Amidst buzzing cellphones and relentless social media status updates, there may be a simple pleasure that most of us are missing out on: slow television.
That’s what the Norwegian NRK network broadcasted Friday when it aired a four-hour documentary on sheep shearing followed by five hours of live knitting.
To be fair, the network’s curious programming is in pursuit of a world record for the longest bout of non-stop knitting, according to the Associated Press. That record, at 4 hours and 50 minutes, is currently held by Australia.
NRK producer Rune Moeklebust recently told the AP that "it's kind of ordinary TV but very slow, although they'll be knitting as fast as they can."
This isn’t the first time NRK has tried slow TV. Earlier this year, it aired a popular eight-hour program, “National Firewood Night,” in which viewers watched wood burn in a fireplace. It helps to know that Norway has a distinct “firewood culture,” as the program’s host noted.
Even so, the network’s decision seemed so quirky that the New York Times devoted a story last Feb. to the allure of watching a fire crackle and pop on television.
“My first thought was, ‘Well, why not make a TV series about firewood?’” Moeklebust told the paper. “And that eventually cut down to a 12-hour show, with four hours of ordinary produced television, and then eight hours of showing a fireplace live.”
NRK, a public broadcaster, has three TV and 10 radio channels in addition to a website, all of which are accessed by nearly nine out of every 10 Norwegians every day, according to the organization.
With that broad of a reach and a stated goal to better reach an audience of 12 to 29-year-olds, slow TV might seem like a bizarre approach.
Yet, it seems to have unique appeal. In addition to the firewood program, the network also aired salmon fishing and a five-day broadcast from a cruise ship.
Though literally watching time pass is particularly mundane, audiences do have an appetite for watching long broadcasts of live events when there’s a payoff at the end – think of the masses waiting for Duchess Kate and Prince William to emerge from the hospital with their royal newborn or those nervously waiting as skydiver Felix Baumgartner prepared to jump from a balloon and fall 128,000 feet back to earth.
Of course, those don’t quite compare to watching knitters in pursuit of a record – unless you live in Norway, there are few television events that can.