Have you ever had the urge to watch a whole lot of nothing for hours on end? No? Me neither.
Yet that's exactly what I committed to doing on Saturday night with the arrival of New Zealand's first foray into slow TV.
A surprisingly popular phenomenon that began in Norway 10 years ago with the broadcast of a seven-hour train journey, this marathon TV format has finally crept into the local market. The debut of Prime's Go South promised a 12-hour odyssey following trains, boats and a 4WD in a journey from Auckland to Milford Sound – with nothing in the way of narration or dialogue.
I thought: "What a dreadful idea. I must watch it."
But given I don't have enough spare life for 12 hours of non-stop TV, I chose to watch the shortened three-hour version instead.
The following are the diary entries from my ordeal.
Saturday, January 19, 9.25pm: The Go South journey is set to begin at 9.30pm. I've spent the past half hour idly watching Deep Blue Sea, a '90s movie about genetically engineered sharks hunting down their human keepers. But the time has come to switch channels. I'm genuinely torn.
9.30pm: We begin with a train rolling out of an Auckland station. The only sound is that of rumbling railway tracks. The urge to sleep is almost immediate.
10.15pm: After wending its way down the main trunk line, the train arrives in Wellington. We clocked the North Island in just 45 minutes! The shot immediately cuts to the Interislander ferry and the first boat trip of the Go South marathon begins.
10.30pm: The ferry crossing is mercifully brief (and by brief, I mean there is 15 minutes of looking at the waters of the Cook Strait). We're back on the train in Picton.
10.45pm: My enthusiasm is really starting to wane. I Google the Marie Kondo technique for folding clothes. I figure if I have to sit and watch nothing happen, I may as well use the time to fold everything I own into tiny rectangles.
11.00pm: Don't let anybody tell you nothing happens during slow TV. It has mystery. The train has just left Christchurch and amongst those waving goodbye from the station platform is a man dressed as a fox. Will we ever know why?
11.10pm: Don't let anybody tell you nothing happens during slow TV. It has drama. A sheep has narrowly escaped death after leaping in front of the train as it exits a tunnel.
11.15pm: Nothing happens during slow TV. I can't watch any more train tracks roll by.
11.17pm: How has it only been two minutes since I last looked at the clock? I start to wonder if the humans outwitted the sharks over on the other channel.
11.30pm: I've folded nearly everything in my pile of clothes. Thankfully, the train trip is ending at Greymouth. Time to hit the road in a 4WD.
11.35pm: The camera work on four wheels is shaky to the point of inducing motion sickness.
11.40pm: Oh good, we're driving through darkness now. I don't even notice the shaky camera, given all I can see is headlights shining on asphalt.
11.45pm: It's daylight again. The countryside on the road to Milford Sound is predictably spectacular. Despite protests to the contrary, Go South is starting to feel like a long-form tourism ad. A very effective one. I stop folding clothes and start Googling rental cars for a family roadie.
12.00am: We're waiting behind a campervan to go through the Homer Tunnel. A kea is doing its best to hustle the tourists within it.
12.05am: We arrive at Milford Sound. Hooray! We're finished.
12.06am: Oh. No, we're not. We're getting on another boat and heading out to sea.
12.20am: The boat bobs on the water. The text on the screen says if we sail west from this point, the next land is 20,500km away in Argentina. I feel the cold creep of dread.
12.30am: But finally – finally! – the screen fades to black. I go to bed and sleep more soundly than I have in a long time. I put it down to three hours of meditative train tracks and the exhaustion of folding every item of clothing I could find in the house.
When I wake, I check in on the 12-hour version of Go South that's still running. As I watch the train travel across a stunning bridge somewhere in the South Island, I admit there were brief moments of joy on this trip.
But as the train then enters another 30-second-long tunnel shot, I also decide slow TV isn't something I plan on doing again in a hurry.