Quibi’s latest offering, WIRELESS, isn’t going to save the sinking streaming service.
Executive produced by Steven Soderbergh, and created and written by Jack Seidman and Zach Wechter, WIRELESS — which is really a movie masquerading as a 10-part show — focuses on college student Andy Braddock (in a committed performance by Tye Sheridan) trying to survive in the snowy Rocky Mountains after he crashes his car.
The show lives up to its tagline of a “suspense thriller like no other,” but not in the way I imagine Jeffrey Katzenberg, the founder of Quibi, is hoping for. For those of you, who have understandably forgotten about the streaming platform, it delivers short-form episodes, designed exclusively for phones and tablets, in 10 minutes or less. Since its launch on April 6, it’s gotten off to a disastrous start, both commercially and critically.
In an attempt to address “a gap in traditional storytelling,” the thriller is filmed in a unique format, with a smartphone playing a central role in the story. Vertically, the viewer sees only Andy’s iPhone screen, horizontally, it goes back to traditional storytelling. Yet, unique doesn’t always mean a good thing.
The novel format forces you to go back and forth between the two orientations in order to obtain the complete picture. Watching exclusively in landscape, you’re missing out on crucial information needed to understand the plot. In portrait mode, you’re stuck staring at an iPhone screen with few glimpses at the real world. While cool in theory, the dual-perspective storytelling does nothing more than annoy. (The constant shaking I also had to do to get my iPhone to switch between formats simply hurt my wrist by the end).
Seidman and Wechter’s desire to offer audiences something new is certainly admirable, however, the format serves no purpose other than giving its creators a challenge, while simultaneously being a great gimmick for Quibi to draw attention to its platform.
The show’s plot and protagonist are poorly written and confounding too. Seidman and Wechter have created a sequence of contrived events to get Andy from point A to point B, and the writing strains to make his poor decisions seem plausible. Andy’s backstory comes across like an afterthought put shoddily together in service of a suspense thriller, and not the other way around.
Episode two, for example, has Andy reactivating his Tinder profile while driving in the snow because his friend said he should get himself laid to get over an ex. But couldn’t Andy have found someone at the New Year Eve’s party he was going to? It’s obvious this plot point is necessary — for a ridiculous future storyline — as he is never going to make it to the party and the phone has to play a starring role. There are similar issues with the storyline involving his mom and phone in another episode.
(On a side note, how does Andy, though drinking, never think to turn on Low Power Mode to prolong his iPhone’s battery life? I don’t know anyone who doesn’t remember to do that, even crazy drunk. Maybe that’s just me. )
Wechter previously stated that part of the intention of WIRELESS is to examine the character’s relationship with his phone, adding, “it’s a personal drama in that way, that I think is acknowledging a new relationship that we all have in our lives.” But it has nothing revelatory to say about that relationship, and ultimately, the show fails to give a good reason for its existence.
WIRELESS is must-see TV only for those who need reminding of the dangers of driving drunk and distracted by your phone. If you’re going to spend time with anyone’s phone, it should be yours. You’ll be far more entertained.
WIRELESS premiered exclusively on Quibi on September 14, 2020.