend licking food off the walls in today’s society.
At first glance, I hesitated to watch Flipped. I don’t consider myself a huge fan of either Will Forte or Kaitlin Olson (known for her work on “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia“), and this one just seemed kind of skippable. However, after diving into it a few days late and seeing it through to the end, it’s quickly become one of my favorites on Quibi, and I truly can’t wait for a second season. Unlike most other Quibi shows, this one had a massive cliffhanger at the end of its 11-episode run, which begs for a continuation someday. The story follows a naïve couple who aspire to be home renovators on TV. After accidentally uncovering an abandoned meth lab and renovating it as their television audition, they become wrapped up in the world of crime lords as they’re enslaved and used for their talent to redecorate drug bosses’ mansions. It sounds a lot darker than it actually is. While not a true mockumentary, the vaguely self-aware plot makes for a weirdly twisted comedy with characters you’ll fall in love with for all the wrong reasons.
Another outrageously addictive Quibi series, Agua Donkeys is the series I didn’t know I wanted. I can’t quite put a finger on which void in my heart this show fills, but it’s somewhere between Arrested Development and Drake & Josh. This comedy – brilliantly tagged “deadpan” on Quibi – follows two boneheaded pool boys as they think up ludicrous plans to win the affection of their coworker. That’s right, they both want the same girl, and they’ll stop at nothing to win her love… together. The show’s absence of a laugh track makes its absurdity even stronger, as you’re never quite sure when to laugh. But Agua Donkeys delivers this unexplainable lighthearted nature that leaves you chuckling on the inside and eagerly anticipating the next episode. Not to mention, this is one of Quibi’s shortest series, with most episodes only lasting about 6 minutes. This nonsensical comedy provides a humorous escape from the world that, I’ll admit, may not appeal to everyone. But for someone like me, this series was a pleasant surprise.
Quibi may provide viewers with action, suspense, and comedy, but it’s not about to shy away from the nuances of reality. &Music was one of the big flagship series at launch, with quite a few adverts online and around the service in general. This six-part documentary reveals a rarely-seen side of the music industry, focusing on artists of various genres and backgrounds as they explain the intricacies of everyday life, away from the spotlight. For example, one quick bite follows J Balvin as he struggles to keep his mind balanced alongside his booming music career. Another looks into the importance of fashion in the life of Anderson .Paak, while another introduces you to the twin choreography team behind Ariana Grande’s Sweetener tour. Not only is &Music a fascinating look behind the curtain for fans of the music industry, but it also dives deep into the human spirit, with every installment making it clearer to see that celebrities are real people too. After watching it, I feel like I know a lot more about these artists – some of which I’d never even heard of – and they seem a lot more down-to-earth.
Run This City
I was absolutely taken aback as I was scrolling though the list of Quibi series at launch, and found a documentary centered around a city in my home state of Massachusetts. Mark Wahlberg – of all people – served as an executive producer on this series about the mayor of Fall River. Seeing as one of my closest friends hails from Fall River, I decided to give it a go, and I must say I haven’t been this glued to a screen since Making a Murderer. Okay, maybe Tiger King, but haven’t we talked about that enough? Anyway, Run This City follows Jasiel Correia, the youngest mayor of Fall River, Massachusetts, as his campaign turns from surprise to horror while he’s dragged through the mud of crime and dishonesty. Much like in Most Dangerous Game, this one ends on a perfect cliffhanger with each and every episode, and I truly could not put it down. What’s so fun about Quibi is if you binge watch a series, you’re really only watching a full-length film. So give this one a shot! You won’t be disappointed.
50 States of Fright
Have you ever wanted to see Goosebumps stories told from the mind of Evil Dead? Well, 50 States of Fright delivers some of the most gripping horror content I’ve seen in a while, straight from the twisted psyche of Sam Raimi himself. Told in miniseries of two or three episodes each, this show plays out the tales of urban legends from all across the country. My favorite story was about the “Biggest Ball of Twine” in Kansas, centered around the star of Mulan and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Ming-Na Wen. When her daughter goes missing after visiting the ball of twine, she uncovers some gruesome secrets about the town she’s trapped in, and what the ball really signifies. These episodes are campy, gory, and genuinely spooky, and they all have this 80’s horror feel to them with a SyFy special effects budget. Okay, maybe a little better than SyFy. I don’t want you to think Sharknado and run the other way. But really, 50 States of Fright is a genius little anthology series, and with plenty of stories to tell, I’m excited for the future of this one.
No Filter by TMZ
A great mind once said, “time is short,” while another said, “life is impermanent.” Especially these days, time is fleeting before us and we just don’t have all the time in the world to keep up with the news. Thankfully, Quibi offers quite a few news shows, all with daily episodes in short bursts. One such series is No Filter by TMZ, which delivers 6-minute installments, twice a day, rather loudly in your face. I’ve never been one to enjoy TMZ, considering they’re kind of the most invasive and seemingly unethical reporters in modern journalism. However, I can’t deny their news is convenient and much-appreciated in quick bite format. I find myself enjoying the presenters, and it’s been fun to hear about any celebrity news from quarantine. I’ve also ben enjoying Polygon’s show Speedrun hosted by Jimmy Mondal. This daily series supplies me with all the latest gaming news, including eSports and features on big games like Animal Crossing and Valorant. Furthermore, NBC News and BBC have their own political series, if you’re into that sort of thing, so all in all, Quibi’s really pulling out the stops when it comes to staying informed.
Now we come to my latest obsession on Quibi, The Stranger. This series consists of another star-studded cast including Dane DeHaan of Amazing Spider-Man fame and Avan Jogia from Victorious. The plot here is fairly simple: new girl in town takes a job as an Uber driver, only to get tricked by a murderer into doing his bidding. She escapes, but in doing so her life is taken over by his unsettling lust for her destruction, and she continuously struggles to evade his controlling grasp. The allure of this show is its dark nature, with each installment playing out hourly over the course of one night. As the protagonist draws bystanders into her tangled web of secrets, she quickly unravels herself and becomes increasingly unstable. The Stranger is an f’d up mental thriller, and it’s as fun to watch as it is hard to watch. As this one nears its conclusion, I’m just as intrigued as I was at the start, and that is a testament to Quibi’s overall gratifying wealth of content.
Now that you know some of the incredible series on offer, let me tell you a bit about what makes Quibi different. Alongside it’s unique content distribution system, its video playback options are some of the most amazing things I’ve seen from a streaming service. The most jaw-dropping has to be the fact that every Quibi series is double-edited, using a new technology called Turnstyle. This allows every single Quibi feature to be viewed in either portrait or landscape mode. This can be changed on the fly, at any time, with no black bars whatsoever. Gone are the days of fullscreen and widescreen; Quibi just plays the way you like it.
This must call for a lot of editing, as it’s a truly mind-bending experience watching a show both ways and seeing how something horizontal can shift the focus vertically. This may seem hard to grasp without seeing it for yourself, but trust me, Quibi does it so seamlessly that it’ll have you questioning what’s the best way to view content. I prefer watching news vertically and the rest in landscape, but to each their own! Speaking of news, these shows offer a “Segments” button, which allow you to skip to whatever headline you want to lisent to. It really provides greater ease to viewing news content, and further assists my short attention span.
As the Engadget article above says, “it remains to be seen if people really want to pay to watch tiny bites of video.” Even as I write this, I’m a bit worried for the future of Quibi. Just yesterday, the head of brand and content marketing, Megan Imbres, left the company less than three weeks after its launch. Though this may not spell doom for the platform, it raises the question of its lasting potential and outreach. I really hope the service makes enough money to keep big names signed on. Sophie Turner, Liam Hemsworth, and Anna Kendrick can’t be cheap gets. It would be hard to continue that level of star power without a steady stream of income, not to mention what it would mean for second seasons of shows like Flipped. I don’t want another Firefly.
As for outreach, well, that’s why I’m writing this in the first place. I want to get the name out there because I really believe in the service. Quibi has gotten me through many days of this isolation in quarantine, and I’m thankful for an everyday pick-me-up in the form of quick bites. But even for those of you who haven’t signed on yet, there’s plenty of content now to binge watch. Like I said before, the nice thing is binging for just an hour and a half could get you to the end of an entire series. Just be aware, new series start with three episode at once, so sometimes a “pilot” actually takes three episodes to get the plot going (Survive is the perfect example of this).
The only unfortunate thing is that Quibi doesn’t have a dedicated console or Smart TV app, as of yet, so you’re stuck watching shows on your phone. This makes for perfect toilet viewing, but not so much for sharing shows with the family or your significant other. Let’s just say, there won’t be much “Quibi and Chill” going on, unless it’s using an iPad at a picnic or something (and with downloadable episodes, this is doable!) But in its current state, I find Quibi to be a blast in short bursts, and I hope you’ll check it out. Thankfully, they’re offering a 90-day free trial until April 30, which will get you awesome consistent programming through July! After that, it’s only $4.99 or $7.99 a month, depending on your ad preference. I’m already planning on keeping up my subscription when the time comes. Hopefully I’ve informed you about Quibi enough to want to do the same! Thanks for reading.