REVIEW

Quibi - short for Quick Bites - is the latest thing for those of us with short attention spans - but are the bites short enough?

A still from Gayme Show, now streaming on Quibi. Picture: Supplied
A still from Gayme Show, now streaming on Quibi. Picture: Supplied

There's a new kid on the Streaming block with the launch this week of Quibi - short for Quick Bites.

This is a fast-moving industry - I only just subscribed to Disney and Apple+ in the past two months and already a competitor is taking them on, but I have to ask myself if I need yet another one?

In an age of lockdowns and self-isolation, as hundreds or thousands of businesses fail around the country, streaming services are a growth industry with a, literally, captive audience for the foreseeable future.

Quibi is the brainchild of Jeffrey Katzenberg, the former Disney CEO who roped his pals David Geffen and Steven Spielberg into starting up Dreamworks, and now with another Disney pal Meg Whitman he invests in another possible industry-disrupting idea.

The idea here, and it's a pretty good one, is that as our collective attention spans shrink, build a service for the device that helped to shrink it (it's only available as an App for phones) that offers well-funded narrative drama in increments of no more than ten minutes. We can all spare ten minutes here and there, right? The five hours it takes to binge Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness is a real commitment.

Quibi offers (are they films? Is it television? Will it be called its own thing? Will Quibi become a verb like Google did?) a dozen new offerings in its opening week, none longer than ten minutes.

I began my inaugural viewing with the documentary NightGowns, hosted by the (deserved) winner of Season Nine of RuPaul's Drag Race, Sasha Velour Fierce. Immediately I notice that in the mobile-phone-based world of Quibi, a 'split-screen' has images on top of each other.

This is part of their 'Turnstyle' technology, where each episode is shot and edited so the viewing experience is equally unique whether you are holding your phone in portrait (vertical) or landscape (horizontal) mode. Usually a film will be inadequately cropped when viewed in portrait mode.

Chrissy Teigan in Chrissy' Court, featured on Quibi. Picture: Quibi

Chrissy Teigan in Chrissy' Court, featured on Quibi. Picture: Quibi

NightGowns unpacks the work Velour Fierce and her collaborator and life-partner Johnny have thrown into a multimedia-augmented stage show they describe as a 'Queer Fantasia.'

At the episode's conclusion Velour-Fierce is in a high-collared gold lame dress throwing shapes while lip-synching to Stevie Nicks' Edge of Seventeen.

The performance is a spectacular use of spotlight and back-screen and as the episode concludes we get a glimpse of the show's bigger cast. I'll be back for more.

Gayme Show is as the name implies, a queer game show where hosts Dave Mizzoni and Matt Rogers ask straight contestants and big-name stars - the first episode features Ilana Glazer from Broad City - to unpack gay culture.

I finally realised what the show was - it's Blankety Blanks - a handful of professionally funny people trying to ad-lib an enjoyable show into shape.

In one segment they have contestants wear Laura Dern's salmon button-down from Jurassic Park. Funny, but not funny enough to make me watch all the way through its whopping 6 minute 51 second run-time.

Chrissy's Court features pop-culture icon Chrissy Teigan as a Judge Judy-type figure. Who is Chrissy Teigan? ask the Boomers. She's a model, a TV host and wife of musician John Legend, but far more famous for taking down presidents and other folk on social media.

The premise is weak but I got a laugh when she says to her famous husband, guest starring as an expert witness, "Can I have one thing to myself, ever?"

Aussie hunk Liam Hemsworth is a dying and desperate husband and father in the narrative series Most Dangerous Game. In episode one, he is given an offer he can't refuse from mysterious businessman Christoph Waltz. This is modern noir with great lighting and an intriguing set-up.

Reece Witherspoon hosts the short-form documentary Fierce Queens about big cats. This is hands-down more brutal than Most Dangerous Game, with a fertile and impregnated Cheetah mother abandoning her two cubs, in the style of old Sunday night Disney natural history features.

Survive showcases Game of Thrones actress Sophie Turner and comes with a viewer discretion warning, which intrigues me. The budget is apparent. There's a few hundred thousand dollars' worth of effects in the first 50 seconds.

Set in a facility for broken youngsters, the characters in the first episode are referred to by their diagnoses - Bipolar, Self-Injury, Intermittent Explosive Disorder, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

It's a sad thing about my own brain programming that, with only 10 minutes to invest, sometimes I felt myself moving to toggle the fast-forward. But for the most part this was an engaging block of programming and encouraging of future offerings.

Quibi is affordable at $12.99 a month with a 90-day free introductory trial period for those that sign up before 30 April - though affordable is a relative term in our current age of job-and-health uncertainty.

This story Quibi is the latest thing for short attention spans - but are the bites short enough? first appeared on The Canberra Times.