Recently, we’ve been exploring Netflix’s Slow TV offerings which were introduced in August 2016. I’ve been curious about the Slow TV phenomenon that has swept through Norway and has now arrived in the US via Netflix. According to Wikipedia, Slow TV is “a term used for a genre of live ‘marathon’ television coverage of an ordinary event in its complete length.”
What I quickly learned was that not all the Netflix offerings are true Slow TV and that some of the offerings are actually segments of a much longer original broadcast. I also learned that there are different sub-genres of Slow TV. Some are meditative and relaxing; others are informative and entertaining. (Don’t have Netflix? You’ll find links to the programs elsewhere on the internet at the end of the post.)
This is a true Slow TV program, the original one actually. It is an actual train ride between these two cities filmed in real time. Train Ride Bergen to Oslo, or Bergensbanen minutt for minutt in Norwegian, offers you the opportunity to “take in the passing landscapes captured by train-mounted cameras during a rail journey through forests and mountains” (Netflix description) across Southern Norway. It is a 7-hour, 14-minute journey, and you can follow along for the full ride. It was filmed during the summer of 2009 in anticipation of the 100th anniversary of the rail line that fall, which is when it was broadcast.
It’s surprisingly mesmerizing and addicting, even with the frequent tunnels, some of them long! You never know what will appear at the end of the tunnel or around the next bend. And it’s calming with the beautiful scenery and rhythmic sound of riding along the tracks. I certainly can’t see sitting for seven hours straight watching, but watching segments at a time or having it on in the background seem like more likely scenarios.
This is one of the offerings that is NOT actually Slow TV. Instead it’s a produced documentary-style show using footage from the original Slow TV broadcast. Going on a Hurtigruten cruise along Norway’s western coast is high on my wishlist, and here I got to take the six-day northbound journey from Bergen to Kirkenes in only 58 minutes.
The original Slow TV version, Hurtigruten minutt for minutt, was a 134-hour live broadcast shown in Norway in the summer of 2011. It became such a national sensation, both in real life and online, that locals would arrive in boats and on land to welcome the ship with flags and music and those in other parts of Norway and abroad would stay up late to follow along on TV or the Internet.
Netflix’s program had our constant attention. Even though it’s not an example of Slow TV, I highly recommend it. There was a party atmosphere almost the whole time since it was such a popular sailing. Also, the scenery is stunning, the landscape magnificent, and the midnight sun unbelievable. A highlight of the voyage was when the boat entered Trollfjorden. Locals dressed up as trolls and danced along the fjord. This happened close to midnight, but you would never know that based on the light at that time. My desire to take a trip with Hurtigruten along the coast is just as strong, if not stronger after watching this program. This documentary was a great preview of the trip.
This is a 52-minute documentary about the railway from Trondheim to Bodø north of the Arctic Circle which uses footage from the original Slow TV broadcast. The program is a very edited and produced program with music, narration, interviews, and historical contexts. It is very informational and interesting with beautiful landscapes and fun musical accompaniment.
The original Slow TV version, Nordlandsbanen minutt for minutt, which you can view in its entirety here at NRK, was broadcast in 2012 and lasts 9 hours and 50 minutes. This is a very unique production because it combines four different train rides, each filmed in a different season (July 31, February 23, September 27, and May 15). As the train rolls along, the seasons change seamlessly. The program is introduced and explained and then the journey begins with only music as its accompaniment.
There are three National Firewood options on Netflix: Evening (3 hours, 54 minutes), Night (6 hours, 1 minute), and Morning (2 hours, 5 minutes). These three programs actually combine to make the original 12-hour broadcast. Begin the series with Evening, continue with Night, and end with Morning.
The program was inspired by Lars Mytting’s best-selling nonfiction book Norwegian Wood: Chopping, Stacking, and Drying Wood the Scandinavian Way. Lars Mytting appears throughout the program adding his insight to the discussions about firewood.
The first episode, National Firewood Evening, is four hours of “rich content” related to firewood culture in Norway. Guests of all kinds share their expertise or thoughts on all things firewood. There are unique musical performances and a wood stacking competition. You never knew there was so much to know, appreciate, and admire about firewood.
The next episodes, National Firewood Night and Morning, are eight hours of “warm firewood”. You watch a fire in a fireplace and hear the crackling along with background noises. Occasionally, someone adds a log or two. Other times you are treated to wood-themed music, poetry, or prose. I’m thinking these episodes might make a good show to watch when the temperatures drop and the days get shorter or we need some cozy images on our TV.
The final Slow TV offerings from Netflix are National Knitting Evening (3 hours, 55 minutes) and National Knitting Night (8 hours, 39 minutes). National Knitting Morning was supposed to be offered as well, but at the time of this post, it was not available. Once again these are parts of the whole broadcast originally aired in Norway. The first program, National Knitting Evening, is four hours of inspiration, tradition, and new ideas. In the next one, National Knitting Night, you watch in realtime as the participants attempt to break a world record for shearing, spinning, and knitting wool into a men’s sweater.
Knitting is not a hobby of mine, but I have to say that the beginning of National Knitting Night was very interesting. It starts immediately with the shearing of a sheep which I’ve never seen in person, but I felt like I was there watching it this time. Then it continues with spinning the wool and eventually knitting the sweater. The big question is, will they beat Australia’s record?
Will you give Slow TV a try?
When I heard Netflix was offering Norway’s Slow TV programs, I was very excited that I’d get to see what these hours-long broadcasts were all about. It did take some research to understand what I was watching since Netflix just presented them all as Slow TV and also didn’t differentiate between the various knitting and firewood programs. But in the end, I feel I got a good grasp of Norway’s Slow TV and enjoyed what I saw and look forward more.
Are you interested in checking out the Slow TV programs but don’t have Netflix? You can find the programs online as follows:
Train Ride Bergen to Oslo -> Bergensbanen minutt for minutt (full original broadcast)
Northern Passage -> A Norway Passage: The Most Beautiful Passage (the 58-minute documentary)
Northern Railway -> Nordlandsbanen minutt for minutt (full original broadcast)
National Firewood Series -> Nasjonal vedkveld (in Norwegian, no English subtitles)
National Knitting Night -> National Knitting Eve (in English)
At the time of this post, The Telemark Canal and Salmon Fishing were missing from Netflix’s line-up even though they were advertised earlier this summer. However, you can see them at Telemarkskanalen minutt for minutt (10 hours divided into 13 segments) and Lakseelva minutt for minutt (12 hours divided into 6 segments) at NRK, Norway’s national broadcaster.