Quibi, the latest entrant in the Streaming Wars, launches on Monday. And because Quibi stands for “quick bites,” here’s a quick-bite review of one Quibi’s quick bites.
“Imagine a world where females call all the shots,” Reese Witherspoon says while seated in a director’s chair. If you saw this out of context, you might think it was a bizarre way for HBO to announce it was working on a third season of Big Little Lies. (One where Andrea Arnold or another female auteur actually had creative control.) But then the actress continues, “Well, it does exist—in a hyena society.” Quibi’s Fierce Queens is what you get by combining Witherspoon’s star power with BBC Studios. In the spirit of the platform, the quickest way to describe the series is to say that it’s a bite-sized, female-centric Planet Earth.
The first three episodes focus on queen ants, cheetahs, and hyenas. Each Witherspoon-narrated installment clocks in at around eight minutes. If you’ve watched any of the BBC’s terrific nature documentaries, Fierce Queens will be familiar—even without Sir David Attenborough. But while the series gets some great footage and throws in some cool facts—I had no clue that female hyenas have a pseudo penis, which is exactly what it sounds like—the feminist platitudes don’t always align with happenings in the animal kingdom.
Fierce Queens would feel a lot less hokey if the series were to let animals’ actions speak for themselves. There’s enough narrative juice in cheetah sisters learning how to hunt on their own for the first time without Witherspoon adding, “Walk tall, fierce queens.” The series is a prime example of a good concept with mediocre execution; it doesn’t help that Witherspoon is phoning in the narration the way 2018-19 LeBron played defense. Still, for all its well-intentioned missteps, at least you can take in Fierce Queens faster than a pseudo penis’d hyena can devour its prey.