April 6 saw the launch of Quibi—a streaming service of “quick bite” videos, most of them under 10 minutes in length, intended to be consumed on a phone or similar device. (The very name of the service is derived from “quick” and “bites.”) But unlike other streamers, Quibi launched with little in the way of marquee content—no known franchises, no baby Yoda—and unlike the similarly brief videos of YouTube or TikTok, watching Quibi clips will cost you $5-$8 per month, after a free 90-day introduction.
Quibi’s launch underwhelmed—the app was downloaded just 300,000 times on its first day, while Disney+ saw 4 million downloads in the same time frame—and critics savaged its programming: Mike Hale of The New York Times called Quibi’s programming “a failure of imagination” and lamented “how agonizingly long eight or nine minutes of television can feel when it’s tying up your smartphone.”
Another reason Quibi fails is because we already have YouTube, and it’s free. Sure, we can bump up to YouTube Premium for $12 monthly and enjoy its benefits—no ads, a Spotify-size music streaming service, a middling sequel to The Karate Kid—but even if we don’t, we still get thousands upon thousands of hours of original programming, music videos, old commercials, you-are-there roller-coaster rides, pets doing adorable stuff and a moving-target assortment of pirated movie and television clips.
Before you shell out for Quibi, consider snacking on some of these YouTube channels—all of them eclectic in content and almost completely influencer-free.
Video essayist Evan Puschak does what a cultural critic should: Using research and hard-won intuition, he successfully articulates his response to a piece of art. And his interests are wide-ranging. His YouTube essays have included deep dives on painter Andrew Wyeth, fidget spinners, Anthony Hopkins’ performance in Westworld, Nirvana’s “Polly” and poet Emily Dickinson. If you watch no other channels on this list, watch this one. youtube.com/nerdwriter1
Merge Don Hertzfeldt, Jenny Holzer and Thundercat and you might get someone a little bit like Bill Wurtz. His History of the Entire World I Guess is a must-see—millions of years of history crammed into 19 minutes, replete with fascinating facts, pithy comments and Drunk-like jazzy interludes. Most of his other clips are short word plays, few longer than 10 seconds. Weirdly cool and coolly weird. youtube.com/billwurtz
YouTube is chockablock with geeks like Nicholson, who are only too happy to tell you precisely why The Rise of Skywalker sucked. (I, um, liked it.) But Nicholson stands head and shoulders above those mooks for two reasons: Her responses come from an informed place, and she’s funny as hell. (Start with her “Suicide Squad Sales Pitch.”) Discover why one of Nicholson’s fans describes her as “the biggest amalgam of cynicism and childlike wonder.” youtube.com/jennyenicholson
Speed drives by Barbiepoledancer
Her bio’s blank, so I have no idea why the producer of this channel drives as much as she does—San Franscisco to Reno, Milwaukee to Seattle, Las Vegas to Anchorage. What I do know is she posts captivating time-lapse videos of those drives, so the Vegas-to-Anchorage trip takes only six hours. Put it on the TV in the background and blast your favorite road music. youtube.com/barbiepoledancer
Miss roller coasters and theme parks? This channel’s jam-packed with high-definition, low-light videos of dozens of rides and attractions around the world, from Dubai to Disneyland. Careful you don’t spoil yourself with the ones you haven’t tried yet. The world has to reopen sometime. youtube.com/socalattractions360