A year ago to this day, television changed forever. Youth culture was revolutionized by a man who printed out his emails and a printing magnate turned failed gubernatorial candidate. That’s right. Quibi was launched.
The only service that asked the question “What if YouTube, but with inexplicably famous celebrities, and you had to pay for it?” The only service that created a show in which they flipped houses where horrific crimes took place, except instead of flipping the house, they just tore up the real grass and installed a bunch of turf grass. The only service that created the Golden Arm.
Quibi was launched on April 6, 2020, to instant scorn, mockery, and disdain. Many people made fun of it. None of those people actually subscribed. The writings of Quibi’s failures have been manifold, and you could read one of the many articles about it, or the header and comments for this year’s Peely Awards, to read about the TurnStyle technology or the poorly paced structure of most of the shows or the constant drama that took place in the offices. They were the only service that gave you your horoscope every day, and they promoted it!
Around six months ago, several Quibi shows were uploaded to the internet, and I showed them on Tutturu. We ended up watching 34 Quibi pilots and about 8 complete shows (most Quibi shows were under 90 minutes in total, and only a few exceeded 2 hours.) Most of the shows were bad, but what was more unique was how pointless they were. I love talking about Quibi, but even I can acknowledge that, at the end of the day, Quibi never mattered. As Emily VanDerWerff puts it in her Vox review on Quibi, written exactly one year ago:
“My point is that the reason Quibi has been covered so heavily has little to do with its ideas (which are paltry) or its programming (which is bad) or its business model (which is basically the same as every other streaming business model). The reason Quibi has been covered so heavily is that a lot of money has been sunk into it, and the people who started the service have previously made lots of money doing other things. Therefore, it must be important, because a capitalist society assigns value in terms of dollars.
I am aware that I am part of the problem. Look how many words I’ve written about Quibi, a service I clearly don’t like. That’s because I know there will be Quibi ads everywhere, and I know that enough people will say, “What’s Quibi?” and click on this article to find the answer. That’s the way the system works.
But it’s also a system that is so frequently hijacked by money as to have become functionally meaningless. In a world where news and entertainment moved at a rate slower than hyperspeed, I might have found a way to write about Quibi six months from now, after it had some time to settle in and become a part of some people’s lives. But in this world, the window of attention for Quibi is right now, and so here is this article.”
She’s right. Quibi wouldn’t have existed if it were not so inexplicably star-studded, and I would not have cared about it if it were not so inexplicably star-studded. But sometimes, something as disastrous and as fascinating as Quibi develops its own sort of cultural staying power.
Quibi dissolved last December, literally as fast as it could. (When they announced they would shut down on December 1, I assumed they would shut down at midnight PST; yet they shut down on Greenwich Mean Time eight hours earlier.) However, that hasn’t meant I’ve stopped thinking about it. Maybe that’s just because I watched roughly sixteen hours of Quibi content with friends, but I still think about Quibi. About how there was a doghouse designing show called “Barkitecture.” About how it was nominated for ten Emmys and won three, exclusively in the very limited “short-form” section. About how Jeffrey Katzenberg played an inspirational song from Trolls to lift people’s spirits only a few minutes after he told them they were all fired.
So much of Quibi has a terrible reputation. I certainly haven’t helped. And yet, Quibi was almost completely worth it, if only for Mapleworth Murders.
Mapleworth Murders is great. It’s incredible. Paula Pell and John Lutz created a Murder, She Wrote parody with a giant number of stars that only gets funnier and weirder every episode. It’s one of my favorite TV shows of 2020, and if the failures and follies of Quibi were necessary to make it real, it’s totally worth it. With only twelve nine-minute episodes, there needs to be more, and it needs to be renewed. With news that Quibi TV shows are soon going to become the first Roku Originals (streaming never ends), I’m hoping that they’ll get a second season as soon as possible. Please watch it, and as you do so, raise your glass to the streaming service that barely existed in time, yet will continue to exist in our hearts.
(Also, thank Sloot for “Requibiem for a Dream,” as I wanted to call this “Quiblbilly Elegy.”)