Sitting down to watch virtually silent footage of a train journey through Australia’s outback for hours on end is the literal definition of a wild weekend.
That’s what countless Australians found out on Sunday night when SBS aired The Ghan: Australia’s Greatest Train Journey, an unorthodox documentary on the famous train that runs between Adelaide and Darwin.
The premise alone should be enough to bore you to tears: it’s a three-hour show with no voiceovers or music, just seemingly endless footage depicting the journey of the world’s longest passenger train as it lumbers through Australia’s vast inland sea.
I mean, check out the promo in the player above and you’ll see what I mean.
It’s no wonder, then, that the show’s ratings were absolutely horrif– hang on, almost HALF A MILLION Aussies watched it!?
That was an extraordinary piece of television. I never thought it would be so enthralling to watch a train trip #TheGhan
— Michelle 👽🇦🇺 (@MichelleMackey1) January 7, 2018
— Paris Lord (@parislord) January 7, 2018
Okay, so those two people are obviously weirdos with nothing better to do than watch a hunk of metal trundle through the desert. The several hundred thousand other people who watched it must have done so ironically, or just by accident…right?
— Chaz Hutton (@chazhutton) January 7, 2018
Casually flicked the tv over to SBS at 7.30 and 2.5 hours later I’m still watching #TheGhan.
— Adam Carey (@adamlcarey) January 7, 2018
How do I nominate #theGhan for the gold Logie?
— Sam Ryan (@shesaidso) January 7, 2018
— Richard Phelps (@richardphelps) January 7, 2018
— Sarah Brens (@sgbrens) January 7, 2018
Alright, alright, alright – so maybe SBS is onto something, and I didn’t give Australia’s landscape enough credit.
Admittedly, my cynical and blatantly one-sided description of the show, which was based on virtually no substance whatsoever, pales in comparison to the synopsis provided by SBS On Demand:
“This is an immersive journey on Australia’s most iconic railway that reveals — in real time — the stunning topographical vistas and dramatic palette changes from Adelaide to Darwin, while unpacking our indigenous, multicultural and social history in the most surprising way.”
In my defence, I’m not the only one who judged the book by it’s cover:
Me: three hours of this? can’t think of anything more boring.
Me 90 minutes later: this is f***ing ART. Why on earth has SBS edited it down to three hours.#TheGhan
— Rohan Leppert (@RohanLeppert) January 7, 2018
According to OzTAM, the show’s preliminary ratings were 436,000 viewers for the first leg, 406,000 for the second and 392,000 for the third.
Only the Ashes, other cricket coverage and news and current affair programs beat it for the day, and the station’s director of TV and online content said it’s their best-performing show in the past year.
Before you upload hours of your boring-as-batshit highway footage to YouTube in the hope that it goes viral, note that the documentary was not so simple to make.
The program reportedly required months of planning and the post-production team had such a hard time cutting it down to three hours that they also put together a 17-hour version.
The best part? People are DYING to see the extended cut.
— reezee (@rz9760) January 7, 2018
— Tom Bowyer (@ComeOnAce) January 7, 2018
Apparently, the concept is known as “Slow TV” and has become quite the hit in Norway, with interest growing steadily around the globe.
The Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation has aired such hits as a seven-hour train trip from Oslo to Bergen, an eight-hour clip of a fireplace and 12 hours of straight knitting – and the audience can’t get enough of it.
But these broadcasts are for amateur viewers who are merely jumping on the Slow TV bandwagon. You’re not a true fan until you’ve sat through the riveting 134-hour broadcast of a cruise ship sailing off the coast of Norway, which reports claim was watched by more than half the country’s bloody population.
Check out The Ghan: Australia’s Greatest Train Journey on SBS On Demand or settle down with Mark Humphries’ three hour live commentary.
Feature image: SBS