BBC Four’s Slow TV experiment

Photo: Barry Batchelor/PA Archive/Press Association Images

Last Sunday, 506,000 people sat down in front of their TV sets to watch a canal boat glide slowly through Britain’s Kennet and Avon Canal. There was no commentary, no story arc and – except for the occasional passer-by on the towpath – there were no protagonists. All Aboard! The Canal Trip was simply a two-hour uninterrupted, real-time film of, well, a canal trip – and it was a hit.

BBC Four last week experimented with a week-long mini-season of ‘Slow TV’, screening five programmes of “deliberately unrushed television”. Their 30-minute documentary of a man making a glass jug fetched an audience of over 400,000, as did Dawn Chorus, which featured an hour of birdsong in different settings.

BBC Four editor Cassian Harrison said the programmes were “the antithesis to the general direction much of television is going in. Slowing everything right down gives us the time to really observe things as they happen and this series of programmes celebrates the simple pleasures of life in the slow lane.”

For inspiration the BBC looked to Norway, where in 2009 the country’s national broadcaster NRK screened the uncut entirety of a seven-hour train journey from Oslo to Bergen (below). Two years later, more than half the country watched a cruise ship make the 134-hour trip along  Norway’s west coast.

While we think the ‘Slow’ label doesn’t necessarily have to be as sleep-inducing as watching a boat glide through a canal, we applaud BBC Four for swimming against the tide and creating something that is so unapologetically anticlimactic.

Feel like putting your legs up for some Slow TV tonight? You can watch all five episodes of ‘BBC Four Goes Slow’ here.

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