TV | April 6, 2020 2:02 pm

Review: Is Quibi Worth Adding to Your Streaming Arsenal?

An intriguing premise, but it hasn't exactly hit the ground running

Quibi co-founder Jeffrey Katzenberg
Daniel Boczarski/Getty Images for Quibi

Seriously, WTF is a Quibi?

Well, it’s a streaming service, and its name is short for “quick bites.” Launched today, Quibi is only offering up digital shorts that are ten minutes or less.

Headed up by entertainment/tech industry giants Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman, Quibi feels designed for the commuter on the go … which makes now a particularly rough time to launch, given that people are staying in and could use longer, more immersive content.

We took it for a brief spin this morning, which seems fine, given that a quick spin is in line with Quibi’s M.O.

The pitch: Get dozens of scripted and non-scripted shows, all under 10 minutes, for $4.99 to $7.99 per month, depending on whether you can handle ads. The good news is that the service is starting off with a 90-day free trial, and you’ll be billed through your phone/app service (with a reminder sent before each billing cycle in case you want to cancel).

For most series, it looks like new episodes will debut every weekday with a few built-up for launch, so the service is more like Apple+ or Disney+ than Netflix with its approach to binge-watching.

The setup: It took 30 seconds. Name, email, password and from there, a selection screen that’s not much different than Netflix or Apple app store. Each show has a brief description, trailer, screenshot and follow/share/play options. You can either stream or download episodes. It’s all intuitive and nothing out of the ordinary.

The shows: We tested out five series, including the three top “trending” shows and two that sounded interesting. 

The best fictional drama we sampled was The Most Dangerous Game, a new take on the classic hunting-man story. Starring Liam Hemsworth and Christoph Waltz, the show reminds us of Mr. Robot (at least aesthetically) and the two stars inject some blood into a really, really tired trope.

Flipped is a spoof of those oddball couples who host real estate shows, and stars Will Forte and Kaitlin Olson bring their respective strengths to the show. I laughed out loud a few times — the humor is a cross between the meanness of It’s Always Sunny… and the awkwardness of Last Man on Earth. If you said this show was new on FX, I’d believe it. 

Dishmantled features amateur chefs competing in a contest where they’re placed in hazmat suits, blindfolded and cannon-shot with a mysterious dish. From there, they have to discern the ingredients and then (not blindfolded) cook a dish with those elements in 30 minutes. Since the episodes are only about seven minutes long and hosted by Kimmy Schmidt alum Tituss Burgess, things move along quickly and with good humor. It’s weird, but it’s also something I would definitely sample if I had a spare seven minutes. It certainly cuts out a lot of the unnecessary dramatic moments of the half-hour/hour-long cooking competitions. 

Less interesting, Survive is a plane crash thriller about a suicidal woman (Sophie Turner). It’s pretty bleak and so far full of way too much voiceover. Meanwhile, the reality show Chrissy’s Court is basically Judge Judy but with a nicer magistrate (Chrissy Teigen); five minutes into the first “case,” I gave up. Charm alone does not make a series.

An example of Quibi’s “Turnstyle” tech (Photo: ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images)

What works: You can watch the shows with your phone placed either vertically or horizontally — sometimes it’s cropping a shot or presenting images split screen. You’ll want to watch this with the phone on its side, but the service is good enough either direction.

What needs work: I tried this on my iPhone, everything looked great. On an iPad, I’d say the picture was … fine. Quibi is really pushing this for your pocket-sized devices. 

Recommendation: There’s no killer series here. Yet. Netflix didn’t have one at its streaming launch either, so it’ll take a bit for the service to produce a must-see show. The real problem? That must-see series is only fill up maybe seven minutes of your day. Is that going to be worth it for the same monthly price of a better, more traditional service like Hulu?