Sat. Oct 1st, 2022
They want us to pronounce it "kwib-ee." we're going to pronounce it "kee-bee" to bully them.  But crazy as the name is, the service isn't that bad.
enlarge They want us to pronounce it ‘kwib-ee’. We’re going to pronounce it “kee-bee” to tease them. But crazy as the name is, the service isn’t that bad.

Quibic

If you are a frequent TV watcher, you may have noticed a significant change in the daily and weekly series in the past month. TV crews have struggled in the face of the coronavirus shutdown to generate content without their usual tools or studios, and, god, it’s been sloppy. Results from most major networks have shown issues with lighting, microphones, camera resolutions and editing across the board as hosts transition to filming themselves from home.

Even when it comes time to press, many of these shows still feature awkward pauses and silences, not to mention grainy, compression-filled video feeds captured from online chat platforms. It seems like networks don’t know what to do in a world where ‘social distancing’ means not recording in front of a live studio audience, and the results look rather poor compared to home cinema stars on YouTube. Major TV networks have long been accused of not understanding the streaming landscape, and that accusation has been all the more true of late.

Which brings us to the latest streaming-exclusive service: Quibi. Unlike most other streaming services of recent years, which have largely competed over which classic TV exclusives they can secure, this one is made up of new celebrity-filled series with one thing in common: the “mini-sode” concept. Each Quibi video clocks in at 10 minutes or less.

We know: there are serious questions here, and the main one is, doesn’t a ridiculous acronym immediately disqualify an upstart service? (If that’s the beginning and end of this review for you, we don’t blame you.) But in an era where TV as we know it is changing before our very eyes, the long-bought experiment of this new service has shown with serendipity on his side. Quibi may not be for you, and I went into the preview catalog completely skeptical. But I came out surprised by how charming the scattershot launch lineup has mostly turned out.

But wait, WTF is a “Quibi” anyway?

Get your barf bags ready. Quibi is the result of two words squeezed together: ‘quick bite’. Yeah, okay, hold on, erp, oof, hrm… gulp. Okay, I can keep it together here. I hate that phrase for a few reasons, but mostly because it undermines the platform’s greatest success.

The public sales pitch of “quick bite” television sounds like a slew of quickly forwarded throwaway videos, perhaps full of poor production values ​​and clickbait concepts. Sure enough, one of the platform’s launch series has popped up quite a bit on Ars Technica’s TV review chat channel in recent weeks, though not necessarily for good reasons. We poked fun at privately Murder House Flipwhich revolves around houses notorious for murders and crimes… All in nine minutes or less!

My assumptions got worse when I looked at the series list, which arrived without any explanation. “Gayme show.” “Memory Hole, hosted by Will Arnett.” “Cup of Joe, with Joe Jonas.” ugh.

Once I accessed Quibi’s launch list, as shared in a video file dump in a web browser (as opposed to the official Quibi app), I realized what was really going on here. Quibi isn’t an attempt to silence television by reducing entire episodes to tiny, idiotic chunks. No, Quibi is more like something surprising: an adult version of Sesame Street

The MTV of yesteryear, only shorter and gayer

That’s not to say Quibi has a gang of friendly faces stitching concepts together with a letter of the day. On the contrary, the series producers were all given the memo to follow the pace of an average Sesame Street “short”, which, as you may recall, is somewhere between “a Muppet hangs out with a small child to learn and reinforce a silly lesson” and “a camera crew follows someone in their real life and takes their details seriously.”

To take The shape of pasta† In this series of miniature documentaries, a chef travels to remote corners of Italy to learn about forgotten pasta-making techniques, usually tucked away in small villages that are passed down from generation to generation. It’s a nice touch to see parts of Italy you might never otherwise care about, and the pasta lessons from the three episodes are actually quite tasty. By going with a strangely specific premise, The shape of pasta avoids feeling like another freakin’ tv cooking series. Each eight minute piece allows you to enter a region, see its history, see the only prestigious dish and get out.

Or let’s go with gayme show, which sarcastically pits two comedians against each other in a mix of trivia questions and flamboyant dance-offs. This would have exhausted me in a 22-minute format, but by condensing this over-the-top, gay-as-hell comedy show into eight-minute explosions, we get it all: laughter every minute and an exit when the time comes. is turn right.

Over and over I found myself clicking on things I would never have looked at, like a docu-series about concert production staffers or quick dance-offs between street dance crews or mini-sodes about up and coming high school athletes, and come away charmed. The “big” names on Quibi, on the other hand, didn’t excite me much, including MTV’s nostalgic one-two of picked out (a dating series from the 90s, only much gayer now) and punk’d (the 00s joke show, only now, much shorter).

From small, kid-friendly street cars to… oh… oh god!

But it’s also a weird lineup across the map, meaning you shouldn’t think of Quibi as the equivalent of a single TV channel. Flavors and series concepts vary wild on Quibi.

One minute I’m watching a “street racing” show where little kids drive Hot Wheels versions of expensive cars. The next, I browse to Game of Thrones‘ Sophie Turner in a heartbreaking scripted series, To survive, which is broken up into five mini-sodes. But I couldn’t get through the first eight minutes without pausing and walking away, because of the graphic representation of a character’s struggles with mental illness, as depicted by her character’s bloody fantasies of self-harm. How did I go from “cute kids in fake cars” to “dramatic actress cutting herself” so quickly?

As long as you enter Quibi with a warning like that, you’ll be fine. Nothing but To survive contains a stark warning for each of its mini-sodes about “viewers discretion advised for issues related to mental health”, and the network is otherwise not a hodgepodge of self-injury content.

Also, once I was over To survive‘s shocking intro, I otherwise felt unimpressed with this “Quibi movie” approach. At around 43 minutes in total, this series played more like a UK TV special with a single, extra-long episode. The same can be said for the pleasantly foolish Turned aroundwith Will Forte (SNL) and Kaitlin Olson (It’s always sunny) – a quality series, but not due to the fact that they are stretched over a few mini-sodes.

At the very least, Quibi is able to deliver arbitrary run lengths, rather than being tied to a TV-mandated amount of time, which may prove more appealing if the service catches on as filmmakers and TV producers come up with inventive ways to play with the format. At least one scripted series at launch leans nicely on Quibi’s premise: Most Dangerous Game, who fast-forwards to his whackadoodle premise in four minutes. By that I mean four minutes after I hit the “play” button, with no long credits sequence or character-driven exposition. Archetypes emerge and Liam Hemsworth immediately begins to confront Christoph Waltz’s calm but menacing acting prowess. All right, let’s get to the chase. This service is not ‘Slow-bi’.

All in all, Quibi’s preview list entertained me enough to recommend installing the generous 90-day free trial at launch, even if Murder House Flip eventually became one of the platform’s more boring “this could have been on normal TV” options. After the trials are over, the service will cost $5/month with ads, or $8/month without ads – by which time we’ll see how the daily, news-driven content (not available in preview form) fits into the Quibi- promise of entertainment designed around smartphone consumption. And in the meantime I hope Quibi doubles that Sesame Street-like quality and heightens the nerdy content. YouTube is proof that the eight minute format can work great for gadgets, games, science and health, which Quibi is sorely missing right now.

(Full Disclosure: My content preview did not include Cup of Joeand despite my surprising appreciation for much of Quibi, I’m not ready to pin my hopes on that.)

By akfire1

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