x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Slow and steady reality TV gains momentum in Norway

With up to 134 hours of uninterrupted footage, this snail-paced entertainment has become something of a Norwegian speciality.

A ship's seven-hour journey through the Troll fjords was NRK station's first Slow TV programme. NRK / AFP
A ship's seven-hour journey through the Troll fjords was NRK station's first Slow TV programme. NRK / AFP

Say goodbye to intrigue and dramatic twists: Slow TV is attracting record audiences in Norway, with hours, even days, devoted to knitting, fishing and panoramic landscapes.

The public broadcaster NRK has made snail-paced entertainment something of a Norwegian speciality.

“It’s literally reality TV: something authentic that’s shown in real time without being edited down,” said Rune Moeklebust, the head of programmes at NRK.

The concept was pioneered in 2009, coinciding with the centenary of the Bergen railway line. The route passes through breathtaking scenery, connecting Norway’s second-largest city with the capital Oslo.

The train trip – all seven hours and 16 minutes of it – was filmed with on-board cameras and archive footage was added to fill in moments where the train passed through long, dark tunnels.

The idea was easy to produce and soon embraced by the public broadcaster, unconstrained by commercial considerations. It broadcast the experiment to roaring success. About 1.2 million viewers, nearly a quarter of the population of Norway, tuned into NRK2 for at least part of the trip.

“When I asked a few days later if I could borrow the airwaves for five-and-a-half days to broadcast live from the Coastal Express (a cruise liner touring the Norwegian coast), I was told ‘Yes, of course’,” said Moeklebust.

That, too, was a resounding success – 3.2 million viewers watched parts of the trip as hundreds of onlookers flocked to see the ship in various ports.

Norway’s royal family even featured, as Queen Sonja waved from the deck of the royal yacht when the two ships crossed paths.

NRK also broadcasts shows on salmon fishing, knitting, the intricacies of making the perfect log fire and many other themes.

The recipe is simple: a long introduction with historical background followed by an even longer examination of the activity from beginning to end. A show on knitting, for example, goes from sheep shearing straight through to the final stitch on a jumper.

“Slow TV attracts all categories of the population: young people intrigued by the novelty and strangeness of it and older viewers who find the topic or voyage interesting,” said Moeklebust. – AFP

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