When we think about critically acclaimed and popular television, we usually turn to gripping procedurals like Game of Thrones and Mad Men. Compared to other popular sitcoms or dramas, these shows tend to be tense but protracted, using their episodic nature to develop characters and events with chess-like methodology. Many complain that these shows tend to be slow.
Those critics better brace themselves for the birth of “Slow TV.”
In the last few years, Norwegian broadcasters have experimented with long-form television broadcasts, using video to broadcast live moods and images rather than plots or characters. They’re unlike anything else on TV, but they aren’t just experimental provocations. Audiences are responding positively; a recent show about a burning pile of firewood enthralled 20 percent of the country. In a great article about “slow” programs, mental_floss says that “the shows induce both calm and excitement, turning tiny moments into revelations by their contrast with monotonous repetition.” In other words, they achieve the same sort of feeling you might get from listening to the ocean, taking a long walk, or reading Walden.
It’s doubtful that this genre will make it stateside outside of YouTube videos for obvious reasons, but it’s exciting to see artists experiment with the television format. If you want a taste, have a six-hour program about a train ride.