Attention is a valuable commodity that is in short supply and Quibi, the latest streaming offering is well aware of this fact. Each show on the network, which is just an app that is confounding to use, is under 10 minutes long—quick bites (Quibi, get it?) featuring a lot of very famous people who will clearly do anything for money. The streaming service debuted in early April, and while I tried to watch many of the offerings for longer than five minutes at a time, I struggled.
The launch of the platform happened to coincide with a global pandemic— a shared moment during which many people have found themselves with a surplus of downtime. But presuming that those people will want to watch a seven-minute scripted television program on their phone places a little too much faith in our collective attention span and also puts a lot of faith in the quality of the content provided. Truthfully, Quibi’s entire premise, from the name to the actual product, sounds like a discarded plot from 30 Rock, and this fact alone makes the work of actually watching the platform’s offerings feel arduous. Never mind the initial nightmare of watching anything longer than three minutes on a telephone; the actual horrors lie within the shows themselves, which are slickly produced and glossy, all the better to hide the fact that what you’re actually watching is just plain bad.
Unlike other short-form content, like the YouTube beauty tutorials I consume with alarming regularity, I never felt the need to fast forward through anything to get to the “good” stuff, whatever that may be. But everything I watched, from Lena Waithe’s weird sneaker show You Ain’t Got These to the reboot of Punk’d was high-quality, surreal garbage, a beautiful sweet spot that appeals to the one audience Quibi should be targeting heavy: stoners.
Sober, Quibi’s offerings bored me, and the only show that managed to hold my attention for its duration was the first episode of Fierce Queens, a nature documentary program narrated by Reese Witherspoon, in which a pair of cheetah sisters teach themselves how to hunt. Much like pizza, any nature documentary is a good nature documentary even if it is seven minutes long and narrated by Reese Witherspoon. I tried watching more than one episode of Dishmantled, a reality cooking competition show hosted by Titus Burgess, and it came close to holding my attention but fell short. Over the span of five minutes, two contestants, blindfolded and dressed in Hazmat suits, allow Burgess to shoot ingredients from a cannon onto their bodies. The contestants then must taste the food they are covered in and make their best approximation of the dish in question. I was entertained, but not enough to watch more, especially on my telephone, a device that I spend most of my waking hours trying to ignore.
However, after consuming a hunk of edible and settling down on the couch to watch something, I turned to Quibi for succor and discovered the platform’s real utility, which is giving people who are high something low-stakes to watch and enjoy. Dummy, a scripted series featuring Anna Kendrick, and a talking sex doll, looked terrible from the trailer I saw a few days before my experiment, but once the weed kicked in, I was something close to transfixed! Murder House Flip, the show that I was the most excited for, did not let me down: a standard home-renovation reality series that renovates homes in which heinous murders occurred. Of all the shows I watched on Quibi, this one would make the most sense to air on actual television, but obviously never would because of the subject material. Each home renovation happens over three or four five-minute episodes, and though it is enjoyable, the brief duration of each episode makes it difficult to feel invested. As an experiment, I watched a few episodes during the workday, sober, and found that the show’s appeal dimmed in the harsh light of day. String these five-minute episodes together into a half-hour show, though, and I would watch this slack-jawed and unmoving from my couch for hours.
Truly, the best show on Quibi is one that is probably meant for stoners, anyway. Let’s Roll with Tony Greenhand is the kind of deranged and semi-coherent programming that I want to watch when I’m high and only when I’m high. Greenhand rolls high-end, custom joints for famous people and his work is unfortunately very impressive. In the first episode, Hannibal Burress enjoys a replica of a Chicago deep-dish pizza that is actually just eight wedge-shaped joints covered in artistic smears of cannabis oil that replicate the gooey pull of melted mozzarella. The show documents his process like those pernicious BuzzFeed Tasty food videos do, but instead of a pancake stuffed inside a roast chicken stuffed inside a turkey, it’s vast handfuls of marijuana sprinkled onto sheets of rolling paper that resemble phyllo dough.
Though the aforementioned food videos produce horrifying end results, the tick-tock cadence of the footage is soothing, and Greenhand’s show follows the same rhythms, with much more satisfying results. The pizza joint was impressive, but the episode featuring comedian Nikki Glaser was by far my favorite. At the top of each show, Greenhand sits down with his customer in a very nice home somewhere in what I assume is California and asks them a few questions to ascertain what sort of joint monstrosity he will make. The result of his briefing with Glaser is the Hightanic, an impressive replica of the Titanic herself that is actually two enormous joints meant to be split down the middle, just like its namesake was. Instead of an iceberg, though, Glaser uses a big knife, cutting the ship down the middle to reveal an intricately layered interior. Both halves of the ship are smokable; simply light the thing with a blowtorch, put your lips around the filter, and inhale. Watching people who are very obviously stoned talk about being stoned is not that exciting, because stoned people are usually only interesting to themselves. But watching Greenhand labor with such care over something so beautifully silly is part of the thrill.
To be clear, most of the shows on Quibi that I watched were bad and would not work on Netflix, Hulu, or any other streaming platform as longer-form content. Though I personally would watch an entire hour of Greenhand making stoner dirtbag high art, I am not sure if this kind of shit would fly anywhere else. But Quibi is an excellent place for experimentation and a truly deranged incubator for bad TV. In a landscape overcrowded with shows elbowing for prestige, it’s nice to let something in that is demonstrably, inarguably bad.