Video Sundays: Slow TV

In the 1990s I had a job at a tiny low-power TV station operated by the University of California, San Diego. To fill the hours between our sparse programming, a fellow employee named Steve would play one of two things: a recording of bird sounds or, if the space shuttle was up, NASA’s feed. The funny thing about the NASA feed was that it was mostly a static shot of a bunch of engineers at Houston Mission Control staring at their computers.

Guess what? People loved the bird sounds and NASA feed way more than the boring lectures that were our main programming. The producers at Norway’s national television station discovered this same phenomena a few years ago with a surprise “Slow TV” hit that consists of over seven hours of footage shot from the cab of a train going from Bergen to Oslo. They followed up this show with an eighteen hours of salmon fishing, real time knitting, a fire and a five day ferry voyage. You can see producer Thomas Hellum discussing these shows in a Ted Talk.

Should you want something more pastoral, allow me to suggest three hours of bison grazing. It’s surprisingly relaxing:

And a winter train journey:

Hopefully this slow TV thing will replace the violent junk and reality shows that otherwise dominate our mediasphere.

You can find many of the Norwegian Slow TV experiments in both Netflix and on Youtube.

If you want a little more narrative with your Slow TV I suggest Andrea Tarkovsky’s movies which you can access for free.

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  1. While I have never heard of the term “slow TV,” I do understand the concept. Thanks for this. I only watch a select few old and new sitcoms, movies, and news. The rest, except for Wheel of Fortune, is junk to me. Both the bison and train ride were fascinating even though I only watched a few minutes of both. Tarkovsky sounds more than interesting.

    In 1970, I lived in a small town and had limited tv. I kept the tv on a weather station that had soft music and short nature clips interspersed with weather reports that were not radar, just a static chart. When we had company from different areas of the US, guests had never seen anything like it. The broadcast was from Huntsville, AL even though I lived in TN.

    Now, I just need to figure out how to hook my tv to laptop.

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