TV

I Am The Only Person On The Planet Who Really Liked Quibi

Quibi, the demented short-form streaming service that today announced it is shutting down, was secretly brilliant.

Quibi

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Earlier today the news broke that Quibi, a short-form streaming service optimised for the mobile phone, was to be shut down. For most human beings on the planet, this was an opportunity to crack a few jokes, or to force oneself to remember what Quibi actually is. But for me, the One Person Who Likes Quibi, it was a dark day I had long been dreading.

See, over the last few months, I have become, to my very genuine surprise, A Quibi Stan. This love is not ironic, or contrarian, though I wish it was — that would, at the very least, be a comprehendible position for one to adopt. Instead, I have found myself in the absolutely baffling habit of watching the streaming service pretty much every night, as I’m falling asleep. And enjoying it.

Which not only means that I’m consuming more Quibi Content — or Qontent, as I call it — than literally anyone else on the planet, including, presumably, many of the people who are responsible for inventing Quibi. It means that I’m consuming Qontent in precisely the way that it was designed to be consumed. I have become, against the odds, the platonic ideal of a Quibi-Head.

If there were like, at least a couple more people who also loved Quibi in this precise way — even just a hundred — the streaming service would be slightly less of a laughing stock. As it is, there’s only me and this app that I love, both of us locked in this doomed, sad romance, my affection never strong enough to save it from its fate.

This Is All Sam Raimi’s Fault

Like most people, I first heard about the streaming service when clips of Rachel Brosnahan sobbing over a golden arm started going viral on Twitter. That scene, taken from an episode of Quibi’s 50 States of Fright, quickly became a meme, laughed at for its ridiculously heightened tone. More than anything, it seemed like a show that didn’t actually exist — a fake movie-within-a-movie, nestled in an Aaron Sorkin drama about a failing screenwriter.

I laughed too. And then I discovered who directed it: Sam Raimi, the director of cult horror classics The Evil Dead and Darkman, some of my most beloved movies. Raimi hasn’t made a movie in years — I had been starved of his content for too long. So I made a Quibi account — which, if you live in Australia, is totally free — and started watching, with the mind to only get through that one show. Which is how they get you.

Or, actually, it isn’t. That’s Quibi’s whole problem — there’s no getting going on. But at the very least, that’s how they got me. Because I found not only that I enjoyed 50 States of Fright, which combines the slick, saturated look of early X-Files episodes with enjoyably kooky melodrama and oodles of cartoonish violence, but also that I enjoyed the “quick bites” that the streaming service provides.

I am aware that i’m already starting to sound like a cult member. But I’m currently completing my honours degree, which means I’m tired and stressed frequently, sapped of the attention required to re-watch even old episodes of some of my favourite shows. Before Quibi, that meant I’d fall asleep to garbage YouTube explainers of drama concerning people I didn’t even know. After Quibi, I’d fall asleep to frequently artfully made content starring some of the most famous people on the planet.

The shows were mindless without making me feel stupid, or insulted. And some of them were genuinely engaging. In the last few weeks, I had even begun, insanely, to watch Quibi while walking to university, glued to my phone. Which means, had I accidentally stepped in front of a car while watching a Most Dangerous Game remake starring Christoph Waltz, Quibi’s viewership numbers would have been slashed by at least a third, and this inevitable end to the platform might have come about sooner.

Turns Out If You Give Interesting People Lots of Money, They Make Good Content

By now, having spent many weeks trying to convince people that Quibi Is Good, I have learned that rattling off real shows that exist on the platform makes you sound like a Keyser Soze-esque liar, scrolling through your timeline and trying sweatily to make up fictions based off the people and stories that crop up — “it’s uhh, a soft Judge Judy remake starring Chrissy Teigen” or “it’s a Die Hard-style game show starring Kevin Hart.”

So you will just have to trust me when I say that yes, Die Hart exists, and it’s actually reasonably funny, if a little repetitive. And, if I can stretch your credulity even further, I’d like to emphasise that Die Hart isn’t even the weirdest show Quibi has to offer.

There’s also The Stranger, an Uber driver thriller starring Dane Dehaan that’s stylishly directed and genuinely tense. There’s Dummy, a sex doll buddy comedy starring Anna Kendrick and based in part on the life of Rick and Morty creator Dan Harmon that peters out around episode three, but has some pretty excellent jokes. Oh, and then there’s Don’t Look Deeper, a young adult show in the vein of Twilight written by one-time famous YouTuber Charlieissocoollike about a dystopian future in which superpowered teens must fight their way to freedom.

And, perhaps most bafflingly at all, there’s Your Daily Horoscope, which — like it says on the tin — is a daily horoscope reading, delivered in the form of minute-long episodes of an animated workplace situational comedy in which the star signs are gender non-conforming slackers who complain about each other direct to camera. No. Seriously.

Then there are the shows that are less complex, but no less involving. Indeed, my three favourite Quibi shows might be the easiest to explain: along with aforementioned portmanteau horror series 50 States of Fright, there’s also a genuinely hilarious Reno 911 reboot, and a pregnancy horror thriller called The Expecting.

Reno 911 is, for instance, probably the single funniest piece of content I’ve watched this year. Following a group of cops who must respond to everything from the phone calls of racist Karens to chaotic shoot-outs, it’s a brilliant social satire, first and foremost — the officers are all a bunch of idiots who must start their morning briefings rattling off the corporate sponsorships they’ve sold out for, reading ads for companies with gonzo names like “Soup Gorilla”. Picture Brooklyn 99 but stranger, meaner and more unhinged and you’re bang on the money.

The opening joke of the very first episode, which I won’t spoil, manages to be both timely, and deeply absurd; it hooked me from the get-go. I lay there in bed laughing throughout, which proved embarrassing when my partner woke up and asked me what was going on, forcing me to whip out my handy powerpoint and start the Quibi story from the very beginning.

Quibi Is Good, Actually

Quibi is demented, certainly. I’m not arguing with that. Quite the opposite — Quibi being demented is what makes it so bloody fun. Some nights, when stumbling across a new, bizarre show, I felt like the app was a secret whispered between only me and the universe.

This is because Quibi’s unique selling point is its niche appeal: the guiding goal of the service is to make a show for every single kind of person, no matter how specific their interests. As it turns out, that’s a bad business model if you want to make money, but a really good one if you want to build a universe of absurd content. After all, even if you’re not interested in a lady from Vox calmly explaining to you how to tell whether an egg has gone rotten without cracking its shell, it’s fun to sit there, slack-jawed, and imagine who might be.

It’s also genuinely rather refreshing to see a service aiming for the unique, given so many other entertainment giants are trying for the total opposite model. While the content behemoths try to scoop up the most viewers possible by grinding off the edges of beloved cultural properties from the ’80s and ’90s, Quibi tried, in its own lopsided way, to be an original.

I understand, at this stage, it sounds like I am either: A) a corporate shill who has been paid to write this story, possibly in nickels that have fallen behind the couch, by the folks at Quibi, or B) the man in the bar with the distant gaze who gets you involved in a long, tiresome conversation in a droney voice and who might be armed. This is because watching Quibi turns you into a kind of dread witness, an Ancient Mariner, only instead of sea murder you have sat through a choose-your-own adventure style thriller produced by Steven “Ocean’s 11” Soderbergh.

I do not hope to save Quibi. Obviously, that is beyond my powers at this stage. The damage has been done. The press is too bad; the platform’s reputation is in tatters. All I can do is spend the next few weeks trying to get through as much of the content as I can, and hope that it gets preserved, one way or the other.

As to the aim of this article, I suppose all I hope is that one of you — just one of you — might read this article, download Quibi and confirm to me that I have not just been living in a fever dream these last few weeks, lying in bed, staring at the blank screen of my phone, hallucinating an Iraq Veteran hostage drama starring Laurence Fishburne.

Or, more than that, I hope that you might watch said Iraq Veteran hostage drama, FreeRayshawn, streaming — at least for now — on Quibi, and, like me, actually enjoy it.


Joseph Earp is a staff writer at Junkee. He tweets @JosephOEarp.