In theory, watching a 17 hour broadcast of a train does not sound like something people would actually tune in to watch. But on Sunday 6th January, 400,000 people across Australia sat in front of their TV’s and watched the journey of the Indian Pacific on SBS, and then again, just a week later on the 12th of January, another extended broadcast of the Indian Pacific hit SBS viewers screens.
And this isn’t the first time a program like this has aired. Last year, 500,000 Australians tuned in to watch The Ghan travel the long 17 hour journey from Adelaide to Darwin. It seems, as well, that each time this kind of program gets aired it attracts a positive response.
— Amelia Hanslow (@AmeliaHanslow) January 12, 2019
— James Andrew (@james_andrew_3) January 14, 2018
These broadcasts of train trips have been dubbed ‘Slow TV’ and are part of the Slow TV Movement originating in Norway. SBS jumped on the Slow TV bandwagon last year with The Ghan, and have upped the ante this year. Not only has SBS aired the Indian Pacific, both the 3 hour and 17 hour journey, they will also be airing the Kimberly Cruise, a trip through canals in Britain, a journey from the north to south of New Zealand, as well as an encore screening of The Ghan.
There have been many critics of the Slow TV Movement, most lamenting about how boring, dull and uninteresting Slow TV programs are. But the popularity of Slow TV is indicative of a change in how we are using TV, and of a deeper cultural shift. We live in the Netflix era, where thousands of movies and TV shows are at our fingertips. So why would people choose to sit and watch 17 hours of a train journey?
Part of the answer lies in the fact that levels of anxiety are increasing in Australia, with even young children being diagnosed with anxiety. We live in an era wherein we are constantly bombarded with information and, as a consequence, our lives are busier than ever. Because of this, we look for ways to escape, to relax, to cope, to chill and just forget our worries. Slow TV allows viewers to be transported on a mindless, calming journey without ever having to leave their homes. They get to experience beautiful scenery, they hear the sounds of nature, of a train, of soft chatter. Slow TV is relaxing. It’s not a dramatic, action-packed movie. It’s a transfixing, stunning show of nature.
As someone who has tuned into the SBS Slow TV broadcasts, I can say that there is something magical about Slow TV that I cannot quite put my finger on. It feels authentic and real. It’s calming and it allows you to switch your brain off. There is no storyline you need to follow, no music to distract you, you can just simply enjoy the journey, even if you are not actively watching it.
I sincerely hope that SBS continues to explore Slow TV. It’s a necessary antidote to the craziness of our lives. If you’re wondering what I will be watching in January, it will be Slow TV all the way.
If you’re curious about Slow TV, check out SBS for a full program of Slow TV events.