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Quibi, day one: This phone-focused TV service really isnt that bad

Enlarge / They want us to pronounce it “kwib-ee.” We're going to pronounce it “kee-bee” to spit..

By admin , in Tech , at April 6, 2020

Enlarge / They want us to pronounce it "kwib-ee." We're going to pronounce it "kee-bee" to spite them. But silly as the name is, the service isn't that bad.Quibi

If you're a frequent TV watcher, you may have noticed a significant change in daily and weekly series over the past month. TV crews have scrambled in the face of coronavirus shutdowns to generate content without their usual tools or studios, and, gosh, it's been sloppy. The results from most major networks have featured problems with lighting, microphones, camera resolutions, and editing across the board as hosts transition to filming themselves from home.

Even as of press time, many of these shows still feature awkward pauses and silences, not to mention grainy, compression-filled video feeds captured from online chat platforms. It seems like networks don't know what to do in a world where "social distancing" means not taping in front of a live studio audience, and the results look quite bad compared to home-filmmaker stars on YouTube. Major TV networks have long been accused of not understanding the streaming landscape, and that accusation has rung all the more true recently.

Which brings us to the latest streaming-exclusive service: Quibi. Unlike most other streaming services of the past few years, which have largely battled over which classic TV exclusives they can secure, this one has been built out of new, celeb-filled series with one thing in common: the "mini-sode" concept. Every Quibi video clocks in at 10 minutes or less.

We know: there are serious questions here, and the most important one is, doesn't a ridiculous acronym immediately disqualify any upstart service? (If that's the start and end of this review for you, we don't blame you.) But in an era where TV as we know it is changing before our very eyes, this new service's long-in-the-works experiment has shown up with serendipity on its side. Quibi may not be for you, and I went into its preview catalog utterly skeptical. But I came out of it surprised by how charming its scattershot launch lineup has mostly turned out to be.

But hold on, WTF is a "Quibi," anyway?

Get your barf bags ready. Quibi is the result of two words squished together: "quick bite." Yeah, okay, hold on, erp, oof, hrm… gulp. Okay, I can keep it together here. I hate that word combination for a few reasons, but most importantly because it undersells the platform's biggest success.

The public sales pitch of "quick bite" television sounds like a slew of fast-forwarded throwaway videos, perhaps full of bad production values and clickbait concepts. Sure enough, one of the platform's launch series has come up in Ars Technica's TV-review chat channel quite a bit in the past few weeks, though not necessarily for good reasons. We've privately poked fun at Murder House Flip, which revolves around homes that are infamous for murders and crimes… and then having decorators swoop in and fix the homes up. All in nine minutes or less!

My assumptions got worse when I looked at the series list, which arrived without any explanations. "Gayme Show." "Memory Hole, Hosted by Will Arnett." "Cup of Joe, featuring Joe Jonas." Ugh.

Once I got access to Quibi's launch slate, as shared in a dump of video files in a Web browser (as opposed to the official Quibi app), I came to realize what was really going on here. Quibi isn't an attempt to dumb down television by shrinking full episodes into tiny, moronic chunks. No, Quibi plays out more like something surprising: a grown-up version of Sesame Street.

The MTV of old, only shorter and gayer

  • Quibi's press preview selection was presented in a funky way: with portrait and landscape orientations side-by-side. Should you watch Quibi series on a smartphone, you'll see entirely different edits depending on how you hold your phone. Here's Most Dangerous Game's selective focus on Christoph Waltz in one scene.
  • The surprisingly funny Culture Hole places its retrospective, picture-in-picture bits based on how you orient your screen.
  • Some moments have entirely different footage based on screen orientation, like Survive starring Sophie Turner (Game of Thrones).
  • Other series' orientation differences are more subtle, like in Murder House Flip. That's where the bodies were buried, if you're wondering.
  • A different zoom for comedic effect in Flipped.
  • Dance moves appear different based on screen orientation in The Sauce.

That's not to say Quibi has some gang of friendly faces stitching concepts together with a letter of the day. Rather, its series producers all got the memo to follow the pacing of an average Sesame Street "short," which, as you may recall, lands somewhere between "a Muppet hangs out with a little kid to learn and reinforce a silly lesson" and "a camera crew follows someone around in their real lives and takes their minutiae seriously."

Take The Shape of Pasta. In this series of miniature documentaries, a chef travels to remote corners of Italy to learn about forgotten pasta-making techniques, usually tucked away in small villages as passed down from generation to generation. It's a cute hook to see parts of Italy you might never otherwise care about, and its three episodes' pasta lessons are actually pretty appetizing stuff. By going with a weirdly specific premise, The Shape of Pasta avoids feeling like another freakin' TV cooking series. Each eight-minute chunk allows you to get into a region, see its history, see its one prestige dish, and get the heck out.

Or let's go with Gayme Show, which sarcastically pits two straight comedians against each other in a mix of trivia questions and flamboyant dance-offs. This would have worn me out in a 22-minute format, but condensing this over-the-top, gay-as-hell comedy show into eight-minute blasts means we get it all: laughs every minute and an exit when the time is right.

Time after time, I found myself clicking on things I never would have bothered watching, like a docu-series about concert production staffers or quick-hit dance-offs between street dance crews or mini-sodes about up-and-coming high school athletes, and comiRead More – Source

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