Norway's must-see 'slow TV': Knitting, fireplaces and more

'National Firewood Night,' part of Norway's slow TV movement, drew a huge audience. Other live broadcasts have included train trips and salmon swimming, and knitting is up next.

A baffling new TV trend in Norway is called "slow TV": live primetime broadcasts of boring events like knitting, train journeys and burning fires.

Would you watch a live broadcast of a seven-hour train trip? How about a weeklong cruise ship or hours of a fire burning in a fireplace? These might seem like unlikely candidates for primetime programming, especially in today's landscape of viral videos and on-demand viewing, but they're part of a hit phenomenon in Norway known as "slow TV."

Next up for slow TV: an evening of minute-by-minute knitting, Time Magazine reports.

In 2009, public broadcaster NRK aired "Bergensbanen," a program documenting a seven-hour train journey across the country from Oslo to Bergen, in primetime. The show was surprisingly successful, and a new Scandinavian reality TV trend was born.

More than 3 million viewers (more than half of Norway's population of 5 million), tuned in for "Hurtigruten: Minutt for Minutt," a five-day live 2011 broadcast of a cruise ship traveling up the Norwegian west coast, according to Time. (Here is a 37-minute time-lapse video of the show, which had a total running time of 8,040 minutes.)

According to the Wall Street Journal, NRK is also considering a 24-hour live feed of construction workers building a digital clock out of wood.

It seems like Norwegian television executives are trying to come up with the most boring ideas possible, so why are they breaking ratings records?

Rune Moklebust, who leads slow TV programming at NRK told Time that "this is a different way of telling a story. It is more strange. The more wrong it gets, the more right it is."

In fact, a recent 18-hour live show of salmon spawning upstream received complaints from viewers for being too short, NPR reported.

Norwegians "love slow," Arve Hjelseth, a sociologist at the Norwegian University of Science, explained to the Wall Street Journal. Watching slow TV is a "sort of celebration of the Norwegian way of doing things, which we believe to be slightly different," he said.

One installment of this particularly Norwegian programming might seem familiar to American viewers: "National Firewood Night," which showed a fire burning for hours in a fireplace, somewhat reminiscent of the Christmas Day Yule Log.

And Oystein Johansen, a critic at Norway's biggest daily newspaper, compared the experience to watching car racing.

"People are watching just in case something happens," he told Time, adding that he himself got caught up in the train show and ended up watching it for hours with fascination.

Some also attribute the show's success to the sense of nostalgia it evokes among the audience. These programs harken back to simpler times in Norway, when simply knitting clothes or gazing at the landscapes were entertainment enough.

Related: Emotions run high for viewers of Norway's fireplace TV show

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