Would you ever tune into seven hours of footage of a train rolling through the countryside? Or 100 hours straight of a Norwegian grandmaster playing chess? Then you're the target audience of "Slow TV," a genre of television popular in Norway. "It has a relaxing effect," says Per Arne Kalbakk, deputy CEO of the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation, which has found success airing Slow TV broadcasts that last as long as five days.
Norway's successful Slow TV instantiations have included "salmon swimming upstream for 18 hours, and a knitting program showing the full 'sheep to sweater' cycle (the fashion equivalent of farm to table) ... and, my favorite, 12 hours of logs being split and put in the fire," Arianna Huffington, president and editor in chief of The Huffington Post Media Group, wrote in a blog post earlier this year.
Intrigued? According to the Hollywood Reporter, Slow TV will be coming to the U.S. soon. LMNO Productions, an American film company known for its reality TV fare (shows like CBS' "I Get That A Lot," TLC's "The Little Couple") has purchased the rights to the television format -- or rather, "to the technology that makes it possible to be live for many consecutive hours," according to Andrea Morabito of the New York Post.
“It doesn’t compete for your attention,” Lori Rothschild Ansaldi, an LMNO executive, told the New York Post of Slow TV. “[Slow TV] allows you to watch and just sit back and relax. Not in a boring way but in a really ‘that’s different’ sort of way. It allows you to breathe.”
Norway's Slow TV isn't the first of its kind, however. In fact, realtime television broadcasts have had a following in America since 1966 -- the year of the first "yule log". Check out these past examples of Slow TV from around the world.
1. The Yule Log
The original Slow TV sensation, the Yule Log, began its burn in 1966, when WPIX President and CEO Fred Thrower created the program as a "a kind of Christmas card to viewers huddled in their tiny New York City apartments without a fireplace of their own," according to Tessa Stuart of the Village Voice. The Yule Log burned steadily each Christmas season until 1990, when it was removed from WPIX to make way for more advertiser-friendly programming.
That could have been the end of the venerable log, despite protests from longtime fans -- but in 2001, the Yule Log was revived by WPIX Vice President Betty Ellen Berlamino, who wanted to provide "comfort food TV" to New Yorkers recovering from the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
2. Night Ride
Ever watch Ontario television at 4:30 in the morning in the late 1980s and early '90s? No? Well if you had, you might remember "Night Ride," a series of streams of edited footage taken from the window of a car driving through Toronto at night. The footage, set to smooth jazz, became a sensation: The Torontoist reports that producer Michael Spivak often got calls "along the lines of 'Thank you for that beautiful ride. Where can I buy the music?'"
From 1994 to 2007, Melbourne's Channel 31, a community channel dedicated to local programming, filled night and weekend dead space with footage from a camera aimed at a fish tank. Channel 31's "Fishcam" became so popular in Melbourne that by 2001, Channel 31 was colloquially called "the fish station."
4. The Driver's-Eye View
One of the more enduring forms of Slow TV is railway footage from a driver's-eye view; it's no surprise, really, since scenery outside a train is constantly changing and often beautiful. These "driver's-eye view" videos have spawned an enthusiast community, and DVD producers like Video 125 and VideoScene have made movies of the footage. Driver's-eye view films have also found an occasional place on television -- most famously, the German rail enthusiast's channel, Bahn TV, aired driver's-eye films almost daily from 2003 until 2008.
5. The Puppy Channel
From 1997 to 2001, the Puppy Channel showed nonstop footage of puppies "fooling around like puppies do, acting the natural comedians and cuties that they are, with no people, no talk, accompanied only by relaxing instrumental music," according to Puppy Channel founder Dan FitzSimons. While the Puppy Channel never gained the cult status of "Fishcam," it successfully made the transition to cyberspace: The Puppy Channel website now hosts thousands of hours of "Puppy Cam" footage of puppies playing, sleeping and simply being adorable.