Slow TV: Take a 5-hour “Railroad Alaska: Real Time Train Ride” on Thanksgiving

[This example of “Slow TV” has particular appeal to me as a railroad enthusiast, though I think the commercial breaks will likely break viewers’ sense of presence. Three stories on the topic are below, the first from the Las Vegas Review Journal. –Matthew]

Bergen to Oslo NRK screenshot

Want to watch a 5-hour train ride? Because you can with slow TV

By Christopher Lawrence
Las Vegas Review-Journal
November 10, 2015

Much like prime-time game shows and singing contests, U.S. television is copying yet another curious European phenomenon: slow TV.

Spurred by the success that Norwegian public broadcasting has had airing everything from 12 hours of nonstop knitting to a 60-hour marathon of choirs performing the entirety of the Church of Norway’s national hymnal, Destination America is celebrating Thanksgiving with “Railroad Alaska: Real Time Train Ride” (9 a.m. Nov. 26).

The five-hour special will cover the journey across Alaska’s 500-mile-long railroad. No actors. No reality stars. Just whatever the cameras attached to the train happen to capture. For five hours.

“Most networks compete to produce the most exciting show,” Henry Schleiff, Group President at Discovery, said in a statement. “We also want to own the other end of the spectrum, providing viewers with the single most boring program ever to appear on television during Thanksgiving … even more boring than the Detroit Lions football game.”

The natural offspring of the televised yule log, the slow TV trend began in earnest with Norway’s NRK broadcasting a train’s journey from Bergen to Oslo in 2009. Roughly a quarter of Norway’s population tuned in.

Two years later, nearly half of Norwegians viewed at least part of the live 134-hour voyage of the ship MS Nordnorge from Bergen to Kirkenes.

For an idea of what you can expect, check out that 2009 train trip, all seven hours of it [on YouTube].

[More on this from TBI (Television Business International)]

Destination America takes slow train

by Jesse Whittock
November 12, 2015

US cable channel Destination America is the latest network to get in on the slow TV phenomenon.

The Discovery Communications-owned network has ordered Railroad Alaska: Real Time Train Ride, in which 500-mile train journey will be broadcasted in its entirety.

This makes it the latest international channel to try out the slow TV format, which is widely accepted to have originated on Norwegian pubcaster NRK. BBC Four in the UK and Travel Channel in the US are among others that have tried out such programming, which surprised industry watchers by consistently rating highly on NRK.

The show airs on November 26 in a 9pm-2am slot as a spin-off of the Railroad Alaska series, which has also been recommissioned for a third season.

Argonon-owned Windfall Films has been commissioned to make both shows.

“The landscape that the Alaska Railroad trains run through is breath-taking during the winter months,” said Windfall creative director Carlo Massarella. “The tracks cling to the edge of icy mountain ledges and pass through areas of outstanding natural beauty.

“This seemed like a new way to extend the Railroad Alaska franchise so viewers could enjoy more of Alaska’s stunning scenery – ‘slow TV’ is a great way to unwind and enjoy nature.”

[And finally this, from Advertising Age]

One TV Network Wants to Put Viewers to Sleep on Thanksgiving

Destination American Will Air Five-Hour Train Ride Through Alaska

By Jeanine Poggi
November 10, 2015


The special is based on Destination America’s series “Railroad Alaska,” which follows a crew of railroaders who battle the elements to keeps Alaska’s trains running.

Destination America isn’t the only TV network looking to relax viewers Thanksgiving weekend.

Scripps Network’s Travel Channel will air a 12-hour road trip called “Slow Road Live,” on Nov. 27, which is also Black Friday.


There is some precedent in the U.S., at least. WPIX in New York has for decades aired its marathon of burning yule log on Christmas. And Arby’s dabbled with the idea last spring when it aired a 13-hour commercial in Duluth, Minn., of a brisket being smoked.

[snip to end]


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