Slow TV: Moving at the Speed of Life

Mixed Media

We’ve all laughed at “The Yule Log,” the popular holiday TV show that features only a burning fireplace log. (I counted myself among the scoffers until a few years ago when I discovered how mesmerizing it is to try to identify the exact moment when the video loop resets.) But while the burning log is an example of Christmas kitsch, the Slow TV movement itself is suddenly gaining ground.

In Norway, millions of people while away the hours watching such riveting fare as a 10-hour train ride, a five-day cruise on the fjords, or the making of a wool sweater—beginning with the sheep shearing. (I am not making this up).

It sounds like a joke, but in Norway, Slow TV is big business. And these marathon viewing experiences could soon be coming to a cable channel near you. Los Angeles-based LMNO Productions, the force behind the TLC show The Little Couple and many other reality shows, has purchased the rights to Slow TV technology.

But can this new genre make it in North America, the land of the frenetic and the home of the Bravo channel? It’s an interesting question.

As Annie Dillard wrote in LIFE magazine’s essay collection The Meaning of Life, “We are here to witness the creation and abet it. We are here to notice each thing so each thing gets noticed . . . . Otherwise, creation would be playing to an empty house.”

A program like “A Day in the Life of a Snail”—in development now in Norway—could help refocus viewers’ attention on the quiet but amazing realities of the real world in a way that “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” never will. (To test how long a snail’s activities can hold your interest, click here.)

OK, maybe a snail’s life isn’t the best topic for Slow TV’s American debut. But if you’re tired of the competition, narcissism, consumerism, and hype that characterize reality television today, then keep your eyes peeled for Slow TV. Even better, lie on your stomach on a sunny lawn for an hour and watch the ants do their thing.

About the Author

Sandy Swartzentruber serves as the resource coordinator for Faith Formation Ministries and is a member of Sherman Street CRC in Grand Rapids, Mich.

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