For & Against

For & Against: Slow TV

26 February 2018
For & Against Slow TV by David Zeleznikow-Johnston

FOR by Matthew Simkiss

Wikipedia—the trusted source of information for uni students and an endless source of references—defines slow TV as “a genre of ‘marathon’ television coverage of an ordinary event in its complete length”. Iconic examples include SBS’s recent airing of 17 straight hours of the Ghan, a passenger train that goes between Adelaide and Darwin, or footage of the runway at the Prague airport.

With the saturation of fast-paced action television that has less substance and purpose than Kim Kardashian, the rise of slow TV is not only a welcome change but an inevitable one.

For those who still have a TV and don’t live solely off your laptop through Netflix and streaming channels, you will understand the epidemic; turn on the television and choose between mind-numbing reality television to escape one’s daily life and fast-paced action drama, the plot of which can usually be condensed into two sentences and a couple of gun fights.

The severe monotonous nature of television has led to the development of social norms like Netflix and chill, where people now need an escape from their usual method of escaping reality. Slow TV means no more awkward dates where you sit on your bed watching something with someone you barely know, unable to talk for fear of missing dialogue. Rather, you can talk throughout, getting to know them in a stress-free environment, deciding if you want to see them again or if it’s appropriate to make a move. Slow TV actually complements the social craze of Netflix and chill rather than drives it out of necessity. You don’t miss any of the plot and can continue to watch seamlessly afterwards too.

Furthermore, these are shows devoid of problematic actors—there’s no need to worry about being hurt by scenery as a train passes through the countryside, or a bird feeder in a park. Slow TV is always a relaxed and safe space to return to.

Put it on at a house party or with your roommates and let the banter flow. Make it a relaxed drinks session or enhance your experience with some more exotic substances. The room will flood with a tidal wave of puns, gossip and laughter. The perfect start, middle or end to any day. Heck, the perfect way to spend the entire day if you watch a 17-hour version.

AGAINST by Ruby Perryman

What was SBS thinking, airing 17 consecutive hours of The Ghan? Or airing it at all for that matter? While it’s lovely that those who can’t afford to actually board are able to watch the rail journey in this way, surely no-one sat through the entire thing.

When the show first aired, I searched for it on SBS On Demand with cautious curiosity. After not being able to get through even 15 minutes, I sought out the comment section. It seemed many viewers shared my experience. SBS On Demand user Routfams questions: “What the hell are you trying to do. This is absolutely boring. Lucky l am still awake to post this comment.” Fellow user Markstothard claims to have travelled on the Ghan himself and thought it a was great trip, but “consider[s] this program a near death experience”.

So give me Kim K or a gunfight over ‘an ordinary event in its complete length’ any day, because it’s exactly that: ordinary. As human beings, whose lives are already ordinary events in their complete length, we engage in activities like watching TV for a brief escape from reality. Most of us really don’t deserve to be subjected to events even more mundane than our own existence when we inadvertently flick on the telly when the day is done. Slow TV is downright sadistic. And anyway, the coverage shown in The Ghan isn’t even the journey in its complete length, which is really 54 hours long.

If in search of a show to watch, it’s a much wiser idea to choose a riveting Netflix original. Black Mirror, for example. Whether sober or stoned, alone or accompanied, this show is guaranteed to evoke thorough analysis and discussion. And because each episode delves into a different, layered storyline, you can spend an entire day watching it while simultaneously staying awake. Think about it—there’s no way you’re getting any ‘chill’ if endless footage of sweeping landscape has lulled your company to sleep like it almost did SBS On Demand user Routfams.

We must embrace the era of internet streaming, where shows load as fast as their content plays. The rise of slow TV could potentially see the end of escapism and young libidos. Thank fuck my new share house doesn’t even have a TV.

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