What Is Quibi? UPDATE: Quibi Is Dead

TV Features Quibi
What Is Quibi? UPDATE: Quibi Is Dead

Update: Quibi is dead.

It’s easy to look at the massive slate of daily, “quick bite” shows that streaming newbie Quibi is set to launch (with a 90-day free trial period on April 6th), and wonder if it isn’t the final sign that the universe has, indeed, been some failing high school student’s poorly rendered class project all along. Three full months of free, slickly produced, phone-only content, right when the majority of the nation’s population—most of whom have phones, few of whom still have income—are just settling into their state’s pandemic-induced stay-at-home order? Like, sorry to that man (AKA, Quibi founder Jeffrey Katzenberger, and thanks, future Quibi star Keke Palmer, for the quote), but how can that not be fake??

And yet, barring a late April Fools’ reveal, Quibi is entirely real. Launching with 50+ (!) titles that will fall into one of three categories—Movies in Chapters (AKA, scripted series), Unscripted and Docs (AKA, reality and game shows) and Daily Essentials (news, mostly)—and optimized to flip easily between landscape and portrait mode, Quibi is hoping to gain mainstream traction in a short-form space that has, until now, mostly been filled with various indie web series, social media-friendly teenfare and assortedanimateddinguses. What does that mean, in practice? Well, mostly that people like Idris Elba, Chance the Rapper, Lena Waithe, Reese Witherspoon, Sophie Turner, and Christoph Waltz will now be available to you in the same length and format where you previously have watched (or, more likely, still currently do watch) things like The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, SKAM (all incarnations), and The Real Bros of Simi Valley.

In a world already so stuffed with both lo-fi indie web series and traditional big budget streaming content, it’s yet unclear if Quibi will be able to find an audience that wants and/or needs a Frankensteinian mash-up of the two put together, but with such a monstrously long free trial period—and with so much pandemic quarantine time to fill—it will be easy enough to tune in and find out.

Cost: $4.99/mo with ads (or $7.99/mo without), though both prices are technically moot for anyone who signs up before/immediately at launch, as the service is splashing out on free introductory trial period lasts a full 90 (!!!) days to get as many users on board at the start as possible. That’s one full Commonwealth of Virginia Stay-at-Home Order and then some!

Available on: Your smartphone. (And only your smartphone.)

What Makes It Unique: Platform. Launch slate. Trial period. The sheer WTF audacity of most of its unscripted content (and much of its scripted content, too). Literally everything, really, except for its founding premise that short-form stories that are easy to watch on your phone are new—and even then, while things like Betch, Distance, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries and Homestar Runner have been thriving in the short-form streaming space for more than a decade, Quibi is unique in getting so much platinum-grade Hollywood talent to play along.


What to Watch for: Paste’s own Scott Russell already corralled the full list of shows set to premiere when Quibi launches on April 6, but since 50 is a lot of titles to skim through (too many, one might even say), we’ve pulled a few that we’re especially interested in using our personal quarantine time to check out:

When the Streetlights Go On

Category: Movies in Chapters
Quibi tagline: Small town murder in the summer of 1995.
Features: Chosen Jacobs, Sophie Thatcher, Sam Strike, David Lewis, Mark Duplass, Cameron Bancroft, Tony Hale, Beh Ahlers, Kristine Froseth, Queen Latifah

A cross between a Teen TV period drama and a small town murder mystery, this is the “series” that feels the most up Paste TV’s general alley, and the least like it will increase our corona-induced anxiety.

Most Dangerous Game

Category: Movies in Chapters
Quibi tagline: Staying alive comes at a price.
Features: Liam Hemsworth, Christoph Waltz, Sarah Gadon, Zach Cherry, Aaron Poole, Christopher Webster, Billy Burke, Jimmy Akinbola and Natasha Bordizzo

A thriller about the brokenness of the American healthcare system forcing one man to isolate himself for a seemingly impossible amount of time for the health and future of his family? A bit on the nose, sure, but at least it stars a Hemsworth.


Category: Unscripted and Docs
Quibi tagline: World, meet our food cannon.
Features: Titus Burgess (host), with guest judges including Dan Levy, Wolfgang Puck, Jane Krakowski, Antoni Porowski, Rachel Dratch, Roy Choi and more

Look: We are living in increasingly isolated, increasingly chaotic times. If mid-April doesn’t find at least a few of those of us who are lucky enough to just be bored at home during corona-lockdown dreaming of shoving the dregs of our pantries down a comedy cannon, we’ll eat our hats. Or, as Jane Krakowski quips in the trailer above, “I don’t know if this is my favorite cooking show, or all my sexual fantasies coming true.”

Shape of Pasta

Category: Unscripted and Docs
Quibi tagline: He’s uncovering the craft and culture behind some rare and forgotten pasta shapes. We dare you not to drool.
Features: Chef Evan Funke (host)

Alternately, other foodies lucky to be bored at home over the next few months might appreciate spending the time it takes their last box of industrially produced rotini to boil to watch this series of lovingly shot jaunts across the Italian countryside to track down obscure pasta shapes from equally obscure masters of the craft.

The Sauce

Category: Unscripted and Docs
Quibi tagline: Executive Produced and judged by Usher, The Sauce follows dance sensations Ayo & Teo as they explore the unique dance cultures in cities across the U.S.
Features: Ayo & Teo (hosts)

Just in case you’ve mastered all the TikTok dances already, here’s your chance to level up! Well, or at least marvel at all the dancers who do.

Chrissy’s Court

Category: Unscripted and Docs
Quibi tagline: If you thought Chrissy Teigen couldn’t become an actual courtroom judge, you’ve been overruled.
Features: Chrissy Teigen, Pepper Thai

Sure. Why not.

Speedrun by Polygon

Category: Daily Essentials
Quibi tagline: A caffeinated, hyperfast injection of the news that the gaming (and gaming-adjacent) audience craves, with insightful cultural deep dives into the biggest trending topics.
Features: Jimmy Mondal (host)

Sports is (temporarily) dead; long live eSports!

Alexis Gunderson is a TV critic, audiobibliophile and owner of whatisquibi.com. She can be found @AlexisKG.

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