As someone who’s more annoyed than excited by the rapid cuts in so many contemporary movies, televisions shows, and music videos, I’m fascinated by the recent Norwegian phenomenon known as “slow TV.”
A few years back, Norway’s public broadcasting company aired an entire seven-hour scenic train trip — from Oslo to Bergen — live, and more than a million people tuned in to watch. The network saw an opportunity to cash in, and later programs in the same vein included eighteen hours of salmon swimming upstream, 100 hours of a Norwegian grand master’s chess match, nearly nine hours of sheep-to-sweater footage — shearing, spinning, and knitting — and 134 hours of a cruise along Norway’s western coast. Do viewers tune in for just a little bit of these shows at a stretch, then go do other things, or is it more common for them to binge-watch, devoting an entire weekend just as our television junkies do with whole seasons of streamed Breaking Bad episodes? Oh, I have so many questions.
This probably wouldn’t work for Stateside audiences. Americans who channel surf from Miley Cyrus videos to Internet clip shows to Michael Bay movies would react to National Firewood Night (twelve hours of logs being chopped and burned — no, really) like a dog reacts when you try to feed him a grape: Smells like food, feels like ball. So confused! Some say it’s the patience necessary for making it through those long Scandinavian winters, plus a hint of cultural rebellion, that’s driving the popularity of slow TV. I’m not sure, but I know I’d find that kind of meditative screen experience refreshing. I might even leave my TV on for longer than my usual daily maximum of two hours, if slow TV (other than annual Yule Log broadcasts) ever came to the States.