Alongside glitzier, action-packed titles, Netflix also has 10 incredibly chill options for those who are into slow TV.
Slow TV is basically footage of an event, unadorned by voiceovers, background music or editing, that plays for as long as it takes. Train Ride Bergen to Oslo, for instance, is seven hours and 14 minutes of footage from a train journeying from Bergen to Oslo, through small picturesque towns and long black tunnels, past coastline, and up into snowy mountains. The only sound is the white noise of the train moving along its tracks and the occasional ping of its onboard notification system announcing the next stop (which some viewers find a bit much).
Made by the Norwegian Broadcasting Company, the idea to film the train ride in its entirety was pitched as a way of marking the centenary of the Bergen Railway in 2009. “The idea was too wild to turn down,” a Slow TV producer has explained. Surprising everyone, Train Ride Bergen to Oslowas watched by nearly half a million Norwegians when it premiered, and has now been seen by more than twice that.
By 2011, nearly half of Norway tuned in to watchHurtigruten: Minute by Minute, a coastal boat cruise that aired live over the course of five days. (Netflix has a 59-minute highlights package). And in National Knitting Evening (3h 55m) and National Knitting Night
Reviewers say they find these shows “weirdly soothing”, useful as background while studying or doing mundane household tasks, and a meditative break from a world dominated by alarmist 24 hour news coverage and crowded bingewatching schedules.
Visual artists like Andy Warhol have filmed long-duration events for artworks. But slow TV takes something of national significance - a British version focuses on traversing its beloved canals - and lets the viewer be the artist, forcing them to find their own meaning (or not, as the case may be) as they watch.
National Firewood Evening is a four hour discussion of the intense Norwegian passion for firewood, including a demonstration of the best ways to chop and stack firewood. Part of a 12-hour live broadcast, it precedes National Firewood Night (6 hours, 1 minute) which begins with a weird sense of anticipation, as a handful of schoolchildren wearing snow boots and blankets covered in what look like scouting patches file awkwardly into a room dominated by a fireplace. There are cords of stacked firewood and sheepskin-covered stools nearby. It all looks cosy as fuck.
Once everyone is assembled, the presenter sits by the fireplace and addresses the camera: “It’s burning very well now, and we’ll do our very best to make sure you’re warm tonight, until tomorrow morning, and maybe into the weekend. Thank you for watching.” She puts a log on the fire, and a deep, hypnotic male voice summarizes a few principles of building a good fire.
After these eventful two minutes of action, you’re left alone for the next six hours with a crackling, popping, disintegrating fire.