Slow television

it’s lambing season in the world of sheep husbandry. And in Iceland, TV viewers got to see 24 hours of live coverage of lambs being born on a farm. It’s called “slow television” — and it’s catching on in Scandinavia and Britain. This must be a broadcasting company’s dream, because I suspect it’s pretty cheap to put on.

In the early days of the internet, webcams invited you to watch a coffee pot or a goldfish in a bowl — as pure novelty. Now they’re everywhere, of course. Allen likes watching traffic cams — and not just Seattle views — anywhere traffic can get messed up, he enjoys looking at it. A traffic jam is fun to watch when you’re not caught in it yourself.

About a year ago, we heard a podcast episode of the Canadian radio program Wiretap, hosted by Jonathan Goldstein. The title was The Watcher, and one of the segments was about a New York man who found a mysterious broadcast on his cable TV service. It showed nothing but the view of an apartment building lobby — but he found himself drawn to “lobby cam”, even though there was very little going on, sometimes watching it for hours in a day.

There’s something tantalizing about watching something in real time live action somewhere else — even when there’s not much action. Perhaps it’s easier to enjoy when it is rather dull, so that you never see or hear something you rather you hadn’t — as happened in John Cheever’s The Enormous Radio.

Alene is my personal webcam. Alene-cam goes all over Seattle on public transportation and hangs out in coffee shops at least once a day. I spy on her workplace all day long — and if a job opened up there that interested me — well, I would be able to give a rather well-informed interview! Alene-cam also knows to give a second look at a shapely female bottom for my benefit.

We have always enjoyed slow television. Sit And Be Fit is perhaps one of my all-time favorites. And fishing shows. But C-SPAN when there’s a quorum call? That’s just a bit too slow for us!


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