We Watched Every New Show on Quibi. Here’s What to Watch—and What to Skip

19 minute read

Like it or not, Quibi is here. The new streaming platform, launching April 6, offers short-form content—”quick bites,” hence the portmanteau, that run 10 minutes or less. These shows are designed to be watched exclusively on your phone, whether you’re on the subway heading to work or sitting in the waiting room at the dentist’s office—places, in other words, that most people won’t be able to go for some time yet in the era of social distancing. But despite the fact that very few people are, for the moment, on the go, Quibi has held fast to its planned debut, launching, by our count, 50 scripted series, documentaries, reality shows and news programs on April 6 with plans to roll out 175 shows over the course of the year.

Quibi is casting a wide net to court various types of viewers: there are soothing cooking shows designed for the boomer crowd, while celebrity-studded reality series aim to lure Gen Z off of TikTok. Television critics have been busy debating whether the Quibi model signals the end of quality television or the wave of the future. But it’s clear the platform is hoping sheer star power alone will entice some quarantined television lovers to download the app. Jennifer Lopez, Idris Elba, Lebron James, Chance the Rapper and Chrissy Teigen are among the celebrities set to star in Quibi content, and filmmakers like Steven Spielberg, Catherine Hardwicke, Paul Feig, and Guillermo del Toro have content on the upcoming slate.

The streaming service, which also features proprietary new technology that allows viewers to switch seamlessly from landscape to portrait viewing, will cost $4.99 per month with ads and $7.99 without ads, though a 90-day free trial is available if you sign up in April.

Quibi gave journalists a glimpse at some of their content launching on April 6. We watched everything available to screen in advance (in most cases, around three chapters; “Daily Essentials” like news shows were not available in advance as they will cover news as it breaks). If you’re thinking of subscribing, here’s what you should watch and what you should skip.

What to Watch

Gayme Show! (unscripted)

Gayme Show! has a deceptively simple premise: it’s a gay game show. That’s it! Hosted with with aplomb by comedians Matt Rogers and Dave Mizzoni, each episode features two straight contestants competing in gay-themed challenges in an effort to be crowned “Queen of the Straights.” The jokes are plentiful, and if you’re not well-versed in gay Twitter—references to Dua Lipa, Laura Dern’s salmon button-down from Jurassic Park and Cynthia Nixon’s wife whiz by—you might have to Google to catch up. But even if you don’t get every joke, it’s hard not to let out a guffaw watching contestants like Demi Adejuyigbe prance around the stage in a unitard during a game called “notice me father”—actually a bespectacled Rogers softly weeping. The conceit is goofy, silly and exactly what you want it to be—and that’s a great thing. —Kelly Conniff

Nightgowns (documentary)

Lately it seems like everyone who’s ever come within 10 feet of RuPaul’s stage is getting their own show, but don’t hold the deluge of drag content against Sasha Velour, a Drag Race winner who stands out even from that talented pack. While her gender-fluid performances can be transgressive, Velour, who takes a big-tent approach to drag, has a heart of gold. As she adapts her Brooklyn-born revue NightGowns for a bigger stage, this docuseries profiles the queen and an inclusive troupe that features performers with a wide range of identities and styles. Each episode of the show—the only Quibi title I screened that feels particularly suited to the medium—ends with a beautifully shot production number that does Velour proud. —Judy Berman

Prodigy (documentary)

You don’t have to be a sports fan to appreciate this docuseries, which covers a different young elite athlete in each episode. With artful cinematography and well-paced storytelling—especially compared to the frenetic quality of many of the platform’s other shows—Prodigy is less concerned with the specific athletic achievements of its subjects (no. 1 ranked high school basketball player in the U.S., five-time national junior boxing champion) and more focused on the sacrifice and singular dedication of these athletes’ family members. If you cried during that Procter & Gamble Olympics commercial thanking the moms who drove carpools and gave pep talks so that their children could get a shot at the podium, this one is probably for you. —Eliza Berman

Punk’d (unscripted)

This third revival of MTV’s prank show has been winningly updated for millennial and Gen Z sensibilities: it’s slightly more absurdist, slightly less cruel and involves way more animals. YouTuber Liza Koshy ruins a bat mitzvah; rapper Megan Thee Stallion gets attacked by a gorilla. Chance the Rapper—who in the wake of Netflix’s Rhythm & Flow, has rebranded his once-innocent persona to include a mean streak—brings a mischievous energy to hosting duties, and his laugh is infectious. —Andrew R. Chow

The Sauce (unscripted)

Dance—particularly street dance—doesn’t get enough mainstream respect. The Sauce has something to say about that. Each episode pits two dance groups against each other, judged by talented dance duo Ayo and Teo, with the lure of a $25,000 cash prize. The lack of polish is endearing, as is the raw skill on display; you’ll wish you could spend more time just watching these young athletes move their bodies in ways that have no respect for the laws of physics. Kudos to executive producer Usher and the hosts for making sure to explain regional dance styles, as it’s high time these art forms got their due. Constant camera cuts and stylized editing seem best suited for the TikTok generation, but it’s a joy to watch these dancers in motion in any format. —Raisa Bruner

Shape of Pasta (documentary)

Now this is my sort of short content. I’m a devoted Bon Appetit Test Kitchen subscriber, Alison Roman Instagram story watcher and Anthony Bourdain worshipper. So, yes, a show about a chef traveling across tiny towns in Italy to discover forgotten pasta shapes is my jam. I can’t get my head around the tone of this show—it’s extremely self-serious, so much so that it’s maybe supposed to be making fun of other food shows? Or perhaps it’s just one of them. No matter. The show has many nonnas teaching Felix Trattoria chef Even Funke how to make pasta in shapes you’ve never thought of but are centuries-old traditions in picturesque Italian towns. It’s delightful! —Eliana Dockterman

You Ain’t Got These (documentary)

Lena Waithe takes viewers on a thoughtful, well-researched and star-studded tour of the world of sneakers. As the show conveys, sneaker culture is about much more than style. “Your footwear is your ID now in the black community,” Carmelo Anthony tells her; Nas, Run DMC, Hasan Minhaj and a cultural historian reflect on the legacy of icons like Michael Jordan and the relationship between hip-hop and commerce. Questions about branding, exploitation and value are tackled head-on. For sneakerheads it might be mostly recap, but it’s still fun to hear Rev Run reminisce about securing his Adidas deal—and for everyone else, it works as a solid introduction to a foundational part of contemporary American culture. —Raisa Bruner

What to Try

Chrissy’s Court (unscripted)

In this ode to Judge Judy, Chrissy Teigen rules over petty cases brought by local randos. Each episode is extremely dependent on the personalities of the plaintiff and defendant. Most of the “contestants” are actively awkward (or actually mad, which is bizarre given the TV show’s unserious premise), and Chrissy and her mother Vilailuck Teigen (as bailiff) have to work double-time to counteract their discomfort. The humor often feels forced. Chrissy’s Instagram is more entertaining—at least there, she has total control over the cast of characters, namely her husband John Legend and their two kids, all of whom are way more natural in front of the camera. That said, if you like Teigen and are already churning through her Instagram stories every day, this is a fine way to get some more. —Eliana Dockterman

Fierce Queens (documentary)

Reese Witherspoon narrates mini wildlife documentaries made with BBC Studios Natural History Unit, each focused on the female members of a species. Some of the lines veer into cheesy girl-power territory: “Getting that belief in yourself and gaining confidence: that’s what growing up is all about. These big cats totally nailed it. Walk tall, fierce queens!” she sings out after a surface-level episode about adolescent cheetah sisters. But thanks to truly beautiful footage and surprising subject choices—unless you already know all about the life cycle of the ruthless, cannibalistic queen honeypot ant?—viewers who want a quick hit of nature and some new fun facts about animals will be satisfied. —Raisa Bruner

Flipped (scripted)

After one episode, this one looked like it would fall squarely in the “skip” bucket: two incredibly annoying self-anointed visionaries, a married theater director (Will Forte) and Home Depot-esque associate (Kaitlin Olson), are both deservedly fired from their jobs for asserting their own artistic purity over things like appropriate subject matter for tween thespians (in his case) and customer service (in hers). (Think the kind of kooky, self-serious characters you’d find in a Christopher Guest movie, minus the great ensemble to balance them out.) But a hastily paced sequence of events—they decide to try to be house flippers, buy a foreclosed-upon property and find stacks of cash in its walls, which turn out to belong to a drug cartel—leads to the introduction of Broad City‘s Arturo Castro as an organic-apple-eating overlord, which might just elevate this bonkers ordeal from grating to promising. —Eliza Berman

Gone Mental with Lior (unscripted)

The mentalist Lior Suchard lacks the theatricality or scale of other famous magicians like David Blaine or Criss Angel, making him perhaps the perfect match for a low-stakes platform like Quibi. It’s agreeable enough to watch him catch basketballs while blindfolded or exactly guess the number of coins in Ludacris’ hands, but his tricks won’t haunt your dreams, either. —Andrew R. Chow

I Promise (documentary)

By all accounts, LeBron James’ I Promise School in his hometown of Akron, Ohio, has been a resounding success: Its students, who were picked to attend after underachieving in the city’s public school system, are testing better and seem to be thriving in their new environment. This show, however, comes off as a surface-level feel-good advertisement for the school. —Andrew R. Chow

Run This City (documentary)

Jaseil Correia grew up with the dream of becoming the mayor of his hometown, Fall River, Mass.—a city of around 90,000 most famous as the home of Lizzie Borden. At the remarkably young age of 23, he achieved it. But what sounds at first like an uplifting story of millennial striving turns dissonant when Correia is indicted on fraud and extortion charges. It’s an intriguing story that could have made for a fascinating hourlong documentary. Unfortunately, the Quibi format requires director Brent Hodge (I Am Chris Farley) to chop the saga into equal-sized, eight-minute “bites” that drag in the middle before ramping up to exaggerated cliffhangers. The result is a micro-docuseries whose rhythm always feels a bit off. —Judy Berman

Singled Out (unscripted)

I like host Keke Palmer. I like Joel Kim Booster, who serves as the Jenny McCarthy to her Chris Hardwick. I like that all three episodes I watched had queer contestants but didn’t feel as though they were pandering to an LGBTQ audience. The best one featured a fully decked-out, super-charismatic drag queen looking for a man who could handle her at her most femme. But the best thing about the original MTV show was the unscripted banter, both between the hosts and among the competitors. And there just isn’t room for that in an already-rushed seven-minute show. —Judy Berman

Thanks A Million (unscripted)

There’s not much here that you can’t already get from watching YouTube clips of Ellen DeGeneres giving out life-sized checks on behalf of name-that-corporation, or soldiers coming home to reunite with their spouses/children/dogs. But if you’re going to subscribe anyway and want a cathartic cry in two-minutes flat, watching celebs like Jennifer Lopez, Kevin Hart and Nick Jonas give deserving people $100,000, then watching the recipient give half of it to another deserving person, and so on, should do the trick. If you think too hard about it, the magic starts to fade—how much of this will get eaten up in gift taxes, and how many phone calls is this person going to get asking for a loan after receiving such a large sum on, well, if not national TV, whatever Quibi is? Yet seeing an apparently kind, hard-working person get the chance to pay for infertility treatments, or a house, or more resources for their therapy dog program, is far from the worst way to spend six minutes. —Eliza Berman

What to Skip

&Music (documentary)

With its sweeping landscape shots, ambient background score and pseudo-philosophical ramblings, &Music seems to want to be the Chef’s Table for the random-dudes-connected-to-the-music-industry set. The show spends each episode with a behind-the-scenes collaborator of a star: there’s Ariana Grande’s choreographers and Martin Garrix’s light guy. But while there are one or two poignant and revealing moments, the show is mostly slick, overproduced and vacuous. There are plenty of music documentaries that are far more worth your time—and that you can watch on a big screen with proper speakers. —Andrew R. Chow

Dishmantled (unscripted)

Dishmantled is a cooking show, minus the main ingredients that make cooking shows so satisfying: interesting and empathetic contestants to root for and, much more fatal to the whole endeavor, the cooking itself. Hosted by Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt‘s Tituss Burgess, the show invites two blindfolded chefs into a small chamber where a mystery dish is blasted into their faces; they have to taste the exploded shrapnel, figure out what it might be, and make a dish replicating what they think they’ve eaten, to be judged on both taste and accuracy by celebrity judges like Dan Levy, Antoni Porowski and Jane Krakowski. But the quick format makes this far from a nutritious meal; viewers don’t have time to get to know or get invested in the contestants, and the cooking itself sails by without any attention to technique or ingredients. The most drama you’ll get here are lines like: “This all comes down to…is this a zoodle or is this a noodle?” —Eliza Berman

Memory Hole (unscripted)

Will Arnett makes fun of terrible pop culture moments from history that nobody remembers for a reason (like that time Alan Thicke appeared in a corny tribute at the opening of a Canadian superdome). It’s unclear who this show is for or why it exists. The references are so obscure that even people who lived through them will have forgotten and the quips feel like something you’d hear at a high school open mic. I spent the entire time watching this show thinking about another, much better show, BoJack Horseman. In that Netflix animated series, Arnett voiced a washed-up ’90s sitcom star struggling to stay relevant in Hollywood. Memory Hole feels like a project that an investor in Quibi would have blackmailed BoJack into doing after BoJack accidentally threw up on him during a bender at a wedding. —Eliana Dockterman

Most Dangerous Game (scripted)

This show is so obvious, it’s almost funny. These are the exact roles SNL would cast Liam Hemsworth and Christoph Waltz in for a skit—cancer-ridden former athlete with a pregnant wife and an evil billionaire who wants to pay said former athlete to be hunted by rich people. Since each episode is seven minutes, these are not character revelations that slowly come out over time. They are blatantly spoken by the actors to one another in every scene. Don’t come to Most Dangerous Game expecting The Game-esque twists or any subtle dialogue. What you expect is exactly what you will get. Unless you expect fun. You won’t get that. —Eliana Dockterman

Murder House Flip (unscripted)

Despite the name, there’s nothing original about Murder House Flip. The series is essentially two types of reality shows unceremoniously jammed together: one part home redesign show hosted by two perky designers with a surfeit of canned jokes; one part true crime docuseries filled with the requisite pan and scan over vintage photos and newspaper clippings. This uneasy juxtaposition results in awkward episodes that often feel like a Saturday Night Live parody, especially when one of the hosts brightly announces: “Our goal was to take this murder house and turn it into a happy home.” And a focus on the grisly nature of the crimes reflects the worst parts of a genre that too often obscures victims. Is there a world in which this show could have managed to strike the right tone? Possibly. But as it stands, Murder House Flip is too flip. —Kelly Conniff

Nikki Fre$h (unscripted)

“Wellness has a new voice. A black voice,” Nicole Richie’s rapper alter ego says in the first episode of Nikki Fre$h (and then immediately clarifies that she’s referring to herself). The resulting show is part poker-faced satire of the goop lifestyle and part honest assessment of organic produce and artisanal honey. Her attempts to draw attention to food waste and the plight of bees are well-intentioned, but cameos from the likes of Bill Nye can’t save the show from falling flat; Richie helped pioneer awkward reality TV on The Simple Life with Paris Hilton, but Nikki Fre$h lacks that show’s schadenfreude appeal. —Raisa Bruner

Skrrt with Offset (unscripted)

If you like looking at nice cars, you might get a kick out of Skrrt with Offset. Otherwise, there’s not much point. The show has a thin premise (the Migos rapper Offset does stuff with cars) and is executed with even less imagination. When his wife Cardi B shows up for an episode, overflowing with sass and charisma, you wonder why they didn’t just give the whole show to her. —Andrew R. Chow

Survive (scripted)

Before watching the first five episodes of this thriller about a disturbed young woman preparing to kill herself on the flight home from a mental institution, I might have said something like, “I’d watch Sophie Turner do anything.” Well, Turner is great in Survive—but neither her performance nor the impressive production values manage to redeem a story that, whether intentionally or not, revels in the bloody, nihilistic aesthetics of suicide. A twist (one that’s “spoiled” in the trailer) that has the plane crashing and Turner’s character teaming up with an obvious love interest (Corey Hawkins) to, yes, survive only heightens the absurdity and introduces plot holes. —Judy Berman

When the Streetlights Go On (scripted)

It’s the summer of 1995—a stiflingly hot one—when things start going wrong in sleepy Colfax, Ill. That fall, a beautiful high-school mean girl (Kristine Froseth) and the teacher she’s been sleeping with (Mark Duplass) get carjacked, forced to strip and gunned down by their masked assailant. The weirdo sister (Sophie Thatcher) she used to bully wanders around unmoored. A jock sometimes-boyfriend (Sam Strike) is brought in for questioning. Narrating this murder mystery is the student journalist (Chosen Jacobs) who found the bodies. Period signifiers like Nirvana and ck one abound. Every once in a while a show formed entirely out of genre tropes and nostalgia for the recent past is executed well enough to exceed the sum of its parts (see: the first season of Stranger Things). But after three trite, predictable episodes, I’m not holding out much hope for this one. —Judy Berman

Other Shows Headed to Quibi

The titles below are Quibi’s “daily essentials,” more information-oriented programming covering news, sports, weather and entertainment. Screeners were not provided in advance for these series:

Around the World by BBC News
Weather Today by The Weather Channel
Morning Report by NBC News
Evening Report by NBC News
Saturday Report by NBC News
Sunday Report by NBC News
The Replay by ESPN
NewsDay by CTV
NewsNight by CTV
Sports AM by TSN
Pulso News by Telemundo
For the Cultura by Telemundo
Close Up by E! News
Fresh Daily by Rotten Tomatoes
Speedrun by Polygon
Pop5 by iHeartRadio
No Filter by TMZ: AM
No Filter by TMZ: PM
Last Night’s Late Night
All The Feels by The Dodo
The Daily Chill
The Rachel Hollis Show
Sexology by Shan Boodram
The Nod with Brittany & Eric
Trailers by Fandango

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