Watching grass grow? Norway embraces slow TV
8 hours of knitting? 18 hours of salmon swimming upstream? Norway takes reality television to its most basic level — and viewers can’t get enough.
Wed, Apr 16, 2014 at 04:08 PM
You thought foreign films were slow? You should see Norwegian television. The country’s public broadcasting company, NRK, revels in TV programming so slow that there is actually no plot at all. It’s TV for the journey’s sake; so mundane it's epic.
Now a staple of Norwegian public broadcasting, the pokey programming concept was launched in 2009 with a live broadcast of the seven-hour train ride from Bergen to Oslo. Not much editing, just a train zooming through tunnels and winding its way through the countryside.
And the crowds went wild. More than 1.2 million viewers – 20 percent of the country’s population – tuned in to watch the remarkably soothing footage. (See almost four hours of the Bergen train in the video below.)
Since the train program, there has been a 134-hour real-time show of a ship traveling through Norway’s famed fjords – watched by more than 3 million viewers – as well as an eight-hour knitting extravaganza and 18 hours of salmon swimming upstream.
On National Firewood Night (this is Norway, after all), viewers were treated to 12 hours of, you can probably guess … logs being chopped and burned.
“I couldn’t go to bed because I was so excited,” wrote a commenter on the website for the newspaper, Dagbladet. “When will they add new logs?”
Rather than wishing for zippier shows and more action, Norwegians are reveling in the calm.
“They allow you to go far deeper, to enjoy more details,” one viewer, Finn Lunde, told the German broadcasting company, Deutsche Welle.
While it’s relevant that the slow TV movement reflects the patience and spirit required to get through Norway’s long winters, there’s also no shortage of refreshing cultural irreverence.
“Slow TV is very different from the way everybody — including myself, to be honest — has always thought that TV should be made,” said NRK producer, Rune Moklebust. “TV has mostly been produced the same way everywhere with just changes in subjects and themes. This is a different way of telling a story. It is more strange. The more wrong it gets, the more right it is.”
“All other TV is just speeding up, and we want to break with that,” another producer, Lise-May Spissøy, told Deutsche Welle. “We want to allow people to finish their sentences.”
And for envious American television viewers with no time to finish their sentences, you're in luck. The television production company, LMNO Productions, has acquired the rights to make a U.S. version and is planning to put its own uniquely American spin on the concept.
We await with measured anticipation.
See more snail-paced footage from the shows in the BBC's video below:
Related stories on MNN: