NRK

British Airways has revealed the Turducken of in-flight entertainment. 

In November of 2009, the Norwegian channel NRK aired a seven-hour-long program called "The Seven Hour Train Journey to Oslo." This title was, depending your perspective, either delightfully descriptive or painfully literal: The show consisted of seven hours of footage shot from a train traveling on the country's Bergen rail line—rolling shots of the train passing through stations, careening across countryside, darting under snow-capped mountains. The show was, precisely, a Seven Hour Train Journey to Oslo. And it attracted, in the end, more than 1.2 million viewers. Which was remarkable, considering that the entire population of Norway was, at the time, 4.8 million.

Successes like that have become part of the lore of the "Slow TV" movement, whose programs replace storytelling with soothing scenes in the longest of longform formats: fireplaces crackling (12 hours long), fingers knitting (eight hours), boats boating (379—yes, three hundred seventy-nine—hours). On April Fools' Day, you may recall, Netflix lampooned the movement by introducing original programming like "Sizzling Bacon." Which was 20 minutes of exactly what it sounds like. 

You could read the popularity of those shows as evidence of the ongoing ambience of TV, the idea that people are watching shows with attention that is less rapt and more itinerant. British Airways, however, has a different read. The airline is assuming that people watch those soporific shows to watch them, as they would a really, really boring movie—and it is, as such, including "Slow TV" among its offerings for in-flight entertainment. 

"BA flights," the Telegraph reports, "will now include a dedicated program of quiet, meandering television, with a screening of an entire seven-hour-long train journey from Bergen to Oslo." 

Meaning: Yep, that train journey. A journey that will feature, the Telegraph notes, "no commentary of events to liven things up." 

BA's move to "Slow TV" was inspired in part, apparently, by the popularity of the flight-tracking maps that are the default displays on so many seat-back screens. The ones that show the plane's progress over the surface of the Earth, as well as stats like outside temperature, plane speed, and time-to-destination. The ones that are attentionally akin to fires a-flaming and fingers a-knitting and bacon a-sizzling—story-less scenes that can be, in their weird way, mesmerizing.

The train-within-a-plane programming, explains Richard D’Cruze, BA's in-flight entertainment manager, can offer a soothing alternative to the typical in-flight film. You could watch that Robocop remake, sure ... but you could also watch a charming Norwegian wood spreading before you on your screen. "There’s definitely a hypnotic, calming and entertaining quality to 'Slow TV,'" D'Cruze says, "that is perfect for in-flight entertainment."

This story originally appeared on The Atlantic

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Life

    Why Beijing Is a Terrible Choice for the 2022 Olympic Games

    But it may just be the only realistic one.

  2. Life

    How Australia Conquered Guns, and Why America Can't

    Gun control advocates point to Australia for inspiration in ending gun violence. The Australian Ambassador to the United States, Joe Hockey, thinks they should stop.

  3. Equity

    When America's Basic Housing Unit Was a Bed, Not a House

    The same cities that struggle to provide affordable housing today eliminated their critical-but-maligned flexible housing stock after World War II.

  4. Equity

    The Bleeding of Chicago

    America’s third-largest city has built one of the world’s best trauma care systems. But that success might be obscuring the true scale of its gun violence.

  5. Streets

    The Simplest Way to Avoid Bad Street Design: Copy the Ones That Work

    Models matter. Let’s design more streets like the streets we already love.