Last month we kicked off a new feature we’re calling “entertainment self-care”, the things we’re watching to unwind from the nightmare dystopia we call reality. The first installment covered super-soft TV, and this time we’re going to talk about Slow TV. I found this category by accident just after Christmas. I wanted to put on the yule log—it is SO relaxing—but at the stroke of midnight on December 26 it vanished from the visible queues. So I searched for it and found it among a bunch of programs labelled “Slow TV”. Over the next few days I found a whole new realm of extremely relaxing, peaceful programming designed to be visual white noise. We have Norway to thank for this particular phenomenon—they broadcast a complete seven-hour train journey in 2009 and the rest is history (the proto-concept comes from Andy Warhol’s five hour film, Sleep). Here are some highlights of Slow TV, which, if you search it on Netflix, includes Bob Ross, making him the king of entertainment self-care.
Norway’s National Nights
These are best described as “Norwegians diligently performing tasks”. There is the National Knitting Night, in which a roomful of Norwegians try to break a speed record for the fastest time knitting a sweater, from shearing to final product. It takes over eight and a half hours. The highlight is the sheep, which has an extremely “well, I guess this is happening now” face. There is also a National Knitting Evening, in which a different group of people also try to break the sweater-knitting speed record (this one takes almost four hours). Then there are the firewood chronicles: National Firewood Evening, National Firewood Night, and National Firewood Morning. In these programs, Norwegians chop firewood, build bonfires, and set them aflame. The programs then end with cheerily burning farmhouse fires. It’s like the ultimate yule log experience.
Then there is the program that started it all, the train ride from Bergen to Oslo. It’s a seven-hour journey, mostly through gorgeous mountains, and it comes with an extremely satisfying bonus—emerging from dark tunnels into bright light (a better metaphor I cannot imagine). A ticker on the screen gives you the length of the tunnel and there is a strange accomplishment every time the train emerges. But if trains aren’t your thing, there is also a boat ride down the Telemark Canal which takes eleven and a half hours. Or you can watch dudes fish for salmon for seven hours.
Netflix includes all of the BBC nature documentaries in the Slow TV category, but they also have some programs which are basically screensavers for your brain. These include “Moving Art”, and episodes include “Oceans”, “Flowers”, and “Waterfalls”. These look like B roll cut from nature docs, set to quiet music. They’re great for when you want some background noise but don’t really want to focus on anything in particular.
But if you want to get off Netflix, YouTube has hours and hours of aquarium videos. I like background noise at home because I live in an old building with tissue paper walls, and keeping the TV on is a functional privacy shield. But I don’t always want to WATCH television—enter the aquarium video. I started using these last year from the YouTube app on my TV, and they’re perfect for background noise. (Bonus: My cat loves them, too.) There are a lot of options if you search “aquarium video”, but here is a twelve-hour video to get you started.
BBC Sleigh Ride
Last year the BBC got in on the Slow TV action with a two-hour sleigh ride featuring traditional reindeer sleds traversing the Arctic. Though it is a BBC production, it, too, was filmed in Norway, and features the Sámi people of Norway. I really love this video (thank you to @TheSciFiBard for sharing!), mostly because it has no music. There is just the ambient sound of the bells jingling on the reindeers’ harnesses and the sushing of the snow. It is maximum relaxation. Also, at two hours it’s a relatively short example of the genre, so this is a good starting point to see if Slow TV works for you.