There have been some slow moving TV shows in the history of Australian TV, some as exciting as watching grass grow, but we were only recently exposed to the actual genre known as ‘slow TV’ or ‘slow television’. SBS screened three hours of the Ghan, making its way from Adelaide to Darwin, devoid of commentary but packed with some spectacular photography.
The Daily Telegraph sort to rubbish the program, soliciting all manner of “it was boring” judgements from its various readers, but elsewhere the well put together, commercial free, marathon drew an enthusiastic response. Personally I found it quite engrossing and once you enthusiastically put yourself in the passenger’s seat you were there for the entire journey. The boredom factor? Well try six half hour episodes of Home & Away versus three hours on The Ghan – give me the latter anytime.
Slow TV purists however might argue that the SBS screening featured just too many different camera angles and historical captions. The classic concept of slow TV would have seen just one camera affixed to the front of the train for the entire three hour broadcast. Minimalism at its extreme, as pioneered by Andy Warhol in his famous five hour and twenty minutes movie showing poet John Giorno asleep. Bring it on SBS!
Not surprisingly it’s the Scandinavian countries, where much time is spent indoors, that have embraced the modern version of slow TV. In 2009 the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation screened a seven hour epic of a train ride along the historic Bergen Line, attracting an audience of well over a million viewers. Needless to say housebound Norwegians quickly welcomed the experience and similar programs soon followed. In 2013 viewers were invited to watch a sweater being knitted from beginning to end in a twelve hour knitting extravaganza.
So what then for the future of this genre in a country like Australia where the short attention span has been hammered into our psyche. Are we ready for a 168 hour show of reindeer migration as screened last year – well where else but Norwegian TV. Maybe not but the slightly shorter possibilities abound. Here are just a few suggestions:
SIX HOURS OF LIGHT RAIL CONSTRUCTION IN THE SYDNEY CBD: The images are almost motionless but every now and then there is a brief burst of activity, although you will need to be really patient to catch any action. Blink and you also might miss it!
IBIS GOING THROUGH GARBAGE BINS IN HYDE PARK: The extended version could run from dusk ‘til dawn as an army of pesky ibis dig deep into the depths of the city’s trash.
TONY ABBOTT READS BATTLELINES: Tony Abbott takes eight hours to read aloud all 368 pages from his own book Battlelines, mercifully with no sound whatsoever.
THE CITY TO SURF, PLAYED IN REVERSE AND IN SLOW MOTION: Riveting TV as the entire race is shown in reverse and in ultra-slow motion. You’ll need to hang in for at least 12 hours to see who crosses the starting line first!
SEAL AT THE SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE: Seals are now regular visitors to the steps of the Sydney Opera House and this six hour show features a mother and pup basking in the afternoon sunshine before a delighted throng of tourists.
MEMORIES OF THE MONORAIL: An eight hour continuous journey on the old Sydney monorail, cobbled together from historical footage and a touch of CGI showing the big yellow rubber duckee in Darling Harbour.