There is a new media phenomenon sweeping across the globe. Or should I say, it is inching its way across the globe. It is called Slow TV.
What is Slow TV? It is an uninterrupted broadcast of an ordinary event in real time from start to finish. It gives new meaning to the phrase “reality television.” The phenomenon began in Norway in 2009 when the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation (public broadcasting) came up with the idea to broadcast the complete seven hour train ride from Bergen to Oslo. (You can watch the entire thing on Youtube.)
The program was such a hit, the broadcasting company was up for an even greater challenge: to broadcast live the entire 134 hour voyage of the ship, the MS Nordorge from Bergen to Kirkenes. (This show, which was aired in June 2011, is also on Youtube. Since many of us probably can’t afford to watch the 5 1/2 days version, a 37 minute time-lapse version is available.)
The ship voyage proved to be extremely popular. Thousands of people lined the shores to watch and wave as the ship sailed by. Some held signs and banners. Even the Queen of Norway came out and waved to the ship. Others got into their boats and followed the ship for a while, hoping (I guess) for their 15 minutes of fame. An estimated 1 million Norwegians watched at least part of the program. What makes that number even more amazing is that the entire population of Norway is only 5 million!
Norway has produced other Slow TV shows. You can watch 12 hours of firewood burning or 18 hours of salmon fishing. (Warning: it takes 3 hours for the first fish to bite!) One of my favorites is 13 hours of speed knitting! Another show still in the planning stages will be called “A Day in the Life of a Snail.”
These productions go against all the conventional “rules” of TV programming. They have no popular stars, but just ordinary people doing ordinary things. There’s no dramatic or witty dialogue, only the natural sounds of the particular event. The programs employ no fancy shots, dramatic editing, or enhancing music. Although the programs use multiple cameras and often capture breathtaking Norwegian countryside, there is no editing and no music. Whatever happens is what you get.
Slow TV is catching on. The British Broadcasting Company has produced its own shows. One takes the viewer on a
slow boat ride through a beautiful canal. Following the airing, one commentator remarked, “I think that after the show the blood pressure of millions of British viewers went down!” Slow TV is coming to the United States too. One of the production executives said, that this type of TV show “allows you to watch and just sit back and relax…It allows you to breathe.”
Slow TV fascinates me. I think it might be filling an innate need for contemplation, a need that is often squelched by our fast-paced and hectic society. I keep thinking that when Jesus said, “Behold the lilies of the field…the birds of the air,” he was doing more than suggesting we look at them briefly from time to time. I think he was really saying we should make time to behold them, to contemplate them. The Jesuit theologian Walter Burghart described contemplation as a “long, loving look at the real.” If we slow down and behold the world in which we are privileged to live, we will become more aware of its sacredness—whether we’re beholding firewood burning or a lowly snail going about its snail business. Such contemplation can’t help but lead to a greater love of the Source of All Being, all Blessings: our Amazing Creator God.
Here are two videos you might be interested in. The first is a 6 1/2 minute video that includes ambient music, bird sounds, and pictures of mushrooms on the forest floor. Nothing more. I offer it for your contemplation…
The second video is an 18 minute explanation of Slow TV by Thomas Hellum. It shows scenes from the train ride and the ship voyage and gives information on how the programs were produced. The video is both informative and (I think) very funny! (Click cc for subtitles if you wish.)
What do you think of Slow TV?
If you watched the mushroom video, what did you think? How did you feel?
In your life, do you feel the need for contemplation, that “long, loving look at the real”? If so, how do you fill this need?
ps: Thank you for your prayers and wishes for my Golden Jubilee. I had a wonderful time celebrating! I’ll write more later…