Slow TV: A Norwegian broadcasting phenomenon

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Leave it to the Norwegians to come up with a successful antidote to today’s fast-paced life.

Norway’s state broadcasting station NRK pioneered Slow TV about eight years ago. It’s a show that explores various topics in real-time. The station recently offered a 168-hour show on reindeer migration, using drones, snowmobiles and antler-cams to follow a thousand reindeer as they traveled to new pastureland.

Yes, even if you’re still recuperating from Syttende Mai (May 17 Norwegian Independence Day) celebrations, you read that right — 168 hours of watching reindeer. And here’s the kicker: the show has become a rousing success.

Slow TV debuted in 2009 with the live broadcast of a train trip from Oslo to Bergen. They placed a video camera in the train engine and filmed the scenery along the 310-mile trip from the train operator’s perspective. I watched snippets of the train-cam during a CBS morning show recently, and while I could see where it could be somewhat mesmerizing, I doubt I would have watched the entire journey.

Surprising to me, at least 25 percent of all Norwegians watched at least part of the broadcast. Slow TV is gaining in popularity by giving Norwegians what we all need — a chance to catch our breath amid the hustle and bustle of daily life these days.

“Slow TV is simply the reverse of all the instant gratification reality TV and 24-hour news shows we’ve learned to love (!) in recent years,” the Life in Norway website explained. “It focuses on one topic and explores it in real-time.”

Feel free to insert any number of Norwegian jokes here, but I think these Norskies are on to something. We all need more down time, and if Norwegians can’t take a coastal cruise in person, they have the opportunity to watch a 134-hour cruise along the country’s famous coastline.

There was also firewood night, when Slow TV focused on burning wood, an iconic Norwegian pastime. The live broadcast of fire “was strangely compelling viewing,” Life in Norway noted.

Knitting night offered scintillating insight into the world of knitting as a group of knitters tried — and failed — to break a world record for the fastest time from sheep to garment.

Right now NRK is featuring the “Piip Show,” 24/7 viewing of a bird feeder set up to look like a coffee shop. This probably comes the closest to anything similar we offer here in the U.S. Locally, Snappy Sports Senter’s osprey-cam was a big hit. Our bird cams tend to be online occupations, though, not bona fide TV shows.

The Guardian quoted Rune Moklebust, the head of programming at NRK Hordaland, as saying he doesn’t think Slow TV is a specifically Norwegian phenomenon.

“Norwegians are not really slow … it’s more like a coincidence that it happened here in the first place. Give anyone a story they really care about and they will pay attention.”

It seems to me, though, that Norwegians are notorious for things that take a long time to do. Anyone who has made Norwegian pastries — lefse, krumkake, rosettes — knows that this is tedious, time-consuming work. You make them slowly, one at a time. I always thought Norwegian women came up with these recipes as a way to pass the time during those long winters.

Maybe it goes deeper than that, though. Maybe Norwegians (and their descendants?) are genetically predisposed to slowness.

I’ll have to think about that — for about 176 hours!

Features editor Lynnette Hintze may be reached at 758-4421 or lhintze@dailyinterlake.com.

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