In a world where people dash around crowded cities, slow TV is an oasis for the minds of the modern world. Essentially a reverse of the instant gratification of reality TV and 24-hour news shows, it focuses on a singular topic and explores it in real time.
Slow TV has its roots in an experimental film by Andy Warhol in 1963 where he captured a poet sleeping for more than 5 hours. It was reignited by the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation in 2009 with a seven-hour Norwegian programme ‘Bergensbanen’ – a minute by minute video capture of a train journey across Southern Norway. An average of 20% of the country’s population tuned in for the show which led to further films being commissioned. The next landmark film was ‘Hurtigruten minute by minute’ – a coastal voyage from Bergen to Kirkenes which was 137 hours long (A Guinness record for length of film) with more than half the country tuning in, making it a remarkable success with international fanfare and adoption.
Over the last decade, creators have explored everything from watching a log burn for Christmas, floating down canals, train journeys, following the reindeer migration, knitting and even watching sheep graze peacefully. The concept recently made an appearance in New Zealand with ‘Go South’ a Prime TV programme taking viewers on a 12-hour journey from Auckland to Milford Sound.
The slow TV concept works because of its sheer contrast to our busy lives, it’s a chance to slow down and immerse in something that few other kinds of modern entertainment allow. A sensory escape of sorts, watching things as they unfold in their own time is strangely absorbing and relaxing. Whether you are watching a landscape unfold or starting at a log burn, the constant subtle rhythmic changes of slow TV is hypnotic with its strangely simplistic boldness. Some viewers have noted that it’s similar to walking in a forest or going for a hike, an opportunity to break from one’s routine and calm the mind.
Slow TV might be the way for us to pull ourselves back from overstimulation, accessing a relaxed sensory state that’s harder to come by when we are increasingly surrounded by modern tools that keep our minds in a semi-permanent overdrive. Having a continuous video capture with all the boring and interesting parts mashed together, the viewers become the editors of sorts allowing them to decide what’s boring and what’s exciting. It’s the lack of character-driven plots and narration that opens up the space for interpretation and opinion by the audience.
A 2018 study by Deloitte that found that 91% of us are multi-tasking while watching TV (up from 79% in 2014), which essentially means we are only passively consuming what we turned on the TV to watch. Herein lies the real beauty of slow TV, its ability to cater to both passive and active consumption; working on two levels – as a beautiful view in your living room (think of it as an evolved version of Apple TV screen savers), or if you pay it some attention it could lead you on a stimulating journey.
As the world constantly looks for ways to make things bigger, stronger, louder and faster, the crawling speed of slow TV seems to be an antidote to the modern madness. A way to help us achieve a natural state of restoration and rediscover the joy of living in the moment.