Reality TV Done Right with Slow TV

20 Sep
Like being there, but warmer and closer to your kitchen.

Like being there, but warmer and closer to your kitchen.

By Alexa Day

Slow TV has been around for years, apparently, but I heard about it for the first time a couple of weeks ago.

Lunchtime conversation with some learned colleagues turned to what each of us was watching on television. The summer is a tough time for me in this regard. Basically, I’m watching Law & Order reruns until The Walking Dead comes back on. Project Runway returned last week to break things up a little, but that’s a new addition.

I’m trying to keep up with the discussion when one of my colleagues mentions Slow TV. Born in Norway in 2009, Slow TV basically shows an ordinary event in real time. In this instance, “ordinary” includes a train trip from Bergen to Oslo, or people knitting, or a cruise. Slow TV is, I suppose, so named because the subject matter does not aspire to be terribly exciting, and because the shows tend to be long. The train ride to Oslo runs over 7 hours, the length of the trip in real time.

Incredulous, my colleague asked, “Who’s watching that?”

I started watching it on Netflix this past weekend. It’s amazing.

At the outset, I’ve never been to Norway, so the virtual train ride was a bit of tourism for me. I don’t need anything flashy. I love traveling with the locals.

It's a long way to Oslo, friends.

It’s a long way to Oslo, friends.

Slow TV is a bare bones, no frills affair. On the Bergensbanen, the camera is pointed through the front window of the train. You hear people milling around and the conductor’s announcements, and something pops up on screen to show you which station you’re arriving at, but that’s really all there is to it. The track winds ahead of you, through tunnels, past stations and other trains, alongside the highway, with the countryside sliding by. It’s like actually being on the train, which is an absolutely perfect place to write or read or do all those things I would otherwise be doing if I weren’t watching Law & Order for hours at a time.

Remember the buzz about the Amtrak writers’ residency on rails? Well, as of last weekend, I have a writers’ residency on rails right here at my house, with my own bathroom.

Before you sniff at this, consider that Slow TV in one form or another has been around, right here in America for a pretty long time. The Yule Log — the footage of a blazing fireplace with a soundtrack of holiday music (or without, if you want) — has been on American televisions since the 60s. And what is Slow TV, really, but the Cat Sitter videos for humans?

Best of all, the absence of distractions presented by Slow TV is good for the imagination. There will always be times when I need to absorb other stories and check out those weird, quirky little movies and shows that Netflix supplies in such abundance. (Another quick recommendation — the stark, ruthless Charlie Victor Romeo.)

But between the day job and my regularly scheduled programs, my muse needs some space to breathe … and to speak. The muse loves the train as much as he loves the airport. Every stop presents its own possibilities.

And is there anything hotter than quiet time with the muse, with hours and hours of possibilities?

Follow Lady Smut, where things worth doing are worth doing slowly.

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