After captivating Norway, the Slow TV concept is making its way to the UK. While it’s not exactly the 8.5 hours of knitting or 134-hour coastal cruise that NRK2 has promulgated to great local success, BBC Four says its slow-down airing this spring is inspired by the idea. It will include a selection of programs designed to give audiences “the chance to sit back, unwind and watch some very unhurried television.”
BBC Four Goes Slow will include three deliberately unrushed programs celebrating craftsmanship, travel and art — each devoid of voiceover or added sound effects.
Norwegian public broadcaster NRK2 inspired viewing parties in 2013 with the Slow TV phenomenon to which LMNO Productions acquired U.S. rights at the time. The NRK take was a hybrid of unhurried documentary coupled with hours and hours of continuous coverage provided by fixed cameras trained on a subject or an event. Its National Knitting Evening, for one, included 240 minutes of discussion on the popular pastime followed by seven spinners and knitters hunkering down to stitch a large men’s sweater in an attempt to break a Guinness world record. Slow TV started in 2009 when NRK was working on documentaries to celebrate the 100th birthday of the national train line and resulted in Bergensbanen, a 7.5-hour continuous program that showed every minute of a train journey from Bergen to Oslo. Ratings showed viewers weren’t only tuning in for two minutes, but were actually engrossed. Slow TV has not yet hit the States — could it?
The planned BBC Four programs include The Canal; which most closely resembles NRK2’s Bergensbanen. It will screen as an uninterrupted two-hour boat trip down a historic British waterway and will be filmed in real time. Billed as a “rich and absorbing antidote to the frenetic pace of modern life,” it will allow the audience to “take in the images and sounds of the British countryside, spotting wildlife and glimpsing life on the tow path, as if they were there.” Guidebook facts about the canal and its history will be delivered by embedded captions. Emma Tutty is exec producing for ITV’s The Garden Productions, and Clare Paterson for the BBC.
The other programs are Make, three half-hour films that take a quiet look at the making of a series of simple objects, such as a classic steel knife and a wooden chair; and documentary expert Frederick Wiseman’s National Gallery, a three-hour portrait of the museum’s working life.