Dr. John Butler of Hypnotherapy Training International (HTI) comments “Arguably, one of the attractions of slow TV is that it induces a hypnoidal state, a level of mental functioning akin to a hypnotic trance. The reduction of conscious effort of thinking and transition into the non-logical, imaginative subconscious processes can generate profound relaxation and inner peace with associated changes in brain wave activity. The phenomenon of hypnotic-like states being produced by gazing at particular images or patterns of illumination has been noted for thousands of years In addition, simply focussing on images of pleasant nature scenes or comforting images of logs burning in a fireplace can evoke deep feelings of relaxation and tranquility”.
Eight hours of televised knitting? Twelve hours watching a log fire? Eighteen hours of salmon spawning? We could all do with more Slow TV in our lives.
Should Slow TV be on the red button? Photograph: Erik Dreyer/Getty Images
Oh, to be Norwegian. It has been announced that NRK, the country’s state broadcaster, will soon show a programme about a sweater being knitted. That’s it. Norwegian viewers will tune in and watch a sheep being sheared, before seeing its wool being spun and used to knit a sweater. This will happen in real time. Nobody seems to know how long this show will last for. Some say five hours, some say eight. It’s enough to make non-Norwegians everywhere insane with jealousy.
And the fact that this isn’t even Norway’s first incredibly long TV show about hardly anything just makes it worse. In February there was a 12-hour programme about a log fire being built and maintained. And a 10-hour show following a train journey from Oslo to Bergen. And 18 consecutive hours of salmon spawning. And a five-day broadcast of a cruise ship travelling up the Norwegian coast. It’s all part of a movement called Slow TV, and I desperately want to see it happen over here.
Competition from digital channels and second screens means that TV is now louder and faster and needier than ever. Watching a major terrestrial channel on a Saturday evening is like being trapped in a burning cell with a crying, attention-seeking lunatic who screams and punches himself in the face whenever he thinks you’re about to look away. It’s exhausting, and Slow TV seems the perfect antidote. Whether it is being actively watched, or just used as a screensaver for people who want to be comforted by the constant click-clacking of knitting needles in the background as they go about their daily business, I’m convinced that Slow TV has a future here. It already has a past, more or less.
Back before producers knew better, I once watched an episode of Big Brother where nothing happened. It was live, it was Sunday afternoon and all the housemates were napping in the garden, so nothing happened. Maybe one of them would scratch their nose or roll over, but that was it. It was an hour of sleeping, soundtracked by the distant buzz of planes overhead. And, even though it’s obviously massively creepy to say that you enjoy watching people sleep, I could have watched it for much longer. In a very gentle way, it was just as exciting and disruptive as anything else I’ve seen.
We should give Slow TV a try. If the knitting show is popular in Norway – and previous Slow TV ratings suggest it will be – just think of all those old country crafts and pursuits that could be televised over here. Fly fishing. Live thatching. A day in a Sussex trug workshop. It would be like How It’s Made, but in real time and without the annoying voiceover. I’d watch that. Imagine if there was a channel where you could have seen the Shard being built, pane by pane, from the foundations up. That would have been brilliant.
Slow TV could allow Springwatch to actually live up to its premise. Let’s do away with all the presenters and editing. Let’s just train a camera on a pregnant ewe and not turn it off until she gives birth. Better yet, let’s switch the camera on at the moment of conception, so we can see every single second of the pregnancy, too. Imagine how invested we’d all be in the lamb by the time its mother went into labour. We could have a street parade for it the next day and everything.
Perhaps Slow TV needs to be a red button affair. Remember how great it was during the Olympics, when you could switch from event to event? Wouldn’t it be great if the same technology was brought in for a multichannel Slow TV extravaganza? It would be a world of limitless opportunity. You could lose days flitting between the Ant Farm channel, the Hospital Outpatients Waiting Room channel and the Watching a Helium Balloon Slowly Lose Its Buoyancy and Drift to the Floor of an Abandoned Ballroom Over the Course of Two or Three Weeks channel. I genuinely believe that the Norwegians are on to something here. Slow TV cannot reach these shores quickly enough.
Just don’t make me liveblog any of it. That’s all I ask.