The new streaming platform launches today with a diverse and strange slate of "bite-sized" programming.

By Kristen Baldwin and Darren Franich
April 06, 2020 at 08:21 AM EDT
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Monday marks the official launch of Quibi, and fortunately for the new streaming service — which hopes to distinguish itself by specializing in “quick bites” of programming — it’s debuting at a time when people almost literally have nothing else to do but sit at home and stare at screens. The streaming app goes live with a diverse, and sometimes puzzling, slate of programming. All the episodes are 10 minutes or less — but are any of the launch shows worth the subscription price of $4.99 a month (with ads) or $7.99 a month (ad-free)? The short answer: No. But we’re in quarantine times, folks, and Quibi — like many streamers — is offering a free trial for new viewers. (Three new episodes of all scripted, reality, and documentary series will be available at launch, and new episodes drop daily.) EW critics Kristen Baldwin and Darren Franich watched all 26 new series Quibi made available for review and weeded out the 6 worth checking out — and the 4 we should never speak of again. (Note: Quibi's daily news shows, like EW's Last Night's Late Night, were not available for review.)

Quibi (3)

WORTH A FEW MINUTES 

I Promise

Two years ago, basketball superstar LeBron James opened a public school for at-risk 2nd and 3rd graders in his hometown of Akron, Ohio. This poignant and inspiring docuseries chronicles the students and teachers at the I Promise School during its first year, as staff works to instill struggling kids — many of whom have endured an agonizing amount of trauma in their young lives — with the desire and confidence to succeed in school. After just a few episodes, I was deeply invested in chipmunk-cheeked 3rd grader Nate, who lost a parent to violence, and bold and brassy Dae’shaunna, who tells a teacher, “Everybody wants to get rid of me.” I Promise would probably work better as a full-length docuseries, but on the other hand, my heart could only handle these kids in small doses. —KB

Run This City

Jasiel Correia was only 23 when his hometown of Fall River elected him mayor in 2015. The charismatic politician brought scandalous turmoil to the small Massachusetts town, and this docuseries makes a valiant effort to bitesize the saga into content chunklets. Correia's a raucous narrator of his own twisted life story, guiding the documentarians through his own let's-call-it-skewed perspective. Unfortunately, interviews with other politicians and townspeople are helplessly shorn of context, because someone somewhere decided the phrase "eight-minute episode" was a marketable idea. But look, Run This City is definitely a great commercial for the Correia TV show another streaming service will make someday. —DF

Most Dangerous Game

Imagine a Lifetime Movie Network adaptation of Richard Connell’s classic short story The Most Dangerous Game — about rich folks who hunt people for sport — and you have this cheesy, weirdly compelling action thriller. Liam Hemsworth(!) stars as a dying man who agrees to be human prey so he won’t leave his wife (Sarah Gadon) and unborn child penniless. Christoph Waltz does his cheerfully-sinister best as Miles, the hunt’s besuited “facilitator.” Mild spoiler: The actual hunt doesn’t begin right away, so if you’re not a fan of set-up, skip to episode 5. —KB

Gayme Show!

This rainbow burst of silliness is an utter-nonsense extravaganza where straight guys compete for the honor of being declared "Honorarily Gay as F---." Hosts Matt Rogers and Dave Mizzoni keep the quips coming fast. Points are awarded randomly. Everyone onscreen is a comedian you are vaguely familiar with.  One of the games is called "Notice Me, Father," which requires contestants to dance until they move their emotionally distant father. Kate Walsh gets a shoutout. It's fun! —DF

Chrissy’s Court

The only show I watched that truly seems to understand the Quibi format, Chrissy’s Court features supermodel-turned-Twitter-celebrity Chrissy Teigen presiding over trivial disputes in a Judge Judy setting. Sporting spectacularly gaudy statement necklaces over her black robes, Teigen brings her goofy charm and genuine curiosity about people to these hearings, which are the perfect length at seven minutes each. Teigen fans will also welcome the inclusion of her mom, Pepper Thai, who serves as the court’s bailiff and suffers endless teasing from her daughter. (“You literally have no other job here!” chides Teigen when her mom objects to trying on a sweatshirt at the center of a case.) If any of us ever leave our homes again, Chrissy’s Court will be ideal commute viewing. —KB

Nikki Fre$h

Is Nicole Richie good at comedy? She was pretty funny on NBC's short-lived gem Great News, and she shows a flair for deadpan farce in this ludicrous musical comedy. Richie plays herself, an outrageously vain wannabe-guru using her own bespoke subgenre of rap music (Parent Trap) to send out important messages about bees and ugly vegetables. It's sort of a Tori Spelling show with better guest-stars, and every episode ends with a pretty solid music video. —DF

NOT WORTH YOUR TIME

Survive

Two talented actors — Game of Thrones' Sophie Turner and The Walking Dead's Corey Hawkins — can't save this maudlin and melodramatic thriller, based on Alex Morel's YA novel from 2012. Turner stars as Jane, a suicidal young woman who survives a plane crash along with a level-headed guy named Paul (Hawkins). This is one of Quibi's "Movie in Chapters" — which is what the streamer is calling its scripted series — but it feels more like a "Movie That Couldn't Find Distribution." The production values range from okay to embarrassingly bad, and try as Turner might, she can't make Jane a character we want to root for. "I'm okay dying here," she moans to Paul in episode 3. Oh honey, just do it — put us all out of our misery. —KB

Dishmantled

Titus Burgess explodes a mystery food onto people. They try to recreate the same dish using only their sense of taste. This is, obviously, a very stupid competition, so obnoxiously loud that it could easily play in the background of a dystopian movie as proof that society has devolved into rampaging decadence. Burgess and his guests can't find a funny rhythm. Honestly, it feels like everyone just learned the show's concept two minutes ago. And I just hate that title so much. It's dishgusting. —DF

Memory Hole

Quibi was founded by Jeffrey Katzenberg, and it has a lot of money. Apparently some of this money went to hiring stars for an afternoon's worth of work on clip shows. Will Arnett reads the teleprompter in this series that highlights pop-culture oddities, like the brief "football players rapping" trend and the not-quite-star-studded special celebrating the opening of Toronto's SkyDome. For a show about the silliest moments in entertainment, Memory Hole is surprisingly mirthless. —KB

Fierce Queens

The best nature documentaries avoid the cheap urge to humanize animals, telling fascinating stories about the fascinating species unlucky enough to share a planet with us. Fierce Queens is not a good nature documentary. Fierce Queens is a show where Reese Witherspoon narrates rah-rah tales of wildlife womanhood, using empowerment language that comes off variously as tone-deaf and absurd. There's an episode about two cheetah sisters learning that hard work pays off, and another episode about a queen honey ant who never mind. It's honestly hard to tell if this is a joke — the name and concept could've been a throwaway gag on 30 Rock — and Witherspoon doesn't help with her soberly energetic line readings. "Males can tell a fertile female by sniffing her urine," she explains. Yes, Quibi definitely has some urine sniffing. —DF

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