A few months ago—months that now feel like years—no one had ever heard of Quibi. But after former Disney and Dreamworks exec Jeffrey Katzenberg raised $1 billion for his passion project—a short-form subscription-based streaming platform optimized for mobile-only viewing—the celebs started sniffing around. And then they signed on. Chrissy Teigen. Idris Elba. Jennifer Lopez. Laura Dern. Nicole Ritchie. LeBron James. Demi Lovato. Liam Hemsworth. Sophie Turner and Joe Jonas. And, wouldn’t you know, people started paying attention.
Now, Quibi is finally releasing its first cache of “quick bites” (get it, Qui-Bi?), which each run for ten minutes or less. The shows hit every possible genre: reality, documentary, comedy, drama, news, talk, game show, and more. They’re split into three categories: Movies in Chapters; Unscripted Series and Docs; and Daily Essentials, which break down the day’s current events. New episodes are released daily, with a flood of additional content set to release over the coming months. To watch, simply download the Quibi app at the Apple App Store or Google Play Store. The service is offering a 90-day free trial through April and will then charge $4.99 per month or $7.99 for an ad-free experience.
Quibi promises roughly three hours of new content every day. We know that’s a lot to watch, and truth be told, not all of it is worth your time. But several of Quibi’s programs really feel like something we’ve never seen before—rich, inventive, and easier than ever to watch. Below, we break down the best new shows hitting Quibi this month.
When the Street Lights Go On
This creeping murder-mystery drama has been a long time coming. Originally written as a feature-length film then repackaged as a television series, producers failed to leap on this hidden gem, according to Entertainment Weekly—that is, until Quibi came along. Quibi rewrote the series, hired a new cast, and transformed a tired pilot into a stirring coming-of-age story set in the scorching summer of 1995. Chosen Jacobs stars as narrator Charlie, a young boy who discovers two dead bodies in the woods of his Illinois town and realizes they're his English teacher and a popular schoolmate. This series immediately drew me in, and I’m hoping it continues to handle its tricky subject matter with precision.
Sophie Turner's finally back on our screens after Game of Thrones wrapped last year, and she's still Queen in the North. Survive finds her character Jane awakening from a catastrophic plane crash in the frigid middle of nowhere, with no one or nothing around except for a sole fellow survivor (a fantastic Corey Hawkins). The show opens with a trigger warning for disturbing depictions of mental health issues and suicidal thoughts, which Turner conveys with the stirring rawness and subtle fortitude we've come to expect from her. Survive is not nearly as simple as its title suggests; the short episodes pack a startling, sometimes unbearable emotional punch.
We’ve all scoffed at bad designer remodels on HGTV (enough with the open-concept!), but we’d probably sing a different tune if we had to do the thing ourselves. Endearing oddballs Cricket and Yan (Kaitlin Olson and Will Forte, respectively) get the chance when they both lose their jobs (again) and sign up for a house-flipping competition they hope will lead to their own TV show. Things get hilariously sticky when a drug cartel kidnaps the couple and forces them to earn their freedom…by renovating their mansions. This quirky, clever comedy does so much in its short run time, and it's an absolute delight.
I never thought I’d be so happy to see Nicole Richie on my screen again. Every second of this comedy is so intoxicatingly absurd, it feels tailor-made for our times. The premise is nonsensical: Nicole Richie wants a playlist for her garden but realizes that’s music only she can make. She pitches a record for "plants, people, kids, bees, ladyboys, astronauts, and cowgirls;" her target audience is "interspecies human-fluid." She calls the resulting genre “Parent Trap”—that is, trap music for parents, plants, and, uh, Virgos. “Why should I be deprived of having bass flowing through my body just because my peak time is 9 a.m.?” she asks. Why indeed. Her answer is alter-ego Nikki Fre$h, a rapper on a holistic mission to make all of us shake our heads in disbelief.
If I could throw a dinner party for any five celebrities, you can bet LeBron James would make the list. But the best thing about his Quibi project is that it’s not actually about him—it’s about his I Promise School, a public school serving at-risk kids in his hometown of Akron, Ohio, that selects students based on a lottery rather than merit. The school’s mission: Close the achievement gap. This Quibi series is as enlightening as it is inspiring, but it never leans too heavy on the sentimental, choosing instead to highlight the difficulties of such a lofty goal. It’s sweet but raw, cementing the reality that education changes everything.
Murder House Flip
I am not one for haunted houses. (I've been to two and had to quit both early on.) But haunted-house renovation projects? I can get on board with that. In this HGTV-like series, a design team renovates a home where something's gone down—murder, tragedy, weird bumps in the night, you name it—and flips those ghost-filled walls from fearsome to fab. Duo Mikel Welch and Joelle Uzyel bring in therapists, psychic mediums, and the good ol' sledgehammer to get the job done. Fans of true crime and kitchen backsplash are sure to have a blast.
ESPN might have mastered the sports documentary with its 30 for 30 series, but there’s something decidedly fresh about these super-short glimpses into the lives of eight under-21 athletes, including basketball superstar Jaden Green, snowboarder Red Gerard, and boxer Chantel Navarro. Soccer hero Megan Rapinoe serves as host; come for the gorgeous cinematography, stay for the wise exploration of what’s it like growing up under the spotlight.
You Ain't Got These
I'm not convinced we can still call sneaker culture a "subculture" given how it's permeated the mainstream, and perhaps that's entirely the point of You Ain't Got These. The Lena Waithe-produced unscripted series explores how sneakers and social issues intertwine; each episode cleverly explores the way race, class, gender, identity, addiction, and pride transform a shoe into a sneaker, a status symbol and a form of self-expression. Waithe herself is a sneakerhead—the Hollywood Reporter writes she has more than 100 pairs—so it's no surprise this is such a smart, well-crafted watch.
You know and love her from Twitter, but it turns out Chrissy Teigen is just as comfortable with a gavel as she is a smartphone. In this riff on solve-my-argument-for-me court shows like Judge Judy, Teigen mediates a conflict between defendant and plaintiff, then decides who’s in the right. As the most “unqualified” judge ever, she’s a great quipper, even if the conflicts themselves are a little stale. (A fight over a bad birthday gift? Really?). Still, adorable appearances by Teigen’s mother, husband and children redeem the show from any lackluster moments.
With its entrancing visual effects and camera technique, The Sauce capitalizes on the virality of internet dance sensations by bringing teams from across the country head to head. They’re judged on control, technique and emotion, but you’ll find yourself more impressed by the maneuvers than worried about the battle’s outcome. Dance duo Ayo & Teo host and Usher hops in to help judge and produce this energizing, effortlessly cool competition.
Chance the Rapper is the new host of this MTV reboot, which is just as dumb and delightful as it was in the early aughts. Like junk food for your eyes, Punk’d hooks you on watching poor, clueless celebs like Megan Thee Stallion get dunked on by Chance himself. The series doesn’t dare reinvent the wheel, but then again, that was never really necessary, was it?
Meet Quibi's form of RuPaul's Drag Race, produced by former Drag Race winner Sasha Velour. You don't need me to tell you this series is a dramatic delight—just look at the photo—but what you do need to know is this is the moment Sasha Velour deserves. Spotlighting underrepresented forms of drag, Nightgowns is a television adaptation of her famous Brooklyn revue and uses each episode to hone in on a member of its ensemble as they assemble a truly hair-raising performance. Don't dare look away.
Premieres April 20
If you need further evidence that Quibi likes to invest in the wacky, try this summary on for size: Cody (Anna Kendrick) is an aspiring writer suffering from writer's block, and to cure it, she befriends her boyfriend's inanimate sex doll (Meredith Hagner), Barbara, whom only Cody can hear. Cody takes Barbara home with her, and the two become…friends? Co-workers? Let's not stumble on the semantics. Suffice it to say: Kendrick is back in her element, and for all its absurdity, this comedy delivers the goods.
Premieres April 27
Cup of Joe
Quibi gave us Sophie Turner, so it's no shock Joe Jonas isn't far behind. In this eight-part travelogue, Joe's on a mission to explore the cities he's only seen from tour buses and airplanes. Meeting a celebrity at each destination, from Turner and his brothers (!!!) to Matthew McConaughey, Joe may not have the worldly wisdom of Anthony Bourdain and the like, but he's no less a charming host.
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