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On Thanksgiving, a reality TV sensation arrives in the U.S.

On Thanksgiving, a reality TV sensation arrives in the U.S.
These train tracks covered in snow aren't from the Destination America broadcast of Railroad Alaska: Real Time Train Ride, but this is pretty much what you'll see. (Photo by Shutterstock)

An international reality TV sensation arrives in the United States on Thanksgiving day. For five hours—five! 10 if you count the immediate repeat—tomorrow, you can experience slow TV, watching a train travel 500 miles through Alaska on Railroad Alaska: Real Time Train Ride.

Real Time Train Ride airs from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. ET, and then again from 2 to 7 p.m., both on Destination America. It is nothing except footage from the front of a train as it travels 500 miles.

Yes, the network that brought you an alleged live exorcism and pretended that was real is now doing the opposite, airing the least sensational program possible. The most sensational part is that there is the network trying to create the thinnest of promotional links between this show and its reality series Railroad Alaska.

This is slow TV, which comes from Norway. There, in 2009, NRK broadcast of a seven-hour train ride. In 2011, NRK aired 134 hours—more than five days!—of a boat’s journey. People around the world watched online. Since then, they’ve aired other TV marathons of almost nothing.

Destination America brings slow TV to America

While LMNO Entertainment acquired the format in 2013, and Travel Channel announced earlier this year that it would air an LMNO-produced train’s live travels on Black Friday, Real Time Train Ride appears to be unrelated. Instead, it’s produced by the UK’s Windfall Films, which also produces Railroad Alaska for Destination America. Travel Channel’s announced show, Slow Road Live, is not on its schedule.

I watched the first hour of Real Time Train Ride—and by watched, I mean I alternately stared at the screen and fast-forwarded/jumped ahead. Parts were mesmerizing, such as the train traversing a narrow bridge. Others were excruciatingly boring. Sometimes the train moves quickly; other times it’s moving slowly. Some places are snowy, some less so.

I have run out of things to say about a train and its journey. I’m not even sure it’s a show; perhaps it should be called “footage.”

To Destination America’s credit, the absolutely delightful press release acknowledges the reality of this reality show with a lot of humor:

Is the yule log too exciting for you? When turkey isn’t enough to put you to sleep on Thanksgiving, Destination America has the snoozefest you need. Over the course of five loooong hours, Destination America will air a first: the real-time journey of a train traversing Alaska’s critical 500-mile long railroad. You will see nothing – or, almost nothing other than what the cameras themselves see attached to the train. Simply park your caboose on the couch and settle into a mesmerizingly monotonous holiday edition of Destination America’s hit series Railroad Alaska. Unlike the action-packed full series it’s based on, Railroad Alaska: Real Time Train Ride is a classic cure for insomnia, sure to induce ZZZs from Anchorage to Atlanta and guaranteed to make you lose your train of thought. Railroad Alaska: Real Time Train Ride airs Thursday, November 26 from 9am-2pm ET with an encore immediately following. However, it is not suggested that you watch all 10 hours after eating turkey and that sleep inducing stuff in it. Destination America will not be responsible for the comatose results that might well follow.

“Most networks compete to produce the most exciting show, which we already accomplished with our first, ever, live televised exorcism last month,” said Henry Schleiff, Group President at Discovery. “We also want to own the other end of the spectrum, providing viewers with the single most boring program ever to appear on television during Thanksgiving… even more boring than the Detroit Lions football game.”

Unlike stressful Thanksgiving travel, Railroad Alaska: Real Time Train Ride is all about the journey… to putting on your jammies, that is. It has so many choo choos, you’ll want to chuga chuga one more glass of holiday punch and zone out on the couch.”

While this press release is honest, at least one trailer Destination America trailer is not exactly forthcoming, because it includes music and sped-up footage that suggest a lot more excitement. None of what you see here—except the scenery—will be on television tomorrow, so get ready to be bored.

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About the author

  • Andy Dehnart is the creator of reality blurred and a writer and teacher who obsessively and critically covers reality TV and unscripted entertainment, focusing on how it’s made and what it means.


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