(1) Some cultural critics have suggested that; contemporary society is afflicted with an
addiction to instant gratification. (2) Nevertheless, everything we want, we want
right now: news coverage must be up-to-the-minute, movies must be action-packed, and internet
access must, of course, be high-speed. The vast majority of modern media is produced with (3)
that demand in mind. A few years ago, however, the Norwegian Broadcasting Company
(NRK) came up with an idea for a program that would operate along different lines, encouraging
people to (4) cede their need for speed, sit back, and experience something a little more
relaxing. This idea, which has become a wholly unexpected international phenomenon, is now
known as “slow television.”
[A] Slow television isn’t an entirely new concept. In fact, the roots of this niche genre lie way back in
the 1960s. (5) Andy Warhol’s Sleep, a five hour film of poet John Giorno slumbering, is
generally considered to be the first true example of the form. But no slow television specials
have ever received such widespread acclaim or popular success as the series NRK launched in 2009
with (6) it’s inaugural production “Bergensbanen minute by minute - train journey
across Southern Norway.” [B] This television special was seven hours long, consisting of real-time
footage of a complete railroad journey from Bergen to Hønefoss, Norway. [C] This nordic nation of
majestic fjords has an efficient state owned railway featuring 2530 miles of standard gauge track,
some of which is electrified. [D] Essentially, “Bergensbanen minute by minute - train journey across
Southern Norway” allowed viewers to experience a journey by rail, in its uncut entirety, from the
comfort of their own homes.
NRK expected a few thousand people to watch the program, which cost relatively little to produce.
Instead, 450,000 Norwegians tuned in for at least part of the initial broadcast, with viewership
ballooning to upwards of 1.2 million people (a full 20% of the country’s population) after the
program re-aired. (8) Producers were stunned by the show’s success, as no program in the
history of Scandinavian broadcasting had ever generated even a fraction of this enthusiasm.
Television marketers, executives, and industry-insiders began to wonder what viewers had
found so appealing about the marathon train ride, and ultimately spun the program into a series
known as Slow TV. (9) With its glacial pace and unusual premise, Norway had become
hooked on an unlikely new viewing sensation.
[A] Eventually, Slow TV’s project manager and producer Thomas Hellum came up with a formula for
further productions. (11) According to Hellum, effective slow television productions are
long, uninterrupted, allow viewers to experience “a process in its entirety.” [B] Hellum
suggested in a TED Talk that for viewers, the major appeal of slow television is the feeling of
experiencing something in real time, as if they themselves are actually there. [C] The NRK’s second
foray into Slow TV, therefore, aimed to capture an even longer immersive experience: the 134-hour
coastal journey of the iconic Norwegian Hurtigruten ferry from Bergen to Kirkenes. [D] (12)
Upwards of 3.2 million Norwegians relaxed, sat back, and watched at least part of this
Since then, NRK has continued to produce a wide variety of slow television programs that allow
viewers to experience a variety of prolonged activities such as (14)birdwatching, the salmon
fishing industry, to herd reindeer, and scuba diving in the icy fjords. Producers have even filmed
indoor events like knitting and chess competitions. A selection of these unique shows has recently
become available on U.S. Netflix, and perhaps we will soon find out whether (15) theirs
is an audience of American viewers as captivated by the novelty of slow television as the rest of the
Created for Albert.io. Copyright 2016. All rights reserved.
The vast majority of modern media is produced with (3) that demand in mind.