March has been really tough and tonight I thought that I would let my soul relax for a while by tuning into Channel 800 on our cable provider, AT&T U-Verse. Officially known as “U-Verse Showcase”, the channel featured gorgeous nature cinematography set to pleasant instrumentals – anything from herds of kangaroo sweeping majestically over whatever the heck it is the Aussies call “the plain”, to the painted American desert from dusk to dawn. Our family would sit watching it for an hour, mesmerized by the calming effect it gave us. Better yet, if you were paying for the HD package you could dial up Channel 1800 where you’d see the same videos, but in high definition (best seen on one of those enormous televisions, which we do not have). Now, if you haven’t noticed, I’m referring to these channels in the past tense because at the beginning of the March 2016, AT&T discontinued both channel 800 and 1800.
As it turns out, we were not the only fans of this type of programming – at the time of this post there were dozens of discussions on the U-Verse forums complaining about the Showcase channel’s removal. Interspersed between the complaints are people (like user “mibrnsurg”) who cannot believe that sane human beings would be willing to pay for a cable package simply to watch videos of sea turtles swimming in the surf, wild horses running through the surf, the architecture of Barcelona, running through the – listen: people DO watch this stuff and they DO like it and since I am one of those people I should take the time to try to explain to you exactly why people like this stuff.
Except I can’t. But there is a precedent for a devotion to relaxing music television…
Do you remember back in the day when one of the main things the Weather Channel aired was music overlaid on top of radar maps and temperature graphics? I sure do because there was a period when every cable-subscribing adult male over the age of 55 would happily confess to leaving the Weather Channel running 24 hours a day in their homes. “I just like the music,” some would say, while others would explain that “it’s just nice to have something on.”
Of course at the time I was a decade or so younger and I didn’t understand it at all.
A decade makes a difference. Tonight I found myself frantically searching the internet in an attempt to track down the source of those AT&T U-Verse Showcase videos (willing to buy them, if need be). In the process I ran across a term that I had never heard before: “Slow TV“.
I was amused to find that the Norwegians have been innovating with Slow TV, first broadcasting a minute-by-minute 7 hour and 14 minute cross-country train trip then working up to a 134 hour long LIVE broadcast of a ferry trip along the Norwegian coast, watched by MILLIONS of Norwegians.
The number of viewers watching were apparently quite startling for the Norwegian programmers and I am holding out hope that AT&T’s Senior Executive Vice President Lori Lee and CEO Randall L. Stephenson might be swayed to bring back this programming in some form – which from what I am reading was originally meant to simply show off the quality of the U-Verse broadcast.
Failing AT&T’s reversal of the removal of Showcase, I’m hoping that Netflix might pony up some of this programming. In the meantime, Metafilter user overeducated_alligator has provided a great list of this programming on Amazon Prime [link to full list on Metafilter].
Here are a few examples from Amazon Prime that look to be from the late 1980s or early 1990s. They fail to match the glorious high-def AT&T experience, but beggars can’t be choosers.
- Beautiful Lighthouses
- Desert Oasis
- Nature’s Lullaby for Sleep and Meditation
- ESOVISION Relaxation CANYONS
- ESOVISION Relaxation Mountain High
If all else fails be sure to search YouTube for “Slow TV” to find hours long programs set to music.
Someone on the forums is really pushing the idea that the removal of stations on U-Verse is part of a plan in which AT&T merges U-Verse with DirectTV to become AT&T Entertainment. Regardless of the reason, we fans have been forced to go underground.