Slow TV

I remember calling my Mom in the winter months, in the later days of her life. I would often ask her what she had been doing when I called and she would say “Watching TV,” to which I would respond by asking what was on the television. She would tell me she had the fireplace channel on. I never did quite get that but as of late I have found myself watching “Slow TV” from Norway. I am now halfway through the 7 hour Bergen to Oslo trip. When I tell people, they generally think I am a few cars short a freight. I think differently.

First, I like trains. This semester, for the introduction section of the first day in class, I invited folk to speak about their favourite mode of transport. A good number spoke of trains, and their invitation to relax and see the scenery without worry about traffic etc. Trains are also (for now) low key modes of public travel without the security check etc. There is a kind of a comfort on a train that I do not experience with other modes of transport – aside from ferries.

But it isn’t only the “train” piece of the show that intrigues me. I am also reminded of my own trip from Oslo to Bergen and back by train some 30 years ago. I recall seeing people ski up to a stop, and take off their skis in order to get on, for a time, until the next stop. There is a kind of nostalgia in the show, I think.

Further to this, I like Slow TV as a push back against “reality TV,” which is so far removed from reality as to make a mockery of the real struggles that folk face in a real world not about an amazing race, or voting people off of an island, or some such inane theme. Reality TV seems, in significant ways, to contribute to a juvenile public and a dose of “real reality” seems fitting in these days – even in the mode of the mundane, the daily. It is good to see what people see who travel the lovely Norwegian country side – with sky touching fjord and mountain, and so inviting us to connect what is seen on television with what is seen during our own travels.

I also enjoy this show because it reminds me of my own pilgrimage in Norway some years ago. In some small way the show is an aide de memoire of that delightful journey that gave me occasion to be with dear friends, and make new ones. The paternal side of my family comes from Norway, and I find myself regularly drawn to things Norwegian in particular and Scandinavian in general. I can’t quite say it feels like home, to see the Norwegian country side fly by but it reminds me that I am from away.

I sometimes like watching television that does not aim to resolve a plot line, or mindlessly entertain, or sell a soft drink surreptitiously. The simplicity of the show is refreshing and reminds me of those twice weekly phone conversations with my mom. At the end of her days, life was slowing down and a fireplace was all she needed for entertainment. I am not there, but still, it is nice to watch the country side of my father that gives me occasion to remember my mother as well.

Thank you, Slow TV.


10 thoughts on “Slow TV

  1. R says:

    Love this, Allen. Thank you.

  2. Mary Irene says:


  3. shoreacres says:

    I had to laugh — a couple of years ago, after i got my large computer monitor, I spent a few evenings with a YouTube “fireplace” going on the screen. I do love a good fire, and since building one in the middle of the living room floor didn’t seem reasonable, it wasn’t the worst alternative.

    I certainly understand the appeal of “slow tv” vis-a-vis so-called “reality tv.” The only thing certain about reality tv is that it bears as much relationship to reality as a mannequin does to a living human. If the day ever comes when tv watching is part of my life again, I’ll no doubt tend toward your preferences.

    I’m a great lover of trains, too. I started out walking tracks as a kid, and I still do it from time to time. It’s a great way to combine trains with truly slow travel — by foot!

    • agjorgenson says:

      Well, I wouldn’t rush back to the tv! We gave up our cable a number of years ago, and so are restricted to three channels. We also have Netflix, which I mostly enjoy for foreign movies and series. But they all still pale in comparison to books, or perhaps sitting outside on a lovely evening with a glass of wine, or cup of coffee, to hand.

  4. Very sweet. Simple is often good.

  5. Fab post. I have been tempted to this but your words will ensure I take a look. Thank you.

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