NOEL KING, HOST:
A new streaming service is launching today. It's called Quibi, and it's designed specifically for you to watch on your phone. It's going to release shows once a day in seven-to-10-minute chunks. Glen Weldon from NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour checked it out.
GLEN WELDON, BYLINE: The shows that Quibi made available to the press before its launch fall into two categories - fiction, which Quibi calls Movies in Chapters, and nonfiction, which is basically game shows and documentaries. First up - Movies in Chapters. Liam Hemsworth plays a dying man who volunteers to be hunted for sport so he can leave his family millions of dollars in "Most Dangerous Game."
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "MOST DANGEROUS GAME")
LIAM HEMSWORTH: (As Dodge) You'd want them to hunt me, like paintball?
WELDON: No, not like paintball. "When The Streetlights Go On" is an atmospheric thriller about a small town's seamy underbelly - you know, adultery, corruption, murder, overwritten voiceover.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "WHEN THE STREETLIGHTS GO ON")
CHOSEN JACOBS: (As Charlie Chambers) But the spark of youth and vitality that Chrissy exhibited so loudly and proudly in life was gone.
WELDON: In "Survive," "Game Of Thrones" Sophie Turner plays a suicidal woman forced to fight for her life when - well, don't watch that one on a plane, put it that way. And if you do watch it on your phone, just know that a lot of early scenes are so darkly lit, you won't see much but your own reflection on the screen. The standout here, though, is "Flipped," a biting comedy in which Will Forte and Kaitlin Olson play a couple of self-important jerks determined to become home improvement television stars.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "FLIPPED")
WILL FORTE: (As Jann Melfi) Do you have your color palette yet?
KAITLIN OLSON: (As Cricket Melfi) Tiffany Connelly (ph) would say burnt sienna and custard.
FORTE: (As Jann Melfi) Hack.
OLSON: (As Cricket Melfi) But it's clearly sage - sage and tawny umber (ph).
WELDON: Quibi calls these Movies in Chapters, but these episodes don't play like satisfying self-contained chapters. They don't end. They just stop. Even if you wait a few days so you can binge a bunch at a time, they still feel disjointed, like you're watching a movie and keep getting interrupted, which is why Quibi's selection of unscripted and documentary shows is more successful. Here, for the most part, each episode stands alone and delivers, even if what it's delivering is pretty stupid.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "DISHMANTLED")
TITUSS BURGESS: Whoever makes a dish closest to what exploded on them wins $5,000.
WELDON: Yeah. You heard that right. On "Dishmantled," two blindfolded chefs stand in front of cannons that fire a mystery entree in their faces, which they must then taste, guess and recreate. It's just as dumb as it sounds - dumber even. But it knows that, and as a result, it's pretty fun. I mean, the food explodes in slow motion.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "DISHMANTLED")
BURGESS: Let's get dishmantled.
WELDON: That kind of silly self-awareness is the secret ingredient in a lot of Quibi's unscripted fare, like "Gayme Show." That's G-A-Y-M-E because it features two straight men in a competition to be crowned the most gay by a panel of queer and queer-adjacent judges.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "GAYME SHOW")
DAVE MIZZONI: Demi Lovato, everyone.
MATT ROGERS: Yes, Demi Lovato. Of course, Demi Lovato is the gay aloha.
MIZZONI: It means both hello and goodbye.
WELDON: It's light, frothy, clever and because its contestants, judges and hosts all come from the New York and LA comedy scenes, it's friendly and funny. There's more serious fare here, too, in the gorgeously shot travel and cooking series the "Shape Of Pasta." A chef visits tiny towns in Italy to learn about, well, it's right there in the title.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "SHAPE OF PASTA")
EVAN FUNKE: It's been said that there are hundreds of documented pasta shapes known to the world. But there are hundreds more that the world doesn't know.
WELDON: Reese Witherspoon narrates "Fierce Queens," a nature documentary series that focuses on the female half of the animal kingdom. The footage is spectacular. The script could use another pass.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "FIERCE QUEENS")
REESE WITHERSPOON: Finally, all their hard graft and persistence has come good.
WELDON: Quibi launches today with 50 shows with 125 more on the way. The selections are a mixed bag. How could they not be? After the free trial period, it'll cost you $4.99 a month with ads and $7.99 a month without - really? - ads on an eight-minute show. Of course, Quibi's business model was built for a world full of busy, distracted, on-the-go consumers. But these days, none of us are on the going anywhere. Glen Weldon, NPR News.
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